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Thu 9 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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Cash is not always the answer

Hoteliers are being forced to come up with innovative ways to retain staff to prevent them leaving for jobs with higher wages.

Hoteliers are being forced to come up with innovative ways to retain staff to prevent them leaving for jobs with higher wages.

That's the message from Hotelier Middle East's recent roundtable with HR managers of several leading hotels in Dubai.

Radisson SAS Hotel Dubai Deira Creek human resources director Zia Batliwalla said the hotel had not yet had a mass exodus of staff.

"However I have always felt that when people start looking for other jobs - although in this market they are being poached, sometimes with other hotels actually calling them at work - you cannot really fight that," she said.

"We focus on things we can do, things we can change, to make sure people are comfortable in their work environment, happy with their manager and treated well in their role. Then the likelihood of them being swayed by other offers is reduced; the likelihood of them looking around for another job is reduced."

But if staff do decide to leave, the answer is not to immediately offer a promotion and higher salary to stay, said Courtyard by Marriott Green Community human resources director Michelle Telfer.

"It's important to remember that not all turnover is bad turnover - sometimes it's very healthy for your business," she added.

"And I think that we're doing what we can to retain the right people, and not doing a knee-jerk reaction once they resign saying ‘oh suddenly you can have another career plan and a promotion', because that's the wrong decision as an HR community.

"I think often, if a manager has good relations with their associate, has done all the touch-points, the reviews, has met them twice a year to go through their career plans and their goals, they kind of already have an idea of who are the ones with itchy feet. And often the resignations that we do receive are not really a surprise."

Some hotels have introduced innovative programmes to retain staff by educating them on the reality of shifting jobs.

Novotel and Ibis World Trade Centre director of human resources Michael Smith said the properties reacted to an increased turnover rate by launching an internal marketing campaign called ‘Look before you leap'.

"We found that people were leaving on a promise of maybe earning AED100 (US $27) more and finding the grass wasn't necessarily greener on the other side," he says.

"They didn't look at the accommodation, they didn't look at the service charges they'd get or the performance-related pay - all the things over and above the basic salary. So we conducted this internal campaign to make people realise what they had here."

The campaign paid off, reducing the turnover year-on-year by 10% within three or four months.

"I think ultimately it's about being honest," Smith says. "If you really want to go, you've found a job that pays more, where you'll learn more or get promoted, then come and talk to us and we'll help you and support the transition. But you should come and speak to us before you make that decision, because we can give you an honest opinion."

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