Caring for employees isn’t expensive; it’s priceless
Caring for employees isn’t expensive; it’s priceless
12 FEBRUARY 2019 8:21 AM

Guest service matters, but employee service matters, too. Take care of your team—with empathy, rapport and recognition—and they’ll take care of your guests.

You don’t have to be a general manager for Hyatt Hotels Corporation to believe in the brand’s motto to “care for people so they can be their best.” Regardless of the flag, the most important part of every GM’s job is to take care of their people.

Empathy and rapport
As managers across all trades know, people come to work for any number of reasons. Some are parents supporting their families while others are working their way through school. One person is making it a career while another simply needs to add a second income. This employee might be working his first job while that employee just came out of retirement.

Successful leaders build rapport with employees to gain insight into their motivation and goals. Understanding their circumstances allows you to be more empathetic as you work to establish a strong community feel and a collaborative work environment. Empathy creates connection between two people; when we utilize this to our advantage, we develop meaningful relationships with our team that hold much more than monetary value.

Establishing rapport can be as simple as stepping outside of the office for facetime with your staff. To foster empathy, take a hands-on approach. For example:

  • Clean alongside your room attendants;
  • Work the front desk with your guest hosts; or
  • Go on a service call with your maintenance staff.

These actions may seem small, but taking the initiative to get to know your staff shows genuine interest and builds trust, which strengthens these important working relationships over time. This makes it easier to thoughtfully consider employees’ feelings when making decisions about the hotel—and that, in turn, creates a huge buy-in.

Recognize, recognize, recognize! Employee recognition does not have to come with a high price tag. While some programs do have an associated cost, there are many ways to acknowledge your team on a daily basis that incur little to no expense. But the impact is priceless.

As psychotherapist Lara Maurino Donahue, LCSW, puts it: “When we feel seen, our daily defenses are put at ease, and we are able to better perform knowing our contribution is making a recognizable difference.”

Most budgets include a line item for employee relations. I recommend you take full advantage of it, just like you would for any other critical category, such as linen replacement.

Verbal affirmations cost nothing and are an effective way to make your employees feel appreciated, so take every opportunity to high-five for a job well done or to tell MVPs that you couldn’t have completed the task without them.

Recognition on a larger scale could include reward programs such as:

  • Recognizing an Employee of the Month, with input from all managers (invest in an inexpensive plaque programs; most vendors will provide a large display plaque for the hotel and individual ones for team members);
  • Stocking your break room with employees’ favorite snacks once a month;
  • Including thank-you notes on paystubs (zero cost but incredibly effective);
  • Meeting with every team member one-on-one (doesn’t cost you anything, but the personal attention means a great deal);
  • Trying an escape room exercise off-property for a team-building experience (works well with smaller teams of up to eight people);
  • Designating a specific day, time and place each week when the entire team takes a break together (a good time to talk strategy and share guest service scores); and
  • Hosting a monthly all-employee luncheon. Utilize this time to recognize the Employee of the Month, along with staff birthdays and anniversaries.

Personal influence carries more weight than positional influence because of the investment in the relationship. I like this quote from Jennifer Nicholas, GM of the Hilton Garden Inn, Tysons Corner: “Getting to know your team personally so you can support, encourage and develop the best in them is what will define your success.”

One of the main benefits of taking care of your team is retention. Employee turnover is EXPENSIVE, and even one departing employee can create a rippling effect. A 2016 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey found that the average cost-per-hire was $4,129. Compare that to the cost of springing for a monthly luncheon, and it puts everything into perspective.

People recognize the small stuff. As Richard Branson once said: “Train people well enough so they can leave; treat them well enough so they don’t want to.”

Celeste Johnson has more than 10 years of hospitality experience, working in many different roles within major brands including Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt. Career highlights include opening Hampton Inn & Suites in Bellevue WA – the brand’s 2,000th property. Celeste is currently the general manager of Hyatt Place Garden City; she is specifically focused on blending operations, sales and revenue management with a passion in employee relations.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.


  • Suzanne Dolan February 12, 2019 7:34 PM Reply

    Excellent perspective! The quotes are really on point.

  • Kathy Sacks February 13, 2019 11:08 AM Reply

    Well said. You go from high-level theory to practical action steps a leader can take. Adding notes to pay stubs👍, especially brilliant and novel of an idea.

    The workplace is missing care and love making people feel like they belong—especially in the frenetically paced hotel industry where the customers are expected to feel cared for. Your point is dead on: the care starts with showing your employees you care and the trickle down and out effect can be profound.

  • Kushank Gupta February 13, 2019 12:08 PM Reply

    So true!! Employees are the biggest asset any company can have.

  • Less McClain February 26, 2019 7:24 AM Reply

    This article shows incredible insight and thoughtfulness, two keys that seem so often to be lost in today's transaction only base thinking that has permeated senior management irrespective of industry! Investing in your employees, has a tremendous ROI, for those transactional only thinkers, and the dividends come back many fold when managers and leaders are willing to make time for this investment. So keep on investing!

  • Jerry Evans March 2, 2019 4:01 PM Reply

    Great insight and spot on accuracies throughout the article... specifically the budget line for associate recognition or relations.

    Well done!

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