Treat Your Employees Well to Reduce Turn Over

The hospitality industry is tough. From August of 2003 to August of 2004, 24.9 million employees quit their jobs for new employment. The turn-over rate in the leiure and hospitality field was 43.9% compared to 30.2% in retaiil, 25.6% in construction, 13.9% in manufacturing, and 14.6% in transportation.

According to Dr. Michael Petrillose of the William F. Harrah College of Hotel Administration, University of Nevada Las Vegas, reasons for the high turn-over in our field include:

* Inept supervision

* Wage problems

* Under-utilization of skills

* Adverse working conditions

Dr. Petrillose says that the costs of turnover includes the recruitment of replacements, training and orientation, additional record keeping for personnel, higher state unemployment insurance rates, lower productivity of newly hired employees, possible service breakdowns, and lower job satisfaction for existing employees.

The full text of his article, “Improving Bottom-line Results by Managing Turnover and Absenteeism,” may be read at:

To put things on a more personal note, I will tell you what I once told my next door neighbor. My next door neighbor is a contractor who once suggested that I lay off my staff when things slow down in the winter and that I hire ’em back in the spring when business starts to pick up. This is after all what he does in the construction industry.

I told him that people aren’t motorboats.

After getting a blank look, I explained. When you buy a motorboat, you put it on a trailer and stick it by the side of your house where it’ll always be there, ready for use.

But people are not motorboats. You can’t lay a person off and expect that this person will still be available 3 or 4 months down the road.

People have lives outside of work. They have mortgages or rent, utility bills, food bills, and all the other living expenses that we (as employers) have.

People are not motorboats.

My neighbor blinked and then suggested that anyone can be a housekeeper.

Not true.

Housekeeping can be boring and repetitious. Good housekeepers need the ability to follow directions and to pay attention to small details. They have to be punctual and honest. They have to have good hygiene and be presentable to our guests.

They must also be physically capable of bending and lifting and they are almost constantly on their feet.

I have had three housekeepers in the last twenty months. Two of them quit after two weeks. One of them was illiterate and could not follow written directions. I also suspect that she had an attention deficit problem since she couldn’t stay focused on her tasks. The other had artheritis. Even though she said that she could do the job, she had difficulty walking up and down the stairs. She also had problems with bending and stooping to scrub floors and clean bathtubs and commodes.

The remaining housekeeper has stayed with me for the last 20 months.

She is an extremely valued employee because if she wasn’t here, I’d have to do everything myself. Last August she took a one week paid vacation and since one of the other housekeepers had just quit, I was on my own for a week.

It was a long week. I have a seven bedroom facility. On one particularly long day, I had 16 made to order breakfasts to put out – then bus and clean up. The guests in all 7 rooms checked out and alll rooms had to be turned around for in-coming guests. Towels, linens, and bathmats from 7 bedrooms had to be washed, dried, and stored. The phone kept ringing. The doorbell kept chiming. One of the washing machines broke down.

To survive the day, I had to prioritize my tasks. Breakfast was made and served and bussed. The tables were reset. Guests were checked out. All rooms were stripped of linens, towels, bathmats, and water glasses. Dirty laundry was piled in the basement laundry hamper. Clean sheets, towels, and bathmats were pulled off their storage shelves. Beds were remade. Soap and shampoo were restocked. Rooms were somehow cleaned and made ready for guests who began to arrive at 3 PM.

After the guests checked in, I began doing laundry. I ironed, folded, and stored my last sheet around 10 PM.
And the next day was the same.


When my housekeeper came back from vacation, I greeted her with open arms.

I have always appreciated this woman but I came to appreciate her even more after spending one week without any housekeeping assistance.

When I first hired her, she started off at $6.50 an hour. At that time I had two housekeepers and the three of us gradually evolved the housekeeping check list that is used today.

Since I soon realized the importance of retaining good housekeeping staff, her wages were soon increased. The current housekeeper now makes $10.00 an hour and will most likely receive another wage increase in the spring.

She gets two days off a week and has been very good about having flexible days off to best accomodate the inn. (She typically takes days off when we are least busy).

I’m a great believer in offering staff meals – but my housekeeper is a hard worker and would prefer to continue working. (She generally takes her meals home and has them for dinner). The housekeeper is paid for five hours a day – but if she completes her work in four hours, I usually have no problem with letting her go. After all, fair is fair. This woman comes to work on time. She’s never called in sick. She’s incredibly dependable. She rarely takes breaks. She’s a hard worker and thanks to her, the inn is always spick and span.

Contrary to what my neigbor believes, good housekeepers are NOT a dime a dozen.

Since I’m a great believer in the concept of random acts of kindness, I sometimes cook meals for her family and send her home with enough food to feed everyone.

Since I know that fried chicken is her favorite food, I sometimes stop at Kentucky Fried chicken when I’m in Selinsgrove on business and buy a meal for her family.

I always remember her birthday. I give bonuses at Christmas. I have taken a personal interest in her life and I regard this woman as both a friend and a valuable asset to this business.