Generations of business leaders have adopted differing strategies to achieve the twin goals of customer satisfaction and sustained profitability, but there is now a growing consensus that everything else falls into place if a company gets one thing consistently right. That is the matter of finding, recruiting and, most importantly, retaining top-quality employees.
In fact, many studies have shown that better staff retention has a direct influence on financial performance. Clearly, an organisation with a team of loyal and settled employees can save significantly on costs for hiring and training new recruits, but there are many other benefits. For example, staff working in an environment where they feel valued and have opportunities for career progression are far more likely to be motivated, productive, committed team players and good corporate ambassadors.
One company that has successfully achieved this is The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, which was ranked first in Hewitt Associates' Best Employers in Hong Kong 2007. What most impressed the judges was the company's determination to recognise employee achievements and to make sure everyone, from general manager to laundry assistant, feels appreciated.
This is done by means of various reward and recognition programmes which have been implemented group-wide.
At one level, there is the 'First Class Card' which individual employees can give to colleagues in thanks or acknowledgement for a job well done. There is also a book in which customers can highlight and commend instances of excellent service.
On a more formal level, the hotel presents a 'Five Star Trophy' each quarter and annually. It is for staff who have received particularly favourable comments from guests or had outstanding performance reviews. Candidates are nominated by their colleagues, and all members of staff then vote for the winners.
Whoever wins the annual award gets an all-expenses-paid overseas holiday, not to mention an enormous boost to their self-confidence. The results are announced at a special themed party attended by staff and the management team.
According to Mandy Choi Mei-kuen, the hotel's director of human resources, all the recognition programmes have been a success and the winners subsequently act as effective role models for their colleagues.
'We can see the impact of our recognition programmes on morale and team spirit on a daily basis,' Ms Choi said. 'Other team members start to work harder because they want to be a nominee or even an awardee one day.'
She added that, besides recognising each person's contribution, good employers should also trust their staff's judgment. Demonstrating this principle, employees at The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong, are empowered to resolve guest problems. If necessary, they are allowed to commit up to US$2,000, without seeking management approval, in order to satisfy specific or unforeseen customer needs.
There are also many opportunities for involvement in decisions affecting day-to-day responsibilities. Often, initiatives are co-ordinated by the quality improvement team, which is made up of line employees who know both the business and the customers well, and aims to steadily enhance standards in every single area.
Alongside this runs a 'good ideas' programme. Its purpose is to encourage all employees to submit proposals to help them do their jobs more effectively. The ideas are discussed at executive meetings and, if found to be practicable, are adopted as soon as possible. This process has been shown to benefit staff, who get a sense of pride from seeing their suggestions acted upon, and the hotel, which shows a willingness to adapt and achieve higher standards in terms of both staff management and service for guests.
Ms Choi said that all these factors helped in creating a reputation as a good employer. That, in turn, had a positive impact on recruitment and retention. She added that, in the current labour market, where holding on to quality staff is a consistent problem, it is more important than ever for businesses to position themselves as employers people want to work for.
'We receive comments from our employees that it makes them feel proud [to work for us] and this is one of the factors that helps us to retain [them],' Ms Choi said.
Best Employers Awards 2007
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