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Cascade aims to lift morale

Shannon Armstrong

VAIL – Vail Cascade Resort and Spa is aiming to answer that age-old question that business people often ask themselves: “How do we improve employee morale and increase employee retention?” According to Lorinda Arpin, executive assistant to the Cascade Resort and Spa General Manager Jay Rocha, Rocha is working to empower employees and keep them happy. Rocha believes in “hiring for attitude,” says Arpin. The challenge then becomes maintaining that attitude. The way to do this is by giving employees a lot of autonomy and lots of perks, she says.One of the favorite Cascade employee perks is “Bring Our Kids to Work Day.”Whitney Deason, one of the coordinators for the “Bring Our Kids to Work Day,” says this is one of the more popular activities offered monthly during the summer to employees. “We always have a lot of participation with this perk,” Deason says. “It’s a great way to show employees how much we appreciate them. The working parents love having the opportunity to see their kids throughout the day and the kids get a day full of fun activities.”Last Friday was just such a day at the Cascade Resort and Spa for employees and their offspring. More than 20 children, ranging in age from to 12, participated. Several employees volunteered their time on a day off, providing activities for the kids ranging from hiking and swimming to face painting and crafts. A large tent was set up on the Cascade grounds, where parents joined their kids for lunch, something that doesn’t happen often for little ones who spend many of their summer days in a day-care setting.”This gives kids the opportunity to see where Mom or Dad works, they have fun with other kids, and it saves Mom or Dad paying for a day of day care,” says Arpin. “Everybody’s happy.”According to Arpin, Rocha thinks there are many ways to say thanks to employees and believes in providing lots of morale-building activities. In addition to the traditional end-of-season parties Cascade throws for employees, Rocha periodically has wine-and-cheese parties for everyone, and he supports and helps organize employee bike rides, group hikes and inspirational speakers. Not long ago he funded a women’s self defense class and even brought in a chocolate sommelier as a dessert treat for the employees.”This really is the best place in the valley to work” says Arpin. “Rocha gives us so much autonomy and free rein – it’s really quite amazing. He basically says, ‘Let’s give anything, within reason, a try and see how it works for the guests and the employees.’ Next year, if we can figure out all the details, we’re thinking of offering an employee car wash, just because this would be something employees would appreciate in the winter.” Rocha, who was a high level manager with Disney Paris before coming to Vail, has implemented many hospitality programs throughout the Cascade Resort and Spa in guest-employee relations, including Camp Cascade for guests, providing lots of activities for visitors; employee professional development to encourage promotion from within the company; and employee mentoring groups. Arpin says Rocha patterns many of the Cascade’s programs off the Jet Blue philosophy, in which they believe the best way to grow a business is by meeting the customer’s needs at every level. “Jay has spent a lot of time developing a positive culture here at the Cascade Resort and Spa,” says Arpin. “We really don’t have any morale issues here.” She says Rocha manages with what’s called TRM – Total Responsibility Management – which encourages respect for others, maintaining balance in one’s life, and taking responsibility for one’s own actions and outcomes.If the numbers are an indication, this is all working. According to Teresa Friel, director of human resources at the Cascade Resort and Spa, employee turnover is down 27 percent from a year ago, and over the past five years retention has improved by nearly 50 percent.


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