The Expert: Staffing a Remote, Seasonal Resort

Following its acquisition by Behringer Harvard, Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys has completed a $40 million renovation. The 177-room luxury resort’s management team is headed by Northview Hotel Group L.L.C.’s David Zeuske, who in February 2007 began work to make the resort the employer of choice in the Florida Keys. His strategy includes:• a strong leadership culture,• getting the right people in the right place at the right time and• matching the needs of associates with the needs of the organizationVariable, Seasonal DemandDemand at Hawks Cay is highly seasonal, and it peaks in the spring and summer. Staffing requirements can fluctuate more than 50 percent, from 300 associates during the peak season to fewer than 100 in September. This makes planning for staffing levels critical to the resort’s success.Hourly staff fall into 10 job titles, and working in multiple departments is a basic expectation. Leaders meet weekly to evaluate anticipated business levels, review schedules, develop strategies to share staff and build contingency plans. This ensures that the right employees are always in the right place at the right time.Needs of Associates and the OrganizationThe resort is more prosperous when guest-service quality is reliable and consistent. And guests benefit from seeing familiar faces in different locations. For example, the dinner server from Tom’s Harbor House may serve the next morning at the Terrace restaurant’s breakfast buffet.The associates enjoy pay scales that are in the top 15 percent of the market, incentives that match their needs to business requirements and a variable-pay program providing the opportunity to earn more when business volume increases.In these ways, the employer-of-choice strategy can successfully satisfy all stakeholders at the resort. Satisfied associates can lead to increased guest satisfaction and loyalty, which can lead to those guests spending more. Loyal guests also spread the word about the resort, which can promote increased profitability.