Written by: Heather Polivka

During the HFTP 2022 Club Forum, we discussed attraction and retention of talent — a hot topic in hospitality, in general. Our conversation covered two themes; the generational shift in the workforce, and looking at our work experiences through the lens of eight key aspects most important to talent. 

Pictured: Attendees gathered at the HFTP 2022 Club Forum, September 13 in Austin, Texas USA.

First, the generational shift happening within the workforce: millennials and Generation Z (Gen Z) will comprise the majority of the workforce as soon as 2025. They are also starting businesses at unprecedented rates versus previous generations. Employers need to offer a work experience more compelling and attractive than working for themselves. 

How to do this? Believe it or not, while compensation will always be important, it is not the most important. Millennials and Gen Z want healthy work environments, organizations that “walk their talk,” and leaders who have developed the people skills for leading people. They want regular feedback, to be empowered, and the opportunity to grow. Truth be told: isn’t that what we all want in our work experience?

As I’ve been talking to leaders across industries, I often hear the comment: “these new generations aren’t loyal to companies.” The perspective I offer is to ask, how loyal companies have been to employees over the past few decades? Company pensions shifted to employees investing mostly their own money into 401Ks. More comprehensive health benefits offered by companies have been streamlined and employees are encouraged to save their own money for medical expenses via HSAs. Employees worked during vacations, only to be laid off in 2008 and 2020. I counter that much of what people call disloyalty is a generation giving as much loyalty as they have watched Gen Xers receive from companies. “Quiet quitting” may be disengagement of employees in some cases. In many cases, it is simply a workforce that is setting boundaries in their relationship with their employer. If we want greater loyalty and commitment, we must be willing to give that first.

So, how do we demonstrate a greater commitment to the emerging generations? We design work experiences that demonstrate our commitment. 

That leads us to the second theme around the work experience we offer. There are eight key aspects of the work experience where we need to “walk our talk”. We spent some time in the Club Forum exploring each of these eight aspects to ask ourselves how we could better the experience for our employees. The answers to attraction and retention were not “one-size-fits-all.” given the uniqueness of each club and its members. What is most important is for each workplace to explore the questions and come up with the answer that best demonstrates them “walking their talk.”  You can explore these areas for your own work experience as you read along:

  1. Belief in the future success of the club. We all like to be on a winning team or part of a group that we believe has a strong future. Sharing the performance of your club with employees, and your vision for where the club is going, is important. Even better? Ask your employees where they see opportunities to improve the club experience or ensure the relevancy of clubs for emerging professionals.
  2. Growth and development. For those of us who have been in the workforce awhile, it may seem obvious how some of the experiences of working within clubs can benefit the career aspirations of our employees. It isn’t always obvious to them. We need to consistently draw the line between the work, and what our employees are learning, gaining and growing from the work to fuel their future. We also need to be interested in the career aspirations of our employees — even those who are just working part-time to save for college. When we understand where our employees want to go, we are better positioned to help them see, for example, how attention to detail in serving customers will help them in having attention to detail in their future career. It also allows us to potentially create some special assignments or experiences that relate to their career interest. Every “people leader” should know and understand the career interests of their employees. Every employee should have a development plan so they can build the skills to fuel their future, for however long or short their time is with the club. 
  3. Technology and tools. Do our team members have the technology and tools they need to be successful? There is nothing more disheartening then when you don’t have the tools needed to do your job to the best of your ability, or when we don’t have enough staff to enable each person to perform at their best. We need to ensure our employees have what they need to excel and offer the service level that our club members expect.
  4. Safety and security. Safety and security took on greater meaning during the pandemic. Prior, it might have been safety protocols to ensure people didn’t injure themselves on the job. Now, it includes that, as well as ensuring employees’ physical and mental well-being. This means that we offer workplaces where people are free of harassment and microaggressions, whether it be from fellow staff, leaders or members. Most importantly, it is important that we create workplaces where people feel they belong and can show up as the best version of themselves.
  5. Trusting relationships. We all know trust is important, and yet it can seem intangible in terms of how we build and maintain trust. I love the “ABCDs of Trust,” developed by Ken Blanchard to make building trust concrete and actionable. Employees need to know they can trust us. They need to see us walking our talk. They need to see us treating others with respect, so that they know they can expect the same. They need to see us admit when we are wrong and be vulnerable enough to acknowledge we don’t know it all. Employees need to see us being discrete, holding confidences and being empathetic. We also need to get rid of the notion that our employees must earn our trust. When we offer trust at the start, they are much more likely to trust us. Trust starts with us.
  6. Work environment. The work environment can be physical and environmental. Physically, how is the employee breakroom? Are we showing we value our employees by offering them a lovely space where they can refuel — or is the breakroom a hodge-podge of boxes, old announcements and stained tables? Environmentally, is the energy of the workplace a place that people want to be? Is it positive and encouraging? Do people treat each other respectfully? Do we reward the right behaviors and not tolerate or permit toxic behaviors? 
  7. Social cohesion. When people feel a strong sense of belonging, like the people they work with (and for), and even enjoy spending time at work, we call that social cohesion. Do people know that their coworkers, and leaders, have their back? Are people operating as a team for the greater good? A strong eco-system of relationships at work creates “stickiness” for our employees to want to stay working with us and refer people they know.
  8. Last, but certainly not least, is feeling valued. As human beings, we have a need and desire to be seen, known and valued. As we look at the work experience within our clubs, we need to ask ourselves if we are offering a place where employees receive positive, reinforcing feedback every day. Yep, every day. Employees want to be recognized for their work and service. Each and every person, each and every department, needs to feel valued as a critical part of creating an exceptional experience for club members. As leaders, we can never be too busy to ensure our team members feel valued, for they will pay that forward to our members. Some clubs are offering multi-lingual emails and live meeting translation for groups of employees. I love this idea! Nothing says we value you and want to effectively communicate with you more than flexing to communicate in a way that works best for them.

We can’t deliver the experience our members expect without the retention of great team members. We can attract and retain great team members by meeting the moment of the generational workforce shift and doing deep, meaningful reflection on how we are addressing the eight key aspects of the work experience. If we don’t know how we are doing on these eight areas, I strongly recommend a survey and some listening sessions with employees to learn. They have a lot of wisdom and insight for us to learn from.

As we close out this blog, I was inspired by the care and thought that all the participants in the HFTP Club Forum demonstrated in our session. I was inspired by the stories they shared about prioritizing their employees, including addressing toxic behaviors by members who were treating employees in rude and disrespectful ways. There was a lot of generosity in sharing what is working and ideas that have been tried. Even more so, there was a willingness to grow, learn and try new approaches to leading people; it was a sincere exploration for creating workplaces that meet the times we are in, and which allow everyone to thrive. All in all, the future of our clubs looks bright!

Heather Polivka is the CEO/advisor of HeatherP Solutions, accelerating the growth and success of progressive businesses and their leaders through practical leadership, employee performance and thriving workplace cultures. She served as moderator for the HFTP 2022 Club Forum, which was co-located with the HFTP 2022 Annual Convention on September 13 in Austin, Texas USA.

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