The great labor battle


How benefits improve culture and win the war for talent

As hotel owners and employers in the hospitality industry, the “great resignation” is no strange concept. The Jan. 4, 2022, report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that a staggering 4.5 million people have voluntarily left their jobs.

These numbers aren’t exactly encouraging. Especially in the hospitality industry, where we face constant turnover and a draining fight to attract and retain the right employees. The hospitality sector was no stranger to high turnover pre-COVID-19. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the hotel and motel industry faces an employee turnover rate of 73.8%.

With a turnover rate that high, it becomes challenging to maintain day-to-day operations, let alone client satisfaction. Your hands are full, your profitability is decreasing, and you can’t wait on a solution that solves your retention and recruitment problems, but – good news alert – you don’t necessarily have to.

A strong, mutually beneficial company culture for hoteliers is everything, but strong internal cultures aren’t formed overnight. There is no magical plan that comes together with the snap of your fingers. Simply put, there are no shortcuts to a great culture.

While there are no easy ways around the problem, there are core elements of your hotel’s culture over which you have complete control, and that substantially impact your current and potential staff. The best way to build a trusting relationship with your employees is by first taking care of them. This begins and ends with a benefits package that actually works for them.

In a recent episode of the CHRO Champions podcast, retired chief human resources officer and industry expert Jeff Shuman shared critical pieces of insight into how strengthening a company’s culture from within results in valued employees and improves recruiting and retention rates. Shuman describes culture as the DNA of organizations. It’s not a mission statement nor is it a well-designed poster hanging on your office walls. Company culture isn’t enough. It has to be the right culture.

Shuman states, “[It] is so critically important that the culture is right for that particular business entity. It’s right for the time, it’s right for the customer base and the audience you are trying to serve.”

Company culture relies heavily on the beliefs, behaviors, and values of the hotel. These things start from within, at the employee level. Does your staff believe you have their best interests in mind? Do your employees have established trust with your leadership? Are your employees valued? All of these relational elements interact with each other to create an unwavering culture that attracts top talent to your hotel.

Meanwhile, poor company culture results in high turnover rates and lower success rates with recruitment. These are the two things leadership teams in the hotel sector are working relentlessly to avoid.

Recruiting and retention difficulties have forced us to ask ourselves why employees are leaving and what it will take to make them stay. Employees know their worth, and they can identify when employers don’t take the time or make the effort to make staff feel valued. The hotel industry needs to seek out benefits that provide high-quality health care and low costs for employees.

Beyond that, it’s time to spark cultural transformation within your hotel. This transformation starts at the top with you. Leaders create cultural change through transparency, authenticity, credibility, and character. The best way to reinforce cultural change to your employees is by ensuring you’re all speaking a common language that places your staff at the forefront of your mission.

In Shuman’s past role as a CHRO, he spearheaded a cultural transformation throughout a company of 50,000 people. Throughout this time of change, he and the leadership team conducted what they called the “fishbowl” exercise. The goal was to be totally transparent with their employees and take any mystique out of the work they were doing to build a better culture.

The exercise consisted of the leadership team collecting feedback from employees of all levels throughout the company and then empowering them to provide their thoughts and opinions. Not all feedback was sunshine and rainbows, but it was impactful. It was proof the leadership team valued all employees’ feedback and helped them stay true to their commitment to transparency.

When you value your employees, increased retention and recruitment will follow. You want to build a culture within your hotel to which candidates are immediately attracted. If your strategy doesn’t include quality health care benefits, you’re missing out on a pool of incredible talent that could catapult your hotel’s success. Value your employees, and they, in turn, will value you.

One often-overlooked solution

one often overlooked solutionPutting healthcare first in your fight for recruitment and retention can yield tangible benefits. Here are just three reasons why.

1. Employee benefits have become critical elements to the recruitment and retention conversation. People want to be provided with high-quality healthcare that won’t empty their pockets. By offering the best benefits packages possible, you’re making the statement that your employees’ well-being matters to you.

2. Your healthcare spend correlates to how much time and effort you put into it. Rather than keeping the mindset of “healthcare insurance costs always increase year over year,” take a step back and review your business trends. Is your selected benefits package serving your employees well? Or is it just checking off a box? Put thought into the benefits you’re offering your employees and make sure you pick the right ones for them and effectively communicate how they can best utilize their benefits.

3. When you’ve effectively implemented benefits packages tailored to your employees, your HR team has a nugget of gold with which to lead on the hunt for talent. Topnotch benefits are sought after by those in search of a new career. And, if quality healthcare isn’t a priority for you, working for your hotel will not be a priority for them.


geoff rowson

Geoff Rowson is the senior vice president of sales at Totem Solutions, a benefits consulting company and an AAHOA Platinum Industry Partner that handles everything from administration to enrollment and employee advocacy. For more information on employee benefits and employee benefits consulting, visit or contact Geoff at .


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