Reach for the Top
By Jane Auster
Top performers in the hospitality industry are a breed apart. These are the race horses of your organization. Treat them right and they’ll help you win your operation’s Triple Crown.
It takes more than compensation alone to keep these sleek performers motivated. Their techniques and career aspirations are different from run of the mill hospitality employees. The way you retain them has to be different, too, or these thoroughbreds will leave you for the next big opportunity.
“They’re a very independent and unique breed,” says Peter Shrive, a partner with Cambridge Management Planning. “In this genre, you’re generally dealing with people who are not interested in your meetings, your books or your methodologies. They’re not interested in the rules. They want to perform, they want to do it their way, and they want to be well paid. They’re motivated by money and success.”
How to engage your top performers
- Start with a highly competitive compensation package. Though money isn’t the primary motivator, it still needs to be attractive to your top performers.
- “We think our benefits and overall compensation, whether base salary or hard compensation, blended with peripheral benefits like insurance programs and stock purchase programs and profit-sharing programs, help keep our top performers,” says Ed Kinney, vice president at Marriott Vacation Club International. “Very few people can compete with us.”
- Offer retention bonuses. “Do like the big boys do and get them to sign contracts and give them retention-signing bonuses,” says Shrive. The bonus can be calculated as a number of months or as a cash payment, such as 25% of the money your top performers have earned. Whatever formula you choose, this is a substantial retention bonus.
- Include public recognition. Hand out awards at a special dinner, put a picture on the wall of your #1 employee for the month, send out a press release. Consider other, visible forms of recognition. For instance, if you’re noting the performance of a super server, give her a gold pin or a special uniform. For a top seller at a resort, why not offer the president’s parking spot for a month?
- Add “in lieu of cash” rewards. For a top performer at a hotel chain, for instance, an appropriate retention incentive might be an all-expenses-paid family trip to one of the chain’s properties, a pre-paid company car, sports tickets, or dinner with the CEO.
- Offer profit-sharing opportunities. In a dynamic industry like hospitality, offering a piece of the action is an excellent way to retain your top performers. “Ownership doesn’t have to be a big deal,” says Shrive. “You can set up a small portion of the value of your business to be distributed to top performers, or they can earn it in kind. Tie ownership in to a performance bonus that allows your top performers to buy a portion of the business over time. It’s common practice to award senior execs shares of the business. Why not to all top performers?”
- Don’t forget performance appraisals. Use these opportunities to give your top performers the inside track on your hospitality operation’s plans for growth, expansion, new equipment purchases, corporate shifts. Trusting your top performers with this proprietary information helps build loyalty.
- Make your operation a place where top performers want to work. Top performers need to be excited to work for you. “If you invest in your product, it helps to motivate the salesperson,” says Kinney.
And it keeps the thoroughbreds in your hospitality operation performing at top level for your business.