Invest in your people

That's the message I got out of What's Behind the Smiles of Hotel Employees, an article from Hotel-Online. Here's a snip:

    There’s a growing uneasiness within our workforce, particularly among non-union hotel companies, especially considering the many labor union negotiated successes this past year. But, as usual at year end, some employers will simply do little more than sprinkle a little holiday cheer around by hosting a company party, giving employees a turkey or a gift card, and maybe even rewarding them with a small monetary bonus. It’s often too little too late – not unlike putting soothing ointment over a sucking chest wound.

    The good-bye gifts are fine, and the year-end parties are enjoyable and appreciated. But look also at all the industry advertising media featuring supposedly happy employees with smiling faces and perfectly aligned, gleaming white teeth. Just maybe our workers might better appreciate a dental plan, or health care benefits, or an above poverty-level wage, or an annual merit pay increase, or better working conditions. Despite impressive recent industry revenues and positive future growth projections, from where I sit the service industry as a whole provides fewer quality of life benefits and an average wage far less than other competing industries. Yet hotel management demands our front-line staff root out every opportunity to create best impressionable memorable moments, day-in and day-out, without exception, regardless of their personal work status.

I understand the need to invest in infrastructure, but sometimes when I hear about hotels plowing umpteen-million dollars into new linens and carpets, I can't help but wonder if that money would be better spent on front-line employees. Beyond the human reasons, there's also a business reason: These folks sure have a lot more impact on guests' experience than the bedspread.

Update: It sounds like hoteliers are spending more on employees, according to this article:

    From 2005 to 2006, U.S. lodging industry labor costs rose 6.5%, the greatest single year increase since 2001, according to data released by PKF Hospitality Research.

    In 2006, an estimated 44 cents of every dollar spent by hotel managers went towards employee salaries, wages, and benefits, according to PKF. This equates to 31.9% of total revenue.

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