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Retention strategies that work

Human Resources

Retention strategies that work

Retaining valued employees is a challenge for most companies. It becomes tougher when the workforce happens to be a predominantly young one. Sudipta Dev finds out which are the most effective long term retention strategies

Retaining the right talent has always been a challenge for most companies in both the travel and hospitality sectors. The investment that goes into recruiting, training and honing on-the-job skills can cause both tangible and intangible loss when a productive resource leaves the organisation. Carefully formulated long-term strategies need to be worked out to prevent this loss and retain the people assets who hold the key to business survival and growth in the services-focused industry.

The young and the restless

E Balaji

Joe Rajan

Arian D’Souza

Subhash Motwani

Geeta Sundrani

It is not an easy task to retain for a long period of time a young workforce, which is driven by ambition and easily lured by the next big pay hike. A larger part of the solution lies in engaging and motivating them constantly. Subhash Motwani, director-Compact Travels, concedes that focused effort to motivate the people resource is essential to prevent attrition. “It should not just be work and routine all the time. You cannot replace people, they are not machinery. If you treat them like machines, there will be a breakdown. As most of them have limited experience, they do not often understand the reason behind a particular action-it is therefore necessary to explain to them the logic behind the decisions,” says Motwani.

Compact Travels, like most other organisations in the travel business, hires mostly freshers, who are given ample opportunities to learn and grow. “When they see results in a couple of years and understand that they have achieved much more in comparison to their peers in other companies, they are less inclined to leave,” adds Motwani. He points out with apparent pride that employee attrition has never been a problem in his organisation as people seldom quit, unless they opt to change their line of work, get married, immigrate abroad or move to another city. Motwani attributes a large part of this successful retention rate to his policy of encouraging an open and transparent culture. This apart, it is ensured that it is not only the bosses who are sent on FAM trips, but all those employees who have spent a particular period of time in the company are encouraged to go with the expectation that they come back with more experience and sense of responsibility.

Joe Rajan, CEO of Harvey India Tours and Travels, is also proud of the fact that he has been able to retain most of the 65-membered staff during his company’s four years of existence. Rajan has worked hard on creating a positive work culture that has ensured that none of his people have ever resigned to go to a competitor. “Being a new company, retaining the staff is important,” asserts Rajan. The efforts range from picnics and parties to outings every Saturday to incentives for those who get good business and an excellent (almost free) cafeteria service.

Hiring right

It is a well acknowledged factor that the key to retention lies in right recruitment. Stringent hiring processes are necessary to not just test the on-the-job skills of the individual but also his ability to adjust in the work culture and be a part of the team. Unfortunately, in most cases, the cultural-fit is often not analysed well and might later lead to problems for both the individual and the organisation.

Most experts agree that there is a direct co-relation between hiring and retention. “It is important to evaluate the job requirement correctly, assess and source the right candidate. A good assessment will yield more than a good candidate. It will shorten the learning curve and integration of the candidate into the system will be very smooth,” says E Balaji, CEO and director, Ma Foi Management Consultants. He points out that candidates who have the ability to adapt to people from other backgrounds, have good listening skills, lots of patience and the ability to make quick decisions would be very successful in the travel and hospitality sector.

In fact, the job role and individual career paths need also to be worked out at the initial stage itself. “If the hiring is involved around the ambition of the individual, retention is for a longer time,” avers Motwani.

Geeta A Sundrani, director, Oasis Human Resources, believes that it is necessary to inquire from prospective candidates about their long-term plans and ask how this job fits into their growth. “Many employers tend to focus retention efforts on their long-term employees, but the most effective programs are those that emphasise the benefits of long-term employment from the employee’s first day on the job,” says Sundrani, emphasising on that need to scale the candidate fit into the organisation’s long-term goals. “Right candidate would mean better retention with transparent policies and procedures,” adds Sundrani.

How to prevent employee attrition
  • Transparent policies and procedures: Employees need to be educated about the policies and working procedures of the hotel. Keeping them transparent, fair and consistent will help employees see you in good light as fair employers.
  • Training programs: Make development initiatives and training programs a part of the job. Repeated training is a good way to ingrain particular concepts into employees’ minds. Such initiatives help employees sharpen their skills at the same time allowing you to use them as per your requirement. Employees are also glad at the prospect of career development through continuous training.
  • Six weekly off a month: Essentially six weekly offs per month, accommodation and other welfare facilities with fair policies taken care, an employee would rarely give itself to competition, even if offered higher salary.
  • Make working fun: Forming social groups within the organisation, wherein the staff can mingle, arranging outings, making newsletters would inculcate the sense of one-ness amongst them, thus resulting in higher productivity and lower turnover.
  • Exit interviews: Finding out the reasons for the turnover rates. This can be effectively done through exit interviews of the employees planning to leave. Train your HR department in doing these and derive an inference from the answers to such questions. This will give you an insight into the needs of the employees and allow you to sort out problem areas.

Source: Oasis Human Resources

Long-term vision

The attrition rate, across all sectors, is greater amongst the younger workforce. The under-25 workforce are known to be easily enticed by a salary hike and do not often seriously work out the career path progression. Their goals are short-term. It is therefore imperative for the management to invest in career counselling and guidance.

“It is also important to encourage overall development of the employees, by giving them opportunity to enhance their knowledge through professional programs and courses,” states. Balaji. The other imperative factor is to create an employee friendly culture with a long-term vision and take conscious steps to build in-house talent pipeline.

Adrian D’Souza, corporate director- HR, Zuri Group Global, concedes that the HR of any organisation need to be more strategic in order to enable its work force to realise that the organisation they are working for has an aim and purpose for them. Their contributions need to be duly recognised and rewarded. “Motivation and a great working environment are key factors for retaining employees in any industry,” reiterates D’Souza.

Interestingly, a bit of attrition is considered good by most organisations as there is an influx of fresh talent, newer ideas and skills. The travel and hospitality sector is no different. “Yes, a little bit of attrition, even as inevitable as it is, is still good as the organisation would get the chance of attracting employees with different skills set. But then again, change is a reality and until there is a felt need for change, it is only an event and not a pattern,” concludes D’Souza.

Source – Travel World

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