How are hotels losing talent?
How are hotels losing talent?
30 SEPTEMBER 2020 8:58 AM

Accor’s research tackled the issue of talent retention by diving into several key factors.

Easy answers about talent retention come from our opinions and conventional wisdom, but in North America, Accor dug deeper. In a study specifically aimed at understanding the barriers for progression of female leaders, they gathered input from 400 women and men in leadership across the region, from the department heads at the hotel level to the regional CEO. What they found was that there were six crucial factors that influence better retention and drive higher career satisfaction among their valuable talent. But implications of those six factors are not exactly as you may expect.

Life: When thinking about becoming a GM, the impact on personal life was the No. 1 issue for both women and men. The challenge of building a strong personal life in an industry that runs 24/7 is a big issue for virtually everyone looking at careers in hospitality. Rather than seeing variance by gender, it is younger employees who are most concerned about this.

Would you … arrange for senior GMs and executives to candidly share stories about their lives with young leaders? At Accor, it was inspiring for rising leaders to hear from successful senior executives how they integrated the personal with the professional – working with strong teams, making time for yourself, etc.

Moves: Concerns about mobility are based in both reality and perception. In fact, while frequent moves may be a fact of moving up in hospitality, it is not always to the extent perceived. The perception of constant relocations is a significant competitive disadvantage for the industry at a time when dual income families are the norm.

Would you … communicate with employees about the reality (why mobility is important, what value it brings to your career, how it broadens experience and builds stronger, more versatile leaders)? At a certain point, you don’t have to move all the time; moves can be longer term and planned to work around life outside of the hotel. This sets expectations and introduces opportunity.

Mentors: Mentorship is critical to career development, whether it is formal or informal. This view was shared by Accor employees as all the women in the study, at a senior level, had a mentor while they advanced through their careers, but the majority had to seek out their own mentor. This was not the same for senior males.

Would you … try a formal mentorship program? Without strong mentors or networks, it is difficult for women to break into male-dominated roles. Accor reinvigorated its formal mentorship program giving women on the rise a structured opportunity to access the benefits of mentorship. At the same time, they encouraged women to “put their hand up.”

Pay: Pay equity is discussed in the hallways and at the water coolers across many industries. Similar to mobility, it is critical to understand what is reality and what is perception, and then to address both. In their study, Accor found that women, particularly at junior levels within the organization, believed that they are and will be paid less.

Would you … track your company’s pay statistics and communicate the analysis to employees? To understand and address both perception and reality, Accor studied pay equity across the North America region. While the data did not reveal a systemic problem it did highlight isolated incidences that are being addressed. Where there is inequity, it should be corrected. But transparency is critical as it stands to gain loyalty and reduce dissatisfaction.

Progression: The study demonstrated that women are more likely to want a clear and transparent path to GM than their male counterparts. One strength of the hotel business is the many paths to leadership within hotels, in corporate offices, and across management and ownership. People coming up through a hotel may really want direction and structure. People working on the corporate or advisory side may be comfortable with more ambiguity in their career paths.

Would you … work with talented team members overtly on career planning, so they understand their career requirements and opportunities? Once we understand that the industry is losing talent because of career path ambiguity, we can communicate about the opportunities in the industry, work with team members on career plans, and realize the benefits of this strength.

Walking the talk: Although Accor’s commitments around gender and diversity were a good step in the right direction, the study showed that the resulting actions seemed to be inconsistent with “walking the talk.” As a result, the company reworked the agenda, creating a platform for Women on the Rise and putting incentives in place directed toward a goal of 50% women GMs. Knowing they must feed the pipeline to succeed, Accor’s initiatives extend to 50% women for all promotions.

Would you … walk the talk to drive real results? Having diverse leadership has been hugely important for younger employees to see at Accor. Seeing female executives move into their roles, hearing how they got there, understanding that they’ve been through the same things, motivates and retains diverse talent.

Accor’s journey made a dramatic shift when it looked across its landscape of talent and realized the group’s assumptions were not entirely on target. The resulting study and subsequent change in approach is delivering results across the region. This change, although initially focused on gender diversity, has the potential for broader implications and impact benefiting other under-represented talent, such as racial and cultural diversity. Accor realizes that the biggest need for equality and inclusion in hospitality is not only to acknowledge that it is an opportunity, but to turn conversation into action and to ensure they are creating real and sustained change.

Sara Glenn is SVP of operations, Canada, Caribbean, Central American and Mexico for Accor.

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