Why Hospitality and Inclusivity are Vital Retention Strategies

Why Hospitality and Inclusivity are Vital Retention Strategies | Kathleen Duffy

Why Hospitality and Inclusivity are Vital Retention Strategies

 “What can I do to keep my key contributors?”

I hear this question nearly every day from the executives and HR specialists with whom I work. There’s been so much discussion of the Great Resignation and the challenge of identifying and filling open opportunities with qualified candidates that we sometimes overlook a critical fact: companies need to do more to retain the employees they have.

My team and I have spent significant time with our clients brainstorming effective responses to the fact that employees are simply feeling less loyal to their employers. Some became accustomed to a more flexible work/life balance during periods of remote work required during the lockdowns of the COVID pandemic. Others have recognized that they can get a better offer—more money, additional benefits—elsewhere. As colleagues leave, those who remain are quickly overworked and may feel undervalued, prompting them to look for a new opportunity.

I’ve seen that inclusivity is at the heart of a successful employee experience. When you feel included, when you feel that your contributions are recognized and valued, you are more likely to have a positive outlook on your workplace and your employer.

There are many important ways in which employers can make sure that employees feel included and valued. Meetings (virtual and in-person) need to be structured in a balanced way so that contributions from both introverts and extroverts are heard. Managers and leaders must be more proactive in sharing thoughtful, constructive feedback and acknowledging positive performance and extra effort. Organizations should invest in mentoring key contributors and creating pathways for them to acquire new skills and advance within the company.

But there is a different strategy that smart companies are beginning to implement, one that creates a more welcoming workplace for employees and customers alike. These businesses are incorporating hospitality into their culture.

Successful hospitality organizations have been using these principles for years, but it’s fascinating to me to see them now moving into all sectors. Think for a moment about your own experiences stepping into an inviting hotel or restaurant. The colors, lighting, furniture, even smells trigger a specific response. If this first impression is successful, you feel personally welcomed into that space—and you want to stay.

The isolation of the COVID pandemic has triggered an increasing desire among many of us to connect, to be present and work collaboratively, to have opportunities to gather and socialize. I’m encouraging my clients who’ve identified how to facilitate remote work to now make a key pivot toward facilitating greater opportunities for social engagement and teamwork. The tired Keurig coffeepot in the corner is not enough! Employees want a workplace where they have multiple social spaces where they can hold meetings, eat, even reserve them for events and non-work-related gatherings, with comfortable furniture more suggestive of a living room than a conference room. I’ve seen organizations reconfigure their workplaces to reduce the space reserved for individual offices and instead create a more intentional balance of quiet rooms and collaboration centers, yet another way to ensure that a company is focusing on inclusivity for all work styles and needs.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking to skilled talent, and recently, their motivation to stay or leave an employer is inspired by emotion as much as fact. The salary and benefits, the vacation time and the annual bonus are important, but what matters just as much is how employees feel. Do they feel known and recognized? Do they feel respected? Are they happy with the opportunities they receive and the colleagues with whom they work?

I recognize the challenge of operating a profitable company may mean that employees are not always going to be whistling while they work. But there’s something deeper here that I believe is an important response to the Great Resignation, and it’s centered around these core ideas of hospitality and inclusivity.

Let’s go back to that experience of stepping into a well-run hotel. The goal for that hotel is to make sure that you feel like a welcomed guest. A great hotel will make sure that you are greeted by name. That hotel’s success depends not simply on you stepping into the lobby, but on you choosing to come back again and again. They want you to spend more time there, and they invest in the infrastructure to ensure that it’s possible. They may have a restaurant or coffee shop on-site, or offer complimentary bottled water and healthy snacks. There will be spaces for you to sit, and charging stations so that you can use a laptop and iPad or charge your cell phone. Comfortable and inviting are two adjectives that aren’t typically associated with a traditional office—but that can and must change if you’re serious about attracting and retaining top talent.

I realize that not every organization can implement a significant redesign, nor can all types of work be performed successfully in a coffee shop or living room. I’m suggesting something more fundamental, an atmosphere that makes employees feel welcomed, acknowledged, and included, no matter the job they are doing. Most managers introduce a new employee to their co-workers and give a quick tour of the workplace on the first day, but few of us can retain that barrage of new information on days two or three. How can organizations take an extra step to ensure that the onboarding doesn’t end after the first day on the job but extends in a more intentional way throughout the working experience? There should be regular check-ins to ensure that employees are feeling included. Meetings should be structured to alternate more informal discussions with formal information sharing. Employers should provide resources that are not purely work-related, but will help employees to live better, whether it’s facilitating personal financial or legal counseling, meditation classes, or wellness coaching.

Employees want to be included, valued, and respected—not just on day one, but on every day that follows.