The Importance of Hotel Onboarding on Retaining Staff

August 6, 2021
The Importance of Hotel Onboarding on Retaining Staff
hotel onboarding

It is needless to say but the hospitality industry has gone through a series of changes over the last year and a bit. The global pandemic wreaked havoc early on causing a cease to most travel, making many hotel jobs redundant. Cutbacks and mass lay-offs occurred and hotels were running very, very, slim. Not knowing when the world would re-open again, hotels are now facing the problem of hiring as travel starts to resume. Hiring has always been a struggle in hospitality, especially now, more than ever. But why is that? The root may be in hotel onboarding.

Hospitality is facing major staffing issues

Hotel staff are regarded as some of the least engaged staff in any industry. Not only that, but the hospitality industry also has a major churn issue. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Food and Hospitality sector has a staggering annual turnover rate of 73.8%. There are many reasons contributing to this, such as the seasonal nature of hospitality. Hotels often rely on part-time and seasonal workers and have a hard time finding long-term employees. This results in entry-level employees feeling “replaceable” and having low-commitment and engagement to their jobs.

On top of these already existing challenges, the recent global pandemic basically added fuel to this already long burning flame. Hotels are now facing the challenge of ramping back up during an uncertain time.

This past year has taught us that you may not be able to control what happens in the world, such as the course of a pandemic and travel restrictions. But what you can control is everything under your own roof, like how you hire, onboard, train, and engage your staff.

How hotel onboarding can help retain staff

If the problem is turnover, then the cause is difficulty in engaging and retaining staff. There are many reasons why an employee may not choose to stay that is beyond our control but what we can control is how we onboard an employee in the first place. This is the catalyst to either a smooth transition into your organization, or a bumpy one that leaves a bad impression right from the get go.

During times of regular economic conditions, a low unemployment rate means that there are often more jobs available than there are people. Think about what would prevent someone from leaving your organization for a position that simply just pays more, has better suitable shifts for their lifestyle, or is simply just closer to their home.

Statistics also show that 68% of the workforce in frontline customer-facing roles in industries like hospitality are now comprised of millennials and Gen Z. Trends in these generations show that they value experiences, work-life balance, and high social responsibility and impact among the things they value in the workplace.

This shows the importance of hotel onboarding as this transition period is a sensitive time for a new employee to really gage what type of organization they are joining and if they can see themselves there for the long term. Research states that the average employee turnover rate across all industries is 25%, in hotels this number is tripled at 75%. This means that 3 out of every 4 employees hired will leave.

How poor hotel onboarding can affect your brand and bottom line

It not only costs time to rehire and train, but it’s also extremely expensive. Forbes states that replacing an employee can cost anything up to $18,000 (this includes recruitment, lost productivity and more). In contrast, investing in onboarding and training has been shown to be effective in decreasing churn. Organizations with strong onboarding training see 82% higher employee retention.

You’ve probably experienced it yourself in the past. Poor onboarding provides a negative experience for both the employee and customer.

Picture this scenario: a new employee who had barely any onboarding or training is thrust into action. They are serving at your hotel’s bustling restaurant and are overwhelmed and stressed because they feel unprepared. They also haven’t been introduced to anyone and also feel too shy to ask anyone for help. During the course of their shift, there are many delays in her service because they simply weren’t onboarded properly. This causes delays in the customer’s meal, mixups in communication and little mistakes that continue to add up during their meal. The customer leaves unhappy, and their server is scared to serve another table.

It doesn’t just stop here.

In today’s age, diners will take to Tripadvisor, Google review or Twitter to share their negative experiences. As a consumer, where do you go to check if you should visit a restaurant or not? Exactly. Not only this, the employee is probably so traumatized from her first shift that she probably has already quit, but is also sharing her negative employment experience on Glassdoor, making other people who are considering a job at your organization aware of how poor it is to work there.

The consequences of poor hotel onboarding are clear, and the solution is obvious - properly onboard your employees, or risk losing staff and clients.

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12 Steps to outstanding hotel onboarding

Pre-boarding: occurs the moment the offer of employment is made up until their first day

1- Once your new employee has accepted their job offer - send them a company wide email, or announce in your company’s messaging platform to welcome them to the team. This will warm them up to the existing staff so they are aware of who is coming onboard and be prepared for their first day.2 - Send a comprehensive email consisting of everything they’ll need and need to provide for their first day. Relevant information like dress code, where the employee area is, HR information, and relevant guidelines and employee handbooks. This ensures a smooth transition and will set your new employee up for success on their first day.3 - Make it clear where they need to be at what time and who they should ask for on their first day.

Orientation: this is typically the first month of their new job, with an emphasis on their first day and week.

4 - Ensure that the new employee’s manager is prepared for their arrival, welcomes them, and does the initial introductions and onboarding for their first day. Nothing says “you’re replaceable” like delegating that task to a junior employee.5 - Do a walkthrough of the workplace and introduce them to relevant team members and other cross functionals that they will be likely to be working closely with. Educate them on important policies, security information, and things like where the bathrooms are and where to take breaks.6 - Give new employees a small welcome gift on their first day. Something like a hotel branded mug or hat on their first day goes a long way.7 - Managers should take the new employee to lunch at the hotel on the employees first day. This allows the employee to give a pulse check on how they are feeling with all the information and be able to ask any question in a less rushed and informal setting.8 - In the first week, managers should meet with the new employee to go over culture, goals, and organizational know-how. They should walk away from this meeting knowing the following:

  • The hotel’s purpose, brand, and tone of voice
  • The common guest types, their needs, expectations and behaviours, and how best to serve them
  • Their individual and team goals and core responsibilities

9 - In the first week, managers should ensure that their new employee has access to all the relevant tools including things like internal communication platforms, and company intranets. This ensures that they have everything necessary to be set up for success.

Continued onboarding: this is the time between orientation to the point of the employee reaching full productivity - typically anywhere from 3-6 months.

10 - Ensure the new employee knows how to reach out to their direct manager, team members and HR manager if they have any questions.11 - Make the employee welcome by encouraging participation in team events and cultural rituals. They’ll be able to see the team work come to life.12 - Check-ins with managers should be consistent. This is where managers can identify training opportunities, provide additional training and guidance, and give positive feedback on what they’re doing well. The new employee should know exactly where they stand and how to improve.

We think of hotel onboarding as an investment.

It’s an investment in your employee’s future and the future and reputation of your organization. The more you put in, the more you will get out and the more likely you will have employees that stay and are more productive.

The amount of information for both new employees and managers is a lot and can be overwhelming so we highly encourage you to have an onboarding checklist. A standard checklist will streamline onboarding for every employee and will keep managers accountable and help them tick off all the boxes and ensure that nothing is forgotten. Happy onboarding!

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