HR head explains incredible retention rates

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Turnover is notoriously high in the hospitality industry with rates often sitting well above the national average – however, that’s not the case for one Queenstown hotel which certainly seems to have bucked the trend.

Close to Lake Wakatipu, The Rees Hotel has managed to keep its turnover rate close to 10 per cent for the past five years – significantly lower than the national average of around 18 per cent.

Even more impressive is the fact that a 2016 HRINZ study found that hospitality turnover rates in New Zealand can reach well over 50 per cent.

“We have a number of initiatives in place but I think it’s the smaller more regular initiatives that sit under our recognition and reward program which have the biggest impact on motivation and retention,” says Kerryn Boniface, ‎people and culture leader at the luxury hotel.

According to Boniface, one of the most effective small-scale initiatives comes in the form of spontaneous ice-cream runs.

“We go down to the local supermarket, get probably about 55 to 60 ice creams, then we go right around the hotel and into the rooms where people are working to hand them out,” he explains.

“In terms of value, the ice cream one is probably the best one because you actually get to know a little bit more about your team members and it opens up the conversation a little bit more,” he continues.

“It’s great because you get to see them in their work, you get to see these really positive smiles and you get to show that you’re grateful to them for their hard work.”

Another popular yet unusual initiative is how the organisation celebrates and recognises its employee of the month – with surprise flash-mobs.

“We surprise the winner of those in their work area and they get a reward – a dinner up to the value of $200 at our partner restaurant – and we post on the team Facebook page as well.”

However, it’s not just rewards and recognition which works towards the impressive retention rate, Boniface the caring culture at the hotel plays a huge role too.

“We’re really interested in looking after our team members and respecting them as human beings,” he explains. “We want to have really transparent open relationships with people where we can get the best out of them in their role but they can also enjoy the lifestyle here as well.”

Living in Queenstown, accommodation can pose a huge challenge for employees and Boniface says The Rees has advanced wages in the past when employees struggle to cover a bond and has also stepped in after staff fell victim to a rental scam.

“We want employees to come and talk to us and have those conversations because even if we can’t help them, we may know of other support networks and resources out there,” he tells HRM.

Being there for employees in times of need is also vital to ensuring a loyal workforce, says Boniface – but it’s also the right thing to do.

“We do special assistance programs as well which include compassionate financial support for particular circumstances,” he reveals. “Recently there was a really tragic hit and run accident where one of our workers was involved and we provided financial support of $1,000 to her and her family.

“It’s about doing the right thing and yes there are some benefits to that but we truly want to create that culture where people are celebrating their time here and that builds our brand reputation as well and lets people know who we are.

“That’s important – we want to be authentic in what we do and we expect a lot from our employees and team members but we also want to provide that reciprocation back because it’s a two-way street and we wouldn’t be anywhere without our team members.”

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