Whitney Peak Hotel Incentivizes Staff With Low-Cost LIFT Cards

RENO, NV—Employee engagement is a top priority for the hospitality industry—whether it’s enlisting associates to participate in charitable initiatives or building a company culture that feels like family—and it matters to the bottom line. Staff who are plugged in and committed to the business can help brands with innovation and increasing productivity, while a strong retention means fewer dollars spent on hiring and training in competitive markets.

A key driver of employee engagement is feeling appreciated, but what is the best way for an employer to go about recognizing employees for a job well done? The Whitney Peak Hotel has introduced LIFT cards as a way to promote a more positive work environment—and it’s working.

The idea grew out of discussions with the management team on how best to incentivize employees. They posed the question: How can we make everyone feel valued? The answer was to simply acknowledge good gestures and teamwork, and the LIFT cards serve as a tangible symbol of that appreciation.

“The whole thing about Whitney Peak is its cool culture and that’s what drew me here. It was also seeing the culture at other properties, not just hotels but other ventures—we have catered lunches, a casual dress code and don’t watch the clock—that’s what brought me here, too,” said Eric Olson, GM at Whitney Peak Hotel. “We like the cards to focus on key priorities within the company. Each card is different and goes in-depth. If we take care of our employees, they’ll take care of the guest. We can’t be everywhere all of the time; you have to invest in employees and make sure they’re the right people. As long as we’re making sure they feel valued and have the right resources, that’s what we believe in.”

Whitney Peak is striving to stay ahead of the curve as the city is exploding in terms of business, and the hiring market is becoming competitive—the employment rate is at 97%, noted Olson. The LIFT cards are another tool to make sure people feel valued and to help motivate staff.

“You feel good going the extra mile, and that people are noticing it,” he said. “Even when people do leave, they often want their jobs back. It’s nice to hear feedback, and to hear that former employees still talk about Whitney Peak’s great culture and the fact that we take care of employees. It brings in the business and it’s a successful model.”

There is little-to-no cost for the hotel’s appreciation-based program. With the creative team on-property, the only cost was printing the cards on paper. They’ve been distributed throughout the property to make them easily accessible to staff at all times.

“Management can give them out hourly and LIFT is intended to mean exactly that. It lifts them up when they’re working hard and navigating the unusual challenges of working at a hotel,” he said.

The response to the LIFT cards has been positive as associates view them with a source of pride. They display the cards on their desks or in other visible parts of the workplace, and it’s continuing to motivate them to do their best, noted Olson.

“A monetary incentive can get very expensive and with the generation now, people want to hear from their peers, and that is just as effective as a monetary gift,” he said. “Working as an independent brand, we like to change things up and throw out new ideas. I’ll ask my peers to come in and hear an idea and we like to stay ahead of the curve. Whether it’s this, or ways to get new business, we often go with an out-of-the-box idea.”

—Corris Little