How to Keep The Winners: Some proven business Management techniques for maintaining great staff
By Jack Turesky, President, The Hamister Group, Inc.
Thursday, 22nd June 2006
After spending a lot of time and resources finding and hiring the highest quality staff available, you might be in the fortunate position of having really great, dedicated people working at your company. You think that it's time to settle down and get on with doing business, right? Not entirely. Great people have to be maintained, not just hired.

The Hamister Group, Inc. and its affiliates own and manage select service hotels and Adult Living Residences. Since both are labor intensive businesses, we believe that it is imperative both to find great candidates and to create an environment in which they can thrive. We want to motivate our co-workers to do their very best for us every day and to stay with us for a very long time. I have found a few tactics especially useful in achieving this goal:

Tactic #1: Maintain Open Communication
Your employees want to know that you listen. You don't always have to agree with them, but you must give them opportunities to be heard. This can be accomplished in a number of ways: through staff meetings, suggestion boxes, and one-on-one meetings.

General staff meetings should be held regularly. You choose the frequency, but whatever you choose, stick with it. Staff should become accustomed to having a regular outlet for communication. It helps them to feel comfortable around you and their fellow employees. Also, you should require your Department Managers to hold regularly scheduled Department staff meetings to discuss and review the more department detail issues.

A Suggestion Box promotes spur of the moment communication and allows staff to remain anonymous if they so choose. It is extremely important to examine the suggestion box regularly (at least monthly). If you don't, you staff stop using it. Be sure to communicate responses to the entire staff in a consistent manner, either on the employee bulletin board, in a paycheck stuffer, or by e-mail.

One-On-One meetings are another necessary aspect of effective communication. They can be conducted at any time, in any place, on any topic, with any one of your staff members. The exchange can be confidential if necessary or simply a more personalized exchange of ideas. When you make your property rounds you should develop a good sense of who you might want to meet with in one-on-one meeting. And remember: it is usually wise to do more listening than talking in these meetings.

Tactic #2: Establish a Grievance Outlet
In any company, staff will occasionally have a grievance with another employee, management, a policy or a decision. I view staff as customers of the business unit. I look upon their grievances as opportunities to discover problems or areas that need my attention. If I handle their complaints properly I can solidify their connection with the company as well as identify better practices.

A confidential hotline is an ideal grievance outlet. At The Hamister Group we set up a toll-free number that staff can call in order to leave a message (anonymously if they so choose) or they can talk to our Q. A. Coordinator. This hotline is rarely used, but just having it available and promoting it lets the staff know that you are focused on their needs. You may also want to place a "Hot Line" poster near your time clock to inform your staff of its existence.

I believe that each company must also have a formal grievance procedure. There needs to be an established method to disagree with a directive or practice of the company. Make sure that it is published in the employee handbook and be sure that you follow this procedure to the letter, including any established time limits.

Tactic #3: Open-Door Policy
An informal, open-door policy is just a good management practice. As a GM or Administrator, have your desk positioned so you can see out your door. If possible, locate your office off a main hallway so that employees see you when they pass by. It always dumbfounds me when I see GM/Administrator offices buried in the back of the building, protected by gate-keepers, far away from operational activity. How can you effectively manage your staff if you cannot see and hear what they are doing? And how can they feel comfortable with you if they never see you?

Tactic #4: Show that You Care through Constructive Review
Annual anniversary reviews are a serious responsibility and should be high priority for all managers. The evaluation should be constructive, objective, and comprehensive. Dedicate time both to preparation and to the review itself. If an employee's performance does not meet your expectations, don't wait to let him/her know during their annual review. You will might need to perform an evaluation at the end of the probationary period or whenever it will benefit your staff members most. Keep ongoing performance notes, perhaps even on index cards, and share that information with your employees when possible. You are likely forced to work within the confines of your organizations policies, but that doesn't mean that you can't add to the evaluation. Be firm, fair, and consistent. Too often this is looked upon as a chore, done late and as a result, the review is ineffective and helps no one.

Tactic #5: Reward Your Staff
Are your compensation rates and benefits competitive? Regular wage and benefit checks are imperative. I suggest at least twice per year. Are the benefits you offer really what the employees are looking for? Have you ever asked the staff what benefits they would prefer? There are limitations to what can be offered and everyone understands that. However, you have the ability to potentially make some that changes may be more in tune with staff needs.

Do you recognize longevity and performance? If you have no formal programs, perhaps you can create one. The most obvious example of such a program is Employee of the Month recognition. It is best to give some sort of award that will serve as a continuous reminder of a job well done, rather than a monetary reward. I love to hand out Golden Dollars (American Sacajawea One Dollar Coins) whenever I see a good thing happen. They are my trademark recognition for superior performance.

It is easy to acknowledge extra effort; the more difficult part is being observant enough to know when extra effort is given. The smallest of acknowledgements including just a thank you go a long way.

Tactic #6: Make It Fun
Fun doesn't mean jokes and gags. What it does mean is that you want to create an environment where employees come to work because they want to, not because they have to. This can be done by taking an interest in your staff, treating them in a firm, fair, and consistent manner and taking the time to recognize the many positive things they do each day. I am always amazed at how much a little recognition from managers affects employees. Positive reinforcement is one of the most essential aspects of good leadership.

Managers cannot motivate their employees, but they can create an encouraging environment in which staff can motivate themselves. If a manager is not approachable or has an intimidating manner, s/he is certain to de-motivate employees. The development of efficient communication systems and an encouraging work environment will help you maintain dedicated and valuable staff members.

The Hamister Group, Inc. is a rapidly growing adult living residence and hotel management company. The Hamister Group, Inc. is actively seeking acquisitions and management contracts in the Eastern half of the United States. For more details, please see our web sites:www.hamistergroup.com and www.hamisterhospitality.com.

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