By  Danielle Hess  @HNN_Danielle

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—When it comes to managing several hotel properties, hotel associates are essential in ensuring guests have the best experience possible. In order for this to be done, management companies have to find ways to keep staff happy and interested.

Hotel News Now spoke with experts from four management companies on ways to keep the best employees happy, motivated and interested in their jobs and the company.

Here are eight strategies to keep your best employees happy and willing to stay.

1. Find the right people
Keeping long-term associates starts at the very beginning of the hiring process, according to Rick Takach, president and CEO at Vesta Hospitality. He said management companies have to be careful when it comes to hiring the right employee.

“It really comes back to the basics of what we do, and it really is the starting process,” Takach said. “If you’re going to have a good long-term associate, you have to be really careful in who you hire to begin with. We have some really good screening programs and a lot of different tools that we use to make sure that we are hiring someone who wants to work in our business.”

2. Have an onboarding plan
After finding the right candidate, Takach said Vesta provides the associate with the right onboarding materials to have a better chance at keeping the employee long-term.

“Once we find the right individual, the next part is onboarding and making sure they’re brought into the company in the right way,” he said. “If you bring someone into the organization in the right way within the first 90 days, through proper orientation, proper training and the proper environment, there’s a much better chance of them being a long-term associate.

“If you throw them into a position and there’s no support there, it’s unlikely that you’re going to have a good long-term associate.”

3. Provide the right environment
In order for employees to enjoy their positions, they have to be proud of the environment they work in, Takach said. He said Vesta tries to create an environment where “employees want to be.”

“We try to provide an environment that’s respectful,” Takach said. “We try to make sure everyone understands our values, and we make sure they understand what is required of them and how we (monitor) that, so that (associates) have a clear understanding of what their job is. We try to provide an environment where associates have the tools they need to do the job.

“We also try to maintain our hotels in a way where (associates) are proud to be there. If you’re taking everything out of your hotel and you’re not reinvesting in the product—and it’s hard to be proud of that product—that makes it a little more difficult to handle as a long-term associate.”

4. Give employees a voice
Associates want to be heard, and employers want to know what’s on the minds of their staff. Deborah Ames, SVP of human resources at McKibbon Hotel Management, said the company offers associates a chance to be heard.

“We embrace our open-door policy and encourage our associates to openly share any concerns they may have about working for our company,” Ames said. “Our regional vice presidents, as well as other members of our corporate team, take the time when visiting any of our hotels.”

Karen DiFulgo, SVP of human resources at Benchmark Hospitality, said the company focuses on making all associates feel like they have a voice in the company.

“We want (employees) to know they have a voice and that they’re a part of an operation and that they’re not just coming in and punching in on the clock,” DiFulgo said. “They need to feel like they have ownership in what’s happening.

“We always tell employees that they need to do what they think is in the best interest of the guest, and I think it empowers them to feel like they’re a bigger part of the operation.”

5. Be genuine
John Brinkman, VP of operations at Alliance Hospitality Management, said the company is committed to being genuine when it comes to addressing employees at all company hotels. If the management team acts “fake,” employees also will act “fake,” Brinkman said.

“It’s important to not be fake,” Brinkman said. “It’s important because employees know fake, and if you’re fake, so are your employees … and they’re going to give your guests ‘fake.’”

6. Follow up with employees
Following up with guests after a meal or stay is a routine part of a GM’s job. But Brinkman said it’s just as important for hotel GMs to take time out of their busy schedules to follow up with employees and congratulate them on a day of hard work.

“Sometimes we get caught up in the mechanics of what we’re doing and (forget) about the basics,” Brinkman said. “Yes, we know there’s a lot of reports. Yes, we know there’s a lot to do, but the basics are to take care of the employees and they’ll take care of your guests.”

7. Make associates feel comfortable
Hoteliers hire people from all over the world, and making associates feel comfortable in their positions is a key part in keeping good associates from different ethnicities and backgrounds.

Brinkman said Alliance places associates in positions where they will feel most comfortable and makes interpreters readily available to associates whose native language isn’t English.

“If we have an employee who speaks very little English, you’re not going to put them at the front desk,” Brinkman said. “They have to not be put into a position of feeling embarrassed for not being able to communicate. We try to put them in a spot they feel comfortable handling, and we have interpreters on call. If we get employees to feel involved and break that language barrier, that’s important. It’s important because some of our best customer service associates are not native to the U.S.”

When it comes to communicating with associates of different ages, Brinkman said it’s important to have one team member who can connect with that age bracket and make the rest of the team understand that group or individual as well.

8. Engage in team-building activities
It’s important for employees to get to know each other to install positive relationships in and outside of the workplace, sources said.

“While we like to have fun outside of work, we encourage our hotels to participate in community service projects, which many find to be fun and rewarding at the same time,” Ames said via email. “From a manager standpoint, we host quarterly leadership workshops for all new managers in Tampa, Florida. The groups participate in team-building events, such as paintball competitions, rock climbing and car racing.”

Takach said Vesta holds an annual event across all properties to recognize every associate of the month.

“Not only are they recognized within the hotel, but they’re recognized by the entire company so that they feel like they’re part of a bigger family,” Takach said.