Column: 4 ways Vail’s hospitality industry can reduce high employee turnover |

Column: 4 ways Vail’s hospitality industry can reduce high employee turnover

Ross Iverson
Vail Centre
Ross Iverson
Special to the Daily |

Many people working in the hospitality industry already know this: Employee turnover is a huge headache. It’s no secret that hospitality jobs see high rates of turnover. In 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that turnover in the hospitality industry topped 70 percent, while the average turnover rate for all private-sector jobs was 46 percent.

The reasons why restaurants, hotels and other tourism-focused businesses see such high turnover rates are fairly obvious. Many of these positions are seasonal or only part-time. Entry-level hospitality jobs, such as waitressing and housecleaning, may not offer workers a chance to move up the ranks to a management position, or these types of hospitality workers might lack the skills and education to advance to the next level in the industry.

Sarah Salomon, director of human resources at the Sonnenalp Hotel in Vail, said the local hospitality industry faces multiple concerns in dealing with employee turnover and improving retention rates. Like many other resort towns, the Vail Valley is in the midst of a housing shortage for both local and seasonal workers.

“The cost of living (in the Vail Valley) is a huge challenge,” Salomon said. “We have an HR employee whose sole role is to manage employee housing.”

With employee turnover in the hospitality industry being so high, is there anything businesses and hiring managers can do to mitigate this problem?

• Creating career pathways for team members — Despite the hurdle of employee housing, which the local hospitality industry only has so much control over, there are a lot of other ways businesses can improve retention rates. Salomon said hospitality workers place a high value on maintaining a work-life balance. People who choose to work in a resort town want to take advantage of the beauty of their surroundings and participate in all of the activities it offers, just like the tourists themselves.

Another important aspect of solving hospitality’s high turnover problem is creating career pathways for employees and placing more of an emphasis on their growth and development, Salomon said. Not only do employees need to feel valued in their current role, but they also need to be encouraged to improve upon their abilities and learn new workplace skills.

• The importance of cross-training and education — At the Sonnenalp, Salomon said the employee retention goal for full-time, year-round staff members is 70 percent. One strategy that can be effective in reducing turnover rates is cross-training, where current employees are asked to take on new duties and responsibilities as a way to push them forward.

Another new strategy that many hospitality businesses are implementing to increase retention is having employees enroll in continuing-education courses or certificate programs. Salomon said one of the unexpected benefits is the chance to learn from — and network with — other professionals working in the local hospitality industry. Most of all, it takes strong leaders with enough vision to allocate the resources to make this investment in new hires.

Ross Iverson is the CEO of the Vail Centre and can be reached at The Vail Centre’s mission is to elevate careers, organizations and communities through education. Learn more at

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