Remote Work, Flex Time, and Other Secrets to Talent Retention

You may have noticed that it’s gotten hard to attract and retain talented hospitality sales, marketing, and revenue optimization professionals. And you may have concluded that it’s because of the strong economy, especially the U.S. unemployment rate’s 50-year low.

But that’s only part of the story. Just as important, according to Rosemary Browning, president of Global Career Horizons, an international search firm that specializes in revenue management for the hospitality and travel sector, is what today’s younger professionals want — and don’t want — from their employers. “It used to be that people were eager to climb the corporate ladder, no matter how that ladder was,” Browning said in a recent interview with HSMAI. “If it took them overseas, if it took them someplace else, that was okay — they were eager to do it. Now, they’re just not. They want a balance of life. They want to be able to be there for their family. Dads are taking a much more active role with their families and they don’t want to be away as long. They’re taking lateral moves and sometimes a step back, just so that they can have that balance of life.”

The key, Browning says, is to offer your employees flexibility — including to work remotely and visit the main office or client sites as needed. “It’s not just about, ‘Okay, well, we have one remote person working,’” she said. “That just doesn’t work. It’s about being set up for remote success for all employees.”

How do you succeed with remote employees?

When you’re in an office environment, people run into each other. You’re able to check in. Being in the office is much more conducive to connecting and communicating with people. You need to be able to do that remotely, and that can be hard. A lot of times, remote employees are not invited to meetings. They’re not thought of as part of the team. That mindset has to change. Because hallway conversations and those touchpoints don’t happen, and when meetings are started no one opens up the conference-call line for that person to join in. Those things result in failure.

From a remote person’s perspective, they need to work harder too to make those things happen. They have to check every meeting invite to ensure that there’s some way for them to be on phone calls. Make sure their ideas are being heard, so that they can be part of the conversation and have positive feedback in the loop. Those things will ensure that that person’s not likely to be forgotten.

From a company standpoint, the right technology is vital, but it only works if it’s embraced and used correctly. You can have awesome technology, but who cares if they can’t run it correctly and they don’t use it. One technology company piece that works really well — I’m sure you’ve heard of it — is called Slack. It enables teams to be remote and still be engaged, including video calls. You can have your ideas stored in one place and organized by topics automatically, and different types of data sharing such as Dropbox, or other document-sharing services. But like I said, it only works well if everyone’s on board and everyone uses it.

On the flip side, how important is it to also establish expectations for remote employees?

Absolutely vital. Just like with any type of position, expectations and goals up front are a sure line of success, so that everyone’s on the same page and everyone understands what their role is to make a remote position successful.

I think it’s very old-school for companies to think, “We absolutely need someone here.” Well, there are some cases where you do and that’s not going to go away, but in many cases, there are smaller accommodations that can be made to make things more successful. From a recruiting standpoint, what happens is that if companies are so set on “We have to have this person here,” what they’re doing is limiting themselves to the expertise and the type of person that is able to apply for that position. You’re looking at a very small pool.

And a lot of people in that pool just aren’t interested in doing things the way they’ve always been done. For example, they’ll make a lateral move rather than continuing to seek promotions.

Absolutely. I’ve had a number of people whose bosses have said this person is great to promote, and when you talk to them, they say, “You know, because of my balance of life, I don’t want to do more. I’m happy with what I’m doing, and I’m going to stay here.”

Is the entire model for career advancement starting to come apart?

I wouldn’t say coming apart. I would just say it’s changing, because I’d have to say there are sometimes when people make those decisions, I might say to myself, “Oh gosh, I’m not sure I would make that, that’s a bad decision.” But then, the individuals who have stayed strong and stuck to what they believed in, they’ve done really well and they’re happy. Their priorities are different and they’re making it work for them.

The other thing I see is that the younger generations don’t want big homes. They like smaller homes that are simple, so they can travel and they can do other things. I admire that. It’s just a different mindset that companies need to embrace and to accommodate.

What else should hospitality companies keep in mind when it comes to recruiting?

In terms of benefits, I’m seeing more people asking for things such as flex time. That’s very important. Vacation time with family — that seems to be more important than actual compensation. Being able to say, “Hey, can I come in early?” Or, “I’d like to work from home at least one day a week or two days a week, just so that I can pick my kids up.” The companies that are very rigid, they do have a very hard time recruiting and attracting the right people, because I think their mindset is just so old-school.

Categories: Revenue Management, Talent and Leadership Development
Insight Type: Articles