Pictured, from left to right, Pam Cordell, Andre Elkins, and Dave Smith.
In these uncertain times, HOAs must not only ensure the health and safety of their staff, but also address their staff’s personal challenges. During the December 10th Timeshare Board Members Association (TBMA) Resort Managers Roundtable webinar Dealing with staff related issues, panelists discussed their approaches to staff concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The TBMA panel included: Andre Elkins, General Manager, The Village of Loon Mountain; Pam Cordell, Multi-Site General Manager, Maritime Beach Club, Windy Shores II, and Ocean Towers; and Dave Smith, Managing Director, MarBrisa Carlsbad Resort.
While resorts are operating during the pandemic, job security is the primary concern, according to Cordell.
Elkins agreed that Cordell had hit the nail on the head. “Are we going to stay open? Are we going into lockdown again?” he said, expressing employees’ concerns. In addition to having a job to go to, other worries include safety concerns—the level of exposure to each other, to the guests, and with the owners. “Tenure and safety are the paramount issues due to the pandemic,” he added.
A safe environment is important for employees. Smith said, “If employees become ill, they don’t have to be at work. All those things we do—social distancing, facial coverings at all times, inside and out, and temperature checks,” are essential for keeping staff safe.
As a leader, Smith believes in checking in on employees to make sure they are 100 percent happy in their working environment. “Find a way to assist them with a personal problem,” he said. “You may have somebody going through personal issues. Be enthusiastic. Never lose faith. As a resort leader, let them know, ‘We will get through this together.’ But don’t always wear those rose-colored glasses. If you are not going to be able to have hours for your employees, don’t hide that fact.”
Elkins agrees on being honest. “We’re not necessarily here to sugar-coat the situation,” he said. He also feels that managing from the field presents an opportunity to meet one-on-one with team members to listen to their concerns regarding the pandemic.
“When team members feel you are part of their team, it goes a long way,” Cordell agreed. “This pandemic situation has given us an opportunity to refine our leadership skills. Just being able to manage the various personalities really goes a long way,” she said. “It’s just keeping those communication lines open and being available.”
Elkins added, “Communication is best facilitated out in the field. All the team members have my cell phone number. They can call me 24/7. Making yourself available and trying to demonstrate calmness through this process is important. There are rational fears out there right now. Cut through the fog and disinformation that’s out there.”
Having weekly one-on-one meetings and twice weekly ZOOM meetings makes for a stellar communicative process according to Smith.
Keeping up employees’ morale
During the pandemic, HOAs must do their best to keep up their employees’ level of morale—which Smith feels has been both up and down. “It was low,” he said. “Then when we reopened, it was high. Now we’re in another phase. Employees are worried about the uncertain future ahead of us.”
Elkins agreed about the ups and downs—and peaks and valleys. “There’s this tragic pandemic going on,” he said. “I think it’s natural. It’s challenging and it’s understandable.”
Cordell feels the same. “We had the exact same rollercoaster here. Right now, things are good. Maybe the holidays are helping with that a little bit. There is concern and worry. Are we going to hit rock bottom again? But overall, the employees feel pretty good.”
Supporting staff with initiatives, policy, and compensation changes
A “spread the wealth” approach is what Smith feels is working. “Divvy up as much hours as possible,” he said. “Everybody gets a certain amount of sick pay. Every employee got fourteen days additional sick pay so nobody needed to worry about income should they test positive. We provide weekend lunches, Thanksgiving turkeys, and gift cards.”
Cordell agreed that providing 14 days of pay alleviates some concern. “They don’t worry they’re losing all their vacation time or PTO time,” she said. “We’ve been able to provide having a job to come back to. When we re-opened, we hit a hundred percent occupancy.” Continuing to do fun things at the resort also encourages team members to come to work during these hard times. “By celebrating birthdays and holidays, it helps employees stay upbeat,” she said.
Elkins felt it was a challenge bringing people back after being shut down for three months, realizing quite a few employees were going to stay out on unemployment. However, increasing compensation to a more competitive level certainly helped. “Without a team, you don’t have a resort,” he said. “The cost of replacing team members is extremely high when you’re looking to recruit.” In order to manage the needs of the team, he allows staff to complete some tasks at home and makes accommodations for someone who may need to stay home and care for children.
Complying with mandates
Reaching out to owners and guests well in advance is what Elkins recommends in order to let them know what is being done to ensure their safety. “We ramped up the level of communication,” he said. “Interaction between the resort owners and guests helps build a solid relationship. That sense of community, that sense of family. It surprised me how well our owners and guests have tolerated the change of protocol. For the most part, everybody is grateful we’re open.”
Smith said in agreement, “I have been amazed by how wonderfully everybody has gotten along and complied. They’re going to have a great vacation, but there’s some requirements here that you’re expected to follow.”
Cordell pointed out that some guests are just rebellious and don’t want to comply. “Because it’s their personal right to do so,” she said. Otherwise, she agreed that people are very cooperative. “The feedback has been positive,” she said.
This article is a summary of the TBMA Conversations Series Webinar–Dealing with Staff Related Issues on 12/10/2020. You can request a recorded video of this webinar by sending an email to email@example.com.