waterThe job-for-life is dead! As our own Kazim Ladimeji has pointed out many times, job hopping is the new normal, and the average worker only spends about 4.4 years at a given job.

In short: Nobody stays at the same company for their entire career anymore. Thanks to the rise of telecommuting, the way the Great Recession radically reshaped the economic landscape, and the shifting desires of employees — especially millennials — today’s worker is restless and today’s employer is quick to fire, outsource, or otherwise make things a little more tenuous for their employees.

Well, not every employer. Windsor Court, an independent hotel in New Orleans, is still very invested in the job-for-life model. In fact, five of the hotel’s employees have been there since the place opened – in 1984. That’s 31 years at the same job, which is practically unheard of in today’s world.

Moreover, Tara Minamoto, the customer experience manager at Windsor Court, says that it’s not uncommon for staff members to log more than two decades at the hotel.

So, what’s the secret to building the kind of company culture where people actually love and care about their jobs enough to stick around for the long haul? I spoke to Minamoto via email to find out why employee happiness is so important to Windsor Court and what the hotel does to make sure its employees are satisfied. What follows is a transcript of our email Q&A, minimally edited for style and clarity.

Recruiter.com: What does the relationship between happy employees and happy customers mean for Windsor Court?

Tara Minamoto: It means a lot. We have a lot of tenured employees at the hotel — 5 original employees from when the hotel opened in 1984 and many others who have been with the hotel more than 20 years. We also have many more guests that have been loyal to the hotel for that many years, and a large part of that is because of the same faces they see year after year. Happy employees means the associates can deliver genuine hospitality to our guests, and the more we know our guests, the more it truly is genuine. Our guests become our family and vice versa, so providing them with excellent service means it is no longer a job — it truly is a pleasure.

RC: Have you been able to quantify the impact of happy employees on customer service in any way? If so, would you be willing to share some of that data? 

buildingsTM: This is a rough estimate, but 35-40 percent of our guests are repeat clientele.  Gauging repeat business is the best barometer for knowing that we’re doing the right things.

RC: What are some of the most unique initiatives your company has used to engage employees and boost their happiness? Can you tell us a little about how the initiative came about and the results you’ve seen? 

TM: Windsor Court invests a lot in its employees, as we see them as our most valuable asset. We do everything from holding fun activities on a regular basis strictly intended to appreciate and thank our employees to conducting formal sessions with General Manager David Teich which allow the associates a standing opportunity to contribute their ideas and feedback.

However, the initiative that offers both a bit of fun and the added bonus of making a positive service impact is our “Guest for a Night” program. Associates are able to spend a night in the hotel and experience it from the guest’s perspective. They are invited to valet their car, enjoy dinner in our fine-dining restaurant The Grill Room, and have breakfast in the morning. With this, the employee not only gets a fun treat for themselves, but they can see how other departments are servicing our guests and see how their individual efforts effect the guests as well.

RC: What are some challenges that Windsor Court has come across while trying to create a happier, healthier work environment? How did you overcome these challenges? 

TM: As an independent hotel, we have the good fortune to be able to take some individual liberties in order to make the associates and the guests happy. Because of this, to my knowledge, we have not come across any challenges in creating new initiatives.

RC: What role, if any, does employee happiness play in your recruiting/hiring efforts?

TM: Hiring and retaining the best is, of course, every employer’s goal, and one of the greatest ways to do this is through our employee referral program. Our best candidates often come from employee referrals.

RC: If you had to give one piece of advice on employee happiness to an entrepreneur who is just starting their first company, what would that advice be? 

roomTM: Empower every individual to make their own decisions so that they treat the business as if it were their own — from the person that the client never sees, to the manager on duty. Truly empower individuals without fear of making the wrong decision. If one can effectively do this, one can create more actively engaged associates and create an environment that breeds creativity, innovation, and pride from everyone involved.

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