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Tourism Employers Find Success With Recruitment and Retention Best Practices

All entrants showed exemplary and innovative human resources practices in their nominations for the 2014 Employees First Award, sponsored by go2HR. This award recognizes a British Columbia tourism employer which has upheld high standards of excellence in human resources and people management practices.

The 61-employee Residence Inn by Marriott Vancouver Downtown (managed by SilverBirch Hotels and Resorts), took home the top prize for 2014.

Empowerment, communication, and a mantra of kindness, courtesy and respect created an award-winning work environment at the Residence Inn by Marriott Vancouver Downtown.

The judges were impressed not just with the management team’s vision, but also with their strategic approach to fulfilling it. That vision, of a democratic, collaborative workplace with a highly-engaged team, has been largely realized. The results – in terms of high customer satisfaction and low staff turnover — speak for themselves.

HR strategy at the Residence Inn is built on four pillars:

  • Building empowerment by giving employees decision-making discretion;
  • Sharing information and encouraging collaboration and engagement through daily meetings (called huddles), communication boards and a Facebook page;
  • Minimizing incivility through the mantra of “kindness, courtesy and respect”; and
  • Providing feedback through observations and quarterly performance reviews.

Employees, called associates, are immersed in this cooperative culture from day one, with an extensive orientation program, a buddy system that pairs them with an experienced colleague for ongoing coaching, and formal 30, 60 and 90 day reviews. 

Service standards are, of course, paramount. They’re broken down into 20 key steps, or basics, and covered, one per day, during the team huddles.

Recognition programs, department meetings, and one-on-one meetings also help boost the culture of engagement and communication at the hotel.

Critically, communication works both ways at the Residence Inn. Twice a year, associates are asked to rate their employer and provide feedback in anonymous surveys and, at quarterly open houses, associates meet directly with the General Manager.

Associates have plenty of room to grow, too, thanks to the Residence Inn’s focus on developing talent and promoting from within.

And it’s all paying off: in 2013, staff turnover at the Residence Inn was, at 14 per cent, less than half the industry average. In 2014, the hotel was on track to cut turnover to just 10 per cent.

Associate engagement scores were also up, workplace injuries and time lost was down, and guests were happy too. In 2013, the Residence Inn scored among the top 10 per cent of Marriott hotels on guest surveys, and placed in the top 10 per cent of Vancouver hotels on Trip Advisor.

“It’s appropriate that this award is called ‘Employees First’ because that’s very much our philosophy,” says Suzanne Allemeier, Residence Inn’s General Manager.  “We believe in putting employees first and treating them with the same courtesy and consideration with which we expect them to treat our guests.”

Although the Residence Inn takes home the trophy, it was a close competition and the runners-up each had an impressive story to tell.

Hotels large and small demonstrated best practice in boosting staff engagement and trimming turnover. 

Coast Hotels, for example, scored well with extensive training programs, high staff and customer satisfaction levels, and an industry-leading 3.1 per cent turnover rate.  At the Chateau Victoria Hotel and Suites, a family feel is evident for both staff and guests. Almost half of the employees have been with the property for over five years; many have been there much longer. 

The Delta Grand Okanagan demonstrates a culture of inclusiveness and open communication and has won accolades for its thorough training programs.  Also in Kelowna, the 185-staff Manteo Resort punches above its weight with a wide range of recognition, development, and community service programs.

Two popular dining chains, White Spot Restaurants and JOEY Restaurant Group, impressed judges with their systems to train, develop and promote from within. White Spot has invested in a state-of-the-art training kitchen and is accredited to train Professional Cooks (PC1s and PC2s) in-house. Meanwhile, JOEY Restaurant Group’s learning and development programs have been designed to support mastery in four distinct areas – Business, Leadership, Coaching, and Culinary. JOEY has partnered with Royal Roads University to create an 8-course certificate in Management & Leadership for its employees from Royal Roads University and the JOEY Restaurant Group.

Ski resorts also made the short list. At Whistler Blackcomb, thousands of new and returning seasonal staff are recruited, hired, oriented and welcomed personally by the company president each season.

Sun Peaks Resort, the only ski resort in Canada to be ISO certified in Environment Management Systems, focuses on training, health & safety, and recognition programs. Most full time jobs on the mountain are filled internally, and more than 100 hourly staff have over five years’ service at the second largest destination resort in BC.

“We’d like to congratulate the Residence Inn by Marriott, and all the other nominees, for continually raising the bar for human resources practice in BC. Every one of the organizations put forward for the award this year demonstrated a real commitment to their vision, their values, their team and their customers,” says Arlene Keis, go2HR’s CEO.

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