How top hoteliers keep great staff happy [interview]

Many of the moving parts that make up a hotel general manager’s job revolve around making sure that their guests are satisfied and their expectations are met, or preferably exceeded. Choosing the right team can go a long way to easing the pressure on a GM to deliver exemplary experiences for his or her guests.


Staff have a huge impact on a guest’s stay. It doesn’t matter if team members have direct contact with guests or if they have a job behind the scenes – everything has an impact on guest satisfaction, from room cleanliness to food quality to professionalism and warmth of reception staff. It’s up to the General Manager to ensure all these team members and departments run optimally and can grow and develop to reach their full potential. Hiring and retaining the right people for their respective roles is key to achieving this.

Fighting high turnover rates in hospitality

There have been some interesting studies done on staff retention, many of which show the impact high staff turnover has on the hospitality industry. One I found really insightful was done in 2019 by Deputy in collaboration with YouGov. It shows that the hospitality industry retention rate is just 70%. Interestingly enough, this is 15 percentage points lower than the UK average.

I wanted to get some advice on what can be done to change these numbers, so I had a chat with Daniel Thompson MIH, General Manager of Mullion Cove Hotel, whose staff retention rate is really high (and is one of the top 20 hotels in Cornwall, according to TripAdvisor), to find out his views and top tips on staff in general:

What has been your best experience with a member of staff that has really stepped up?

My best experiences with staff are the ones I see develop and grow. I pride myself on identifying that unique hospitality spark in people, then nurturing that so they can grow in my team, develop those skills, then either work their way up through the business or go on to bigger things. A number of people I have trained over the years have gone on to much bigger jobs and are now leading their own teams. Seeing these people at the beginning of their careers and then again later down the line gives me an immense sense of pride.

What is your worst experience with a staff member and advice for other hoteliers handling that situation?

Oh, I could tell a few tales, as I’m sure so could other hoteliers out there, and I’m positive we could collectively create a very interesting book. However, the worst feeling for me is seeing staff members who possess amazing potential waste it. The industry is renowned for being tough, drink and drugs are rife and they turn to these to cope. This then becomes a slippery slope, but we as managers and hospitality leaders have the power to help and shape the future in order to retain talent. Employee sustainability can only lead to sustainable profitability.

Any top tips for keeping the best staff loyal and happy?
  • Be honest with staff – especially if it feels hard to do – people do appreciate honest feedback
  • Reward great work and innovation
  • Have an open-door policy – let them know they can come to you with any issue for help
  • Don't stand for bullying – I have a zero-tolerance on bullying, there is no place for it in our industry and bad apples always spoil the barrel
  • Create a wonderful working culture. The one we have at Mullion is unique and the reason for our success.
  • Be the best leader you can be, share the rewards and be aware

Rewards and recognition

Another great example of a group that takes staff retention seriously is The Coaching Inn Group. They are really passionate about their 700 staff and were also just recently listed as one of The Sunday Times 100 BEST COMPANIES TO WORK FOR 2020, coming in at number 44. If you take a look at their website it’s clear to see why they are on the list and I personally love the passion they have for their people as the below really says it all for me.

“Our people are the heart of our business and we work with team members that have fantastic potential. Through our development programmes and learning structures we aim to promote fantastic career progression and help develop leaders of the future. We believe in rewarding the fabulous people that work with us, with a variety of discounts and benefits packages that really give added value. We recognise the brilliant work they do through our hero of the month award as well as our annual award ceremony. Many companies talk about being people centred, for us, every conversation and every decision starts and end with our people. We are extremely lucky to work with some of the most talented individuals in the industry, and our role is to unlock their potential.”

Let feedback motivate your team

I speak to hoteliers on a daily basis, and as more and more properties are doing staff incentives or loyalty programs, it’s becoming clear that the general mindset is to retain good staff. Guests can help you identify outstanding team members, just by answering a few simple questions.


Teams are then able to see who is going above and beyond each month using GuestRevu. This can really assist management when making decisions on rewarding staff or even on in-house promotions.

Consistently high ratings reveal the hard work your team has been putting in behind the scenes. A bit of praise for a team member can really help to motivate them and ensure they keep to the high standards.


In the words of Richard Branson: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.”

If you want to know more about addictions that the hospitality industry faces here’s a great article by ALCOHOL.ORG. Team members that may need help with addiction can take a look at the NHS alcohol support resources, or visit We Are With You for live chat support for yourself or if you are worried about someone else.

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