Vacation Rental Management: Hiring, Firing, and Safety with Sue Jones of HR4VR

Aug 08 2022
Vacation rental expert insight

Get tips on how to use Hostfully to optimize your vacation rental business and make more profit.


What’s in this article?

This is an Expert Insight interview with Hostfully CEO Margot Schmorak and HR4VR Owner Sue Jones.

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Sue Jones about how vacation rental companies are leading the way in workforce management and development.

Her insights were so keen that we wanted to get them out to property managers right away, so that managers can make their workplaces safer, and also more fun.

Sue is Owner of HR4VR, an HR Consulting firm focused on helping vacation rental companies with human resources needs and has worked with a number of companies on HR compliance, management coaching, and recruitment. Let’s get started!

HR and staffing for vacation rental owners

Margot: Nearly every property manager struggles with staff turnover. What should companies do to improve employee retention and remove friction in their business?

Sue: I’m glad you asked this question. One of the most common requests for help that I hear is for better recruiting strategies. But I think this is the wrong approach, because it is looking at the problem from the outside in.

Instead, vacation rental companies need to focus on workforce development and growing their talent internally. This includes how they manage employees, how they’re creating a safe and trusted environment for them to work in, and how they communicate the value of their employees contributions through their compensation, benefits and performance management. Companies also need to think about their employees career growth and how they can help employees build the skills the company needs today and in the future. A win-win for everyone.

Employee safety for vacation rental businesses

Margot: At the VRMA Spring Forum, one thing you said on a panel really stood out to me – that if vacation rental companies aren’t doing all they can to make the physical work environment safe, then they are missing out on easy ways to keep their best employees.

Sue: Yes, one area where I’ve seen companies become more successful with little effort is around workplace safety policies. Companies need to consider how they’re creating a safe environment for their employees at all times — especially for women and other disadvantaged groups.

One example of this is that vacation rental management companies are often in small offices, where the last person to leave is the one to turn out the lights and lock the door. And frequently, your reservations agents — many whom are women — are the ones who need to do this.

Companies need to consider how they can make their work environments safer. Maybe it’s limiting the hours employees spend in the office? Or ensuring that exits and entrances are well-lit and easy to operate? Maybe it’s publishing more information about building security to employees. Or even installing security cameras and alarm systems.

Another consideration is to review / update and implement workplace policies and guidelines that have a positive influence on the physical safety of your employees. Policies around workplace bullying, harassment, rumors, and gossip are a great place to start. These policies need to provide assurance to employees that you are going to make it safe for people to get their job done.

Being thoughtful about how safety programs are implemented and communicated to employees is really important and can have a big impact on retention and satisfaction. Because vacation rental management is in various sites, and often remote, companies need to consider employee safety in a variety of situations.

What happens when a staff member needs to meet a new owner at a prospective property? Do you send them alone? Maybe your policy should require two people at the initial meeting to provide a greater sense of safety.

Sending employees to homes when guests are present

How about when a maintenance tech needs to visit a property while guests are staying there? What if it is a Bachelorette Party and the Maintenance Tech is embarrassed by the unwanted attention. In addition to getting permission from the guest, it may be best to consider sending two employees to ensure a safe and comfortable environment for everyone.

What about when your front desk, guest services, and owner services teams have to “dodge” an overly “friendly”, vendor, guest, or homeowner in the office, or at industry events? This is where having a policy about harassment along with reporting procedures is critical.

How to become a better vacation rental boss

Margot: A 2017 Gallup poll of 1 million U.S. workers concluded that the No. 1 reason people quit their jobs is a bad boss. A whopping 75% of workers who quit did so because of their bosses and not the position itself. Do you believe this is true in vacation rental companies? What protips can you share to help people become better managers?

Sue: First, start implementing “Stay Interviews”. Typically employers wait until someone is leaving and then they conduct an exit interview. Don’t wait to learn what isn’t working when the employee is leaving. You won’t learn much. A stay interview takes a proactive approach. Stay interviews unveil why the employee is staying, what they love about their job and what can be done to encourage them to stick around.

Second, train managers on EQ and how to improve their emotional intelligence. As businesses embrace technology, 42% of workplace tasks will rely on some form of AI or automation by 2022. This leaves managing employee relations as a key business need. Employers who hire workers with a high EQ and demonstrated soft skills will have a competitive advantage in their marketplace.

Vacation rental HRThird, develop the talent you can’t find. People analytics tell us that the cost of developing, retraining or reskilling employees is significantly lower than the cost of firing and hiring. For example, based on research I have completed it can cost VR Managers up to $38k to replace an employee who has been with them for 2 years. If this individual’s skill sets are no longer needed in the business, wouldn’t it be more strategic, cost effective, valuable to invest in your employees education to learn a new skill? You retain their industry knowledge, loyalty and engagement and increase their motivation by providing opportunities to develop their skill sets.

Thank you to Sue Jones of HR4VR

Margot: Thank you so much for sharing your perspective on how vacation rental companies should manage their people and teams. I’m excited to share this with our broader community.

Sue: Thank you! I’m glad to share these tips. I love how vacation rental companies are starting to recognize the importance of human resources and innovation talking about what we can do to keep us moving forward during these challenging employment times.