Meyer Jabara Hotels is reporting a 24.20% turnover rate through the first half of 2023. With the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics citing 70% to 80% turnover annually as the industry norm, this 46-year-old hotel ownership and management group is obviously doing something right. With hotel operators still feeling the sting of the “Great Resignation,” MJH is revealing its secret to employee retention success.
“Our biggest competitive advantage is what we call The Journey,” said Justin Jabara, president of Meyer Jabara Hotels. “It’s our culture and it was dreamed up with Bill Meyer, Richard Jabara and former author, consultant and speaker, Dr. James Belasco. The cornerstone of The Journey states that ‘all of us collectively are better than just one of us. We don’t just talk about it; we live It at all levels of the organization.’”
In his book “Flight of the Buffalo,” Dr. Belasco writes: “What leaders really want in the organization is a group of responsible, interdependent workers, similar to a flock of geese. I could see the geese flying in their 'V' formation, the leadership changing frequently, with different geese taking the lead. I saw every goose being responsible for getting itself to wherever the gaggle was going, changing roles whenever necessary, alternating as a leader, a follower, or a scout. And when the task changed, the geese would be responsible for changing the structure of the group to accommodate, similar to the geese that fly in a 'V' but land in waves. I could see each goose being a leader.”
It is this paradigm on which MJH has built its Journey leadership principles:
- Leaders transfer ownership for work to those who execute the work.
- Leaders create an environment for ownership where each person wants to be responsible.
- Leaders coach the development of personal capabilities.
- Leaders learn fast themselves and encourage others also to learn quickly.
Empowerment is a key theme of The Journey at Meyer Jabara Hotels. Employees are given the Power to make skilled decisions once trained, the Permission to act in the moment for the good of the guest, and the Protection that their decisions will not be chastised, knowing that further instruction may be required if questionable actions were taken.
“We don’t just say, ‘you’re empowered,’ and that’s that,” Jabara said. “Rather, we give our associates the ‘3 Ps’ to help them make decisions and act appropriately and professionally. We also spend a lot of time training on this to ensure that we never put our people in a position where they don’t have the skill or training to be successful.”
A case in point: If a guest comes to the front desk and is upset, the front-desk associates are empowered to resolve matter and do what it takes to make it right – without calling a manager. Provided the agent makes decisions (based off their training) they are not penalized if a decision backfires.
Employee engagement is also encouraged and appreciated. For instance, rather than having Corporate Director of F&B Guy Reinbold dictate all menu items at each Meyer Jabara hotel, he sits with F&B teams and asks them about local favorites, family recipes, and what has worked previously. This approach of engaging the whole F&B team is cultivating an environment that is increasing F&B Sales year over year.”
Reflecting Great Service, ‘No Stuffy Left Behind’
MJH is serious about recognizing and rewarding exemplary performers. The company’s annual executive retreat features a formal dinner honoring the Mirrors of MJ who best represent the company’s culture.
“Last year the Courtyard by Marriott North Canton’s head of housekeeping won a Mirror award after noticing that many children accidentally leave their favorite stuffed animals behind,” Jabara said. “Each time a forgotten stuffy was found, the housekeeper wrote a coloring book featuring that specific stuffed animal’s adventures at the hotel – riding down the laundry chute, eating at the breakfast bar, etc. – with illustrations drawn by a friend. Then, the housekeeper would mail the stuffed animal, book, and crayons to the child all at her own expense.
“The selfless actions taken by this valued employee is a true embodiment of our Journey culture,” Jabara said. “This is a guest service that goes above and beyond what is required of our associates, and it exemplifies the benefits of empowering our people to act for the good of our guests. We commend her for her creativity and dedication to service and are extremely proud of this initiative.”
Numbers Don’t Lie
The latest Unifocus report shows that Meyer Jabara Hotels’ employees are the happiest they’ve ever been, with scores from its recent Associate Opinion Survey the highest on record. Jabara said he attributes this achievement to the fact that 90% of associates are trained and certified on living – or leading – The Journey.
Spearheading The Journey culture at MJH are Gail Clarke, senior vice president of human resources – a position she has held for the last 37 years – and Terri Tucker, a consultant and thought leader facilitating Dr. Belasco’s Journey Management System.
“The Journey culture creates differentiated and repeatable experiences for guests – if a service touch succeeds at one property, it likely will work at others,” Clarke said. “I have seen housekeepers put Christmas trees in guests’ rooms during the holidays and heard about GMs placing sports team hats on beds of guests who come into town to attend ballgames. Those small gestures make a BIG impact, resulting in both staff and guest loyalty.”
Tucker said she heard a newly onboarded employee describe Meyer Jabara Hotels as “the most bizarre company he ever worked for.” Inquiring why, the new hire said: “I went to my first staff meeting this week and everybody was high-fiving and hugging each other. Where I worked before, everybody was out to get each other. I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s amazing!”
“It’s these heart connections that are binding people to management and each other, and it’s why they choose to stay with Meyer Jabara Hotels,” Tucker said.