What Destination Leaders Can Do to Engage Their Workforce

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<span>What Destination Leaders Can Do to Engage Their Workforce</span>
Bottom Line:

Workforce development is an issue facing just about every destination executive. Attracting, developing, retaining, and engaging a team is an incredibly fluid and complex puzzle destination executives are forced to solve every single day. 

What does an engaged workforce feel like? It feels like a team of people ready to rally around a shared mission they are deeply inspired by. Engaged workforces are willing to go above and beyond. They lean in, proactively looking for ways to contribute meaningfully. Engaged workforces show up to work every day, ready to bring their best to take care of the communities around them.

What destination leader doesn’t want that?

Unfortunately, fully engaged workforces are not as common in the destination industry as we’d like them to be. Destination executives are often left scratching their heads at how to get their team to buy in.  

Ready to engage your workforce? Start here:

Harness the Power of Your Destination’s Purpose

The purpose of a destination organization provides leadership with an inspiring mission to rally their team around.

Destination organizations are powerful economic drivers. They have the power to bring positive change to the communities, cities, and regions they represent, and your workforce is likely to consist of team members with close, personal connections to the destination they represent. Destinations are naturally positioned to cultivate an inspiring organizational purpose, creating meaningful work for each and every one of their team members.

“During the interview process, many candidates share that finding meaningful work is just as important as their compensation package,” shares Brook Kaufman, President & CEO of Visit Rapid City. “While there are times we can’t be competitive with the private sector on wages, the fact that our work does make a difference in our community is often the tipping point for someone accepting a position with us.” 

Harnessing the power of your destination’s purpose can be an incredible motivator to engage your workforce. Unfortunately, many destination leaders struggle to capture the power of their organization’s purpose. Leaders who clearly define their organization’s purpose, connect that purpose to the day-to-day work, and consistently communicate progress made can capture the full power of this engagement opportunity. “Employees want to know how their daily tasks help reach departmental and organizational goals. We can’t get from A to B without communicating where we’re headed and where each team member fits into the overall equation.”

Key Recommendation for Leaders: Work to define your destination’s purpose. Then, connect the dots with organizational objectives, goals, and outcomes so that every team member understands how their contribution directly impacts the destination’s purpose.  

As leaders define an inspiring purpose and connect the day-to-day work to that purpose, workforce engagement grows. 

Compensate Fairly

Let’s face it: compensation in the destination industry is an uphill battle for many executive leaders.

It’s tough to compete with for-profit organizations when it comes to compensation, but destination leaders have to try to compete in this arena.

Compensation is not just about salary and cash. Yes, salary and cash tend to make up an important part of what a destination can offer a member of its team, but total compensation can go far beyond that.  

Key Recommendation for Leaders: Execute regular compensation studies to get up-to-date compensation data for every role in your organization. Then, consider how to build a holistic compensation package, which enables leaders to assemble a competitive offering to attract and retain talent. Medical benefits, vacation time, flex time, remote work opportunities, wellness stipends, and professional development stipends are examples of how destinations are blending salaries and benefits to build competitive compensation packages.

As leaders obtain accurate market data, advocate on behalf of their team to their board of directors, and build competitive compensation packages, workforce engagement grows. 

Establish Career Development Opportunities

For many in the workforce, career development and opportunities for advancement are major motivators, driving engagement. Leaders can take advantage here on multiple fronts: first by developing their team members to fit the specific skill set their destination needs, and secondly, by engaging their team members to buy in as a byproduct of their career development and advancement. 

Key Recommendation for Leaders: Build your workforce by providing both internal support and external resources to foster cohesive career development. Internal support structures include mentorship programs, job shadowing, and clear career tracks. External support structures can look like stipends for class and conference attendance.

As leaders are able to provide opportunities for their team members to develop and grow their careers, workforce engagement grows. 

Provide Clarity, Then Flexibility

Work-life balance means a hundred different things to a hundred different people but here’s what most of your team really wants: autonomy to manage their work and their personal priorities. “Some employees value flexibility. Others value PTO or an organization that invests in their professional development. Delivering on what’s important to individual team members is a very effective way to keep people with you for the long term,” added Kaufman.

Your workforce has priorities and goals outside of the professional work they do. That’s a good thing! And for leaders who can build destination organizations where team members can achieve both their professional and personal goals at the same time, your workforce will be more likely to engage and stick around for the long haul. 

Key Recommendation for Leaders: Provide clarity to each and every one of your team members about WHAT needs to get done, then give them the opportunity and autonomy to get it done HOW they need to. Define the key outcomes that must be driven for each role in your organization, work to build clarity around WHAT must happen. Then, worry less about HOW the outcome is reached. 

As leaders provide clarity and flexibility so team members can achieve their personal goals without sacrificing the productivity of the destination, workforce engagement grows.

Show your Care

Empathetic leaders build more engaged workforces.

Leading with empathy should not prevent leaders from making difficult decisions, being steadfast in their beliefs, and driving the organization's needs forward. Leading with empathy connects leaders to their workforces, showing their care for the people around them and the impact that their decisions have on them.

Unfortunately, it’s more likely than not that you have worked for a leader who you felt did not care about you. It’s demotivating, it causes team members to lean out, and it results in folks looking to depart your destination. 

Key Recommendation for Leaders: Find how you show your care for your team. It could be through consistent and meaningful 1:1 time. It could also look like taking the time to eat lunch with team members at all levels of the destination. Maybe displaying your care comes in your communication around difficult topics and decisions. Discover what works best for you, but be sure to find a way to make it known that your team members matter to you.

As leaders are able to show their care, workforce engagement grows. 

Ask for Feedback Regularly

Engaged team members feel like their voice matters and their thoughts, ideas, and concerns impact the trajectory of the destination they work for.

Leaders should regularly request feedback from all levels and departments in their destination organization. When feedback is requested, it’s vital that leaders acknowledge it, share what was learned, and ultimately drive change from it. 

Key Recommendation for Leaders: Identify a variety of mediums and a variety of subject areas to request feedback on throughout the course of a year. Focus groups, surveys, and 1:1 meetings offer mediums to ask for feedback. Business operations, organizational culture, and personnel performance offer subject areas to get feedback on.

Identifying opportunities to build feedback from your workforce into recurring organizational operations will not only provide leaders with an important data point to direct the path forward for the destination, but it will also build engagement throughout your workforce.  

Get Intentional to Drive Workforce Engagement

Chalking up a lack of workforce engagement to generational differences is lazy.

Doing so also removes leadership’s responsibility to make an active difference in how their team decides to lean in and engage or lean out and disengage.

Frankly, your workforce's engagement reflects your organization’s health and development. Simply put, team members will choose to engage if they think it’s worth it.

“Is driving engagement within your team hard work? Absolutely,” shared Kaufman. “But your organization will never reach its full potential without putting energy and resources into keeping employees satisfied.” 

Leaders have the opportunity to actively drive initiatives forward to engage their workforces. Those who do so intentionally and effectively have the opportunity to lead impactful teams that drive their organizations and the destinations they lead forward in incredibly meaningful ways. 

About the Author

Chad Kearns

Vice President & Lead Practitioner
Fired Up! Culture

Chad Kearns is a Vice President & Lead Practitioner at Fired Up! Culture. Chad partners with destination executives across North America to successfully work through powerful change management processes to create healthy, high-performance organizations. Areas of expertise include culture change, organizational values development, performance management philosophy and practice, operational efficiencies and enhancement programs, executive coaching, leadership development and succession planning. 

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