Employee Retention Done Right

This is a repost from our 2019 archives, and I think the message is more relevant now than ever.

Today, the labor shortage is ravaging many businesses, especially in the hospitality industry. With a shortage of candidates, employee retention is more important than ever. You may not be getting the candidates you want, so it’s important to “stop the bleeding,” as our CEO Kathy Hartung says, and to place the same emphasis on retention as you currently place on recruiting. 

I hope you glean some wisdom from the prolific Horst Schulz.

Happy reading!

– Coach Sylvia


I recently had the chance to eat dinner with Horst Schulz, the co-founder of the Ritz-Carlton. Over quesadillas, chips, and multiple orders of queso, he shared stories with those of us at the table.

When this man opens his mouth, you listen. You listen because Horst was the inspiration for the iconic Chick-fil-A phrase “My pleasure,” and he’s also behind the fresh flowers most Chick-fil-As display on their dining room tables. And then there’s the Ritz-Carlton brand, which he created and ran for years.

Horst’s words challenged and inspired me in many ways, but by far, my biggest takeaway was this statement: “human beings want to belong, have 

purpose, and be part of excellence.

My dinner with Horst (he’s on the far left)

If you’re a leader in your organization, here are some thoughts on how to leverage each of these components to improve employee retention and satisfaction.

People want to belong to something. As a leader in your business, you have the chance to provide this sense of belonging to your team. Cast vision for your people. Show them they aren’t just an individual working a role, nor a cog in a wheel, but rather a vital part of something bigger than themselves.  Challenge yourself to inspire your team just as much, if not even more, than you push your team to grow. On a practical level, think about your onboarding process. Are you making the process something special? Onboarding is an opportunity to convert new hires into loyal fans.

Hospitality is more than just taking great care of customers. It’s how the team ought to relate to one other as well. Start with internal hospitality. Welcome the team into your organization, treat people with dignity and respect, and they will inevitably begin to extend the same powerful hospitality towards your customers.

People want purpose. No matter if it’s the dishwasher in the hotel kitchen or the marketing manager, make sure every single person knows the “Why” behind your organization. What is your overall mission? What is their specific mission? How is their unique role vital to the entire business? From the moment you onboard someone, be sure to bring them into this conversation and continually remind them of their purpose. Not only will they perform better, they’ll also stick around longer. This is the secret sauce behind the Ritz-Carlton’s extremely low turnover rate, around 20% as of 2014.

Finally, people want to be part of excellence. Hold the team to a high standard, and then celebrate the excellence. Remind your people what great work they’re doing, share your company values with them, and market your brand’s excellence to your people just as much as you would to a potential customer.

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