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Resort works hard to keep employees happy, hard-working

SHARE Resort works hard to keep employees happy, hard-working

It can be difficult for resorts and other seasonal operations to find and keep good employees.

Britt R. Mathwich, general manager of The Homestead Resort in Midway, has experienced the problems firsthand.

But he said The Homestead has worked hard to develop creative ways to cut down on turnover and make its employees happy, and those efforts paid off with a 1998 Utah Best Practices Award in the category of "motivating and retaining employees."

The award program, developed by financial, audit and advisory services firm Arthur Andersen, recognizes companies that excel in different business areas. The 1998 winners shared some of their secrets during a Sept. 11 symposium with about 200 area business owners and managers.

Mathwich said employee pride is one of the keys to The Homestead's "success equation." But maintaining that pride is made more difficult by the diversity of the year-round, full-service resort's employees - from stable assistants and cooks to accountants and golf course managers.

To identify specific needs of its workers, The Homestead created an Employee Committee. The committee, which has no management members, is made up of 12 staff members whose mission is "to exceed guest and employee expectations through communication, internal customer service and community projects."

Mathwich said the group has been successful in team-building and problem-solving. For example, he said, it runs "The Homestead's Helping Hands."

Under the program, employees volunteer to have money deducted from their paychecks. The money goes into a fund that can be used to help other employees who find themselves in emergency situations.

Mathwich said the fund is completely controlled by the Employee Committee, and he does not even know which workers receive help from it.

Another challenge at The Homestead arises because about 50 of its 285 employees speak little or no English, Mathwich said. To help those workers, the resort offers a six-week English class in conjunction with a local community college, and The Homestead pays for tuition.

He said the resort also has an annual employee meeting and a formal training program to help motivate and retain its workers.

"All of this looks good on paper, . . . but it doesn't do any good if the owners don't believe in what they're doing," Mathwich said.

He said business owners need to create an atmosphere of sincerity and respect for individuals. And they should never give up on plans to improve the work environment.

"We've been doing this for 12 years, and we still have a long way to go," Mathwich said.