It takes tactical thinking to recruit, develop and retain top-notch revenue-management professionals, presenters said during HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Conference.
MINNEAPOLIS—The revenue management profession has gone from one that is often misunderstood and underappreciated to one that is counted on to perform more and increasingly critical functions. Yet many hoteliers and companies have a difficult time finding, developing and retaining people to fill these positions.
“As more responsibilities are added to our plate, there’s not enough bench strength within our companies and the industry to pick up the slack,” said Kerry Mack, VP of revenue and distribution for Dallas-based Highgate Hotels. “Also, as the best revenue managers get elevated to higher positions, there are not enough people behind us to do what we do, so we end up with double or triple the work.”
Mack, along with Sloan Dean, who will join Ashford Hospitality Trust on 15 July as VP of revenue optimization, led a session this week during the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International’s 10th Revenue Optimization Conference on the best ways to find, develop and retain revenue managers.
Mack said it’s important to start the recruiting process while potential employees are still in school. She recommended not only visiting colleges on recruiting trips but also getting involved as guest lecturers and mentors.
“I’ve visited colleges and met students who thought they wanted to go into hotel operations, sales or even development and had no idea how revenue management touches all those areas,” Mack said, who’s been in revenue management for 15 years, the last eight with Highgate in New York.
“Many college professors weren’t around when revenue management started in our industry. They teach it from a book and don’t really understand what we do on a day-to-day basis.”
Internships, either paid or unpaid, is another way to expose students to revenue management. The best place to recruit, Mack and Sloan agreed, might be within one’s own hotel or company.
“We have no pre-conceived notion of who would be a good revenue manager. We’ve hired overnight managers, catering coordinators, sales managers,” Mack said. “Name the discipline, and they’ve joined our team.”
Dean recommended using a case study approach to interviewing potential revenue management professionals to test their analytical skills.
“Revenue management is about dissecting problems, so if you want an analytical person you need an interview process set up for that,” he said. “We don’t hire by résumé but by a person’s analytical sense. We’ve found success in hiring people with economics, engineering or stats backgrounds. You can always teach them the hotel business.”
It’s important to provide career paths for all employees, including those in revenue management. That’s best done with a solid human resources strategy. Mack and Dean offered ideas to keep employees engaged and loyal to their hotels or companies.
Mack said at Highgate all managers involved in revenue management must include in their yearly budgets money for education, including trips to relevant conferences or advanced classes and training in specific skills related to the job.
She also recommended a monthly or quarterly best practices meeting to share successful ideas and tactics as well as give revenue managers opportunities to hone their presentation and persuasion skills.
“A director of revenues doesn’t sit in an office all day,” Mack said. “He or she is constantly called on to present to owners and asset managers, and (best practice) meetings gives them a place to test and gain confidence in their skills.”
Dean added all managers and executives involved in the revenue management function should schedule monthly one-on-one meetings with their employees to “keep touch points” between them and their employees.
“It’s an old saying but it’s still true: People don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses,” Dean said.
While an open-door policy is an important retention tool, Mack said developing a sense of camaraderie among a revenue management team might be the most-effective way to retain good employees.
“Our jobs are very difficult and very high pressure, so you must develop outlets and make time to have fun as a group,” she said. “Because of the team environment we’ve built at Highgate, we’ve never lost a director of revenue. And it also makes it easier for us to recruit.”
While not every revenue analyst or manager eventually can be promoted to a regional or VP level, there are other ways to help them grow professionally, Mack said. Her suggestions included allowing them to switch hotels, learn about new brands, and work on special projects or mentor younger employees.