How four companies thrive by keeping their employees happy

April 1, 2013
Meetings & Conventions

By Sarah J.F. Braley and Michael C. Lowe

An excerpt from the article

How is your relationship with your workplace? Are you still in love? Or has the luster faded? In preparing our second annual feature on the best places to work in the meetings industry, M&C asked planners and suppliers for their input through the MIForum, Twitter and Facebook. We also considered Fortune’s annual ranking of best places to work and Glassdoor.com’s Employees’ Choice Awards. Our selection criteria included factors such as a clear corporate mission, great benefits, a flexible work environment, accessible management, a strong sense of corporate social responsibility and more.

Our four choices for 2013 share some common threads: A strong personality at the top sets a tone for the corporate culture and demonstrates a commitment that employees will want to carry through. Far from ordinary office environments, these companies create a community so special that no one wants to leave.

HYATT

If you stay at a Hyatt hotel, there’s a good chance a Hyatt employee is staying there too: Full-time associates receive 12 complimentary Hyatt hotel room nights per year and a 50 percent discount on food and drink.

One of the many benefits of being a global hospitality brand is the ability to leverage unique resources — such as hotel rooms — and share them with employees. “This is by far the number-one perk that our associates talk about,” says Doug Patrick, senior vice president of human resources, the Americas. “Staying at a hotel for a week’s time can cost thousands of dollars, so allowing staff to visit one of our properties at no cost is a huge benefit and a nice recognition for their service. They receive a nice amenity when they check in and get treated like royalty.”

Other Hyatt perks similarly stem from using the 56-year-old chain’s worldwide inventory of properties. Employee of the year and manager of the year recipients receive a complimentary six-night stay at any Hyatt in the United States, Canada or the Caribbean; a $350 food credit; a $500 spending allowance; roundtrip airfare for two, and one week extra vacation time.

But it’s not just free hotel stays that provide added value for employees, a cohort of 90,000 strong. “Thanks to our diverse and talented staff, we can give our associates around the world experiences that can enrich their lives both inside and outside the workplace,” says Patrick. During “Celebrating Our People Week,” for example, individual Hyatt properties pair up with another of the company’s hotels somewhere in the world and share traditions, recipes and cultural activities. “Not only does this build a more well-rounded personal understanding of world cultures, but it also helps our associates better empathize with guests coming from all corners of the globe,” Patrick notes.

Some programs are built around employees who can share a certain skill or expertise. For staff interested in learning about nutrition, for example, property managers might ask their executive chefs to give healthful food demonstrations in the hotel’s kitchen. Other offerings, like on-site yoga instructors, Zumba classes or health fairs, can vary from hotel to hotel depending on employee interest. All of this is done to create a company environment where employees feel “recognized, valued and part of the decision making,” says Patrick.

The effort has paid off in terms of retention. Nearly 14,000 associates have been with Hyatt for at least 10 years, with more than 6,000 holding a position with the chain for 20 years or more.

During their long careers with the company, many employees take advantage of professional development to climb the corporate ladder. More than 95 percent of general managers have been promoted from within Hyatt. In addition to internal mentorship programs and career-related resources, Hyatt provides a tuition reimbursement program and has partnered with Harvard Business School Publishing and eCornell, a subsidiary of Cornell University, to offer leadership training programs.

“It’s important to keep our associates with us, because guests appreciate employees who know the property and understand the industry,” says Patrick. “When our associates are so engaged, it’s really noticeable in the guest experience.”

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