Finding and Keeping the Best Talent

Sometimes it is easier to get advice than it is to give it, especially if that advice hits the mark with me. In an earlier Money Inc. column entitled Creating a Customer Service Culture, With a Little Help from ‘Fred’ and ‘Dale,’ I talked about using the principles taught in Dale Carnegie Management Training to inspire and motivate the employees of the Bavarian Inn Lodge in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Those same principles apply when it comes to the issue of finding and retaining good employees.

Even in the best of times, staff turnover is a challenge for most business managers. Exceptionally talented people rise to the top and get noticed. When that happens, they might receive offers from competitors or be told that they could be paid more or have better benefits if they were working for XYZ. As unique and fun as we have tried to make the experience of being part of our family-owned and operated resort hotel in Michigan’s “Little Bavaria,” we also face the test of finding and retaining good employees. And, when the economy is in transition, as it still is in most of the country, that makes the task even more daunting.

Dale Carnegie said that one of the best ways to build a relationship with someone was to give that individual a good reputation to live up to. That is, after all, what we have with the people we work with daily: a relationship. I encourage our managers to come to work every morning with the intention of making their staff feel as though his/her contribution is just as important as anyone else’s; that the experience of staying at the Bavarian Inn Lodge would not be as wonderful or as memorable for our guests without him/her being there performing his/her duties. Also, at the end of the day, out leadership team tells their staff, “I had fun working with you today,” as we want our employees to look forward to their next shift.

Another way we reinforce the family-owned and operated ambiance of our business is an employee referral program. We pay our staff members a bonus for referring people with whom they would enjoy working. Staff members must fill out a referral form stating why their referral would make a good employee, including what they feel are that person’s strengths and weaknesses. They must also commit to being a mentor for their recruits and be willing to help them “learn the ropes” at Bavarian Inn Lodge. If the candidate becomes a member of our team, there are four bonus payouts to the referring staff member. The first pay out comes at the 6-month milestone with the remaining three payments made on the new member’s first, second, and third anniversaries.

This program has helped us find some very good people who are making a career of being part of the Bavarian Inn Lodge experience, but it is only one part of our total effort to hire and retain the best staff that we can. Each member’s role, his/her job performance expectations, and the parameters for evaluating performance are consistent across our management and administrative teams. We strive to make sure that everyone understands where he/she fits into the organization’s structure and how their performance interacts with and impacts every department. I keep open lines of communication with all who help to make this one of the best family-owned and operated resort hotels.

It begins and ends with them directly hearing that they are, quite simply, the best.

Judy Zehnder Keller is president of the Bavarian Inn Lodge and Convention Center in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Nestled along the Cass River in one of Michigan’s top tourist locations – Frankenmuth – the Lodge has 360 European-themed guest rooms, including whirlpool and family suites, four indoor pools, three whirlpools, two water slides, a miniature golf course, two gift shops, two lounges and two restaurants — all under one roof. In addition to being president of the lodge, Judy is also president of the Frankenmuth Cheese Haus and the Frankenmuth Gift Shop. She is recognized statewide for her leadership in promoting tourism in Michigan.


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