By Denise Boudreau-Scott

Ah! This. This feeling must be what it’s like for a surgeon to find some awesome, rare anomaly only seen in textbooks. Giddy with excitement. Wanting to call all of her surgeon friends to come over and marvel at it.

At Drive, Chen is our fantastical anomaly. And we want to share our excitement in finding him with you!

Who’s Chen? He was the Hospitality Captain at the Hilton Hotel in Pennsylvania where Drive recently conducted a leadership retreat for Marquis Health Services. Chen was beaming with pride as he went about his work, so much that Arleen Smith, R.N. (Drive’s Leadership and Engagement Consultant extraordinaire) had to ask him, “Hey, Chen, how long have you worked here?”

The answer? 34 years!! What, what, what, what?! Hold up! Wait a minute!

While he doesn’t work in senior living, the hotel industry shares similar turnover woes, so we can rightly gush over Chen.

Be an Expert Noticer

Since Drive trains leaders to be expert noticers about what is happening with the people around them, Arleen excitedly encouraged Adam Goldman, the Vice President of Human Resources and Employee Engagement of Marquis Health Services, to take advantage of this learning opportunity and ask Chen some targeted questions.

This is a good place to note that Hilton is known for great culture. When you Google “companies with great culture”—as us culture nerds like to do for fun—Hilton Hotels comes up in the top tier, consistently. We know this as a black and white internet truth, and now we had the opportunity to ask one of their beloved, long-time employees for his “why”.

Why stay at the Hilton when there is a Raddison, a Ritz, a Sheraton, a Four Seasons, and a slew of other hotels right in this very area in Philadelphia?

Arleen was kind of looking for a golden goose egg here. The pressure was on Chen to give some incredible answer that would make her say, “Ah, yes! That’s the secret to employee retention!” The solution to employee retention to some being as elusive as a four-leaf clover and just as lucky if you find it.

But Chen’s answers were so simple. Arleen and Adam kept probing, “Why, Chen, why?” “How come?” But this was his why, no matter how much digging they did. Turns out the simplicity of it all was, in fact, the golden goose egg.

It’s Not All About the Benjamins

Chen did not mention salary, bonuses, or any other monetary reward. He stayed at the Hilton for 34 years because he was appreciated and valued. Cue the dramatic pause.

Appreciated and valued. Even with a management change every two years, there was an unwavering emphasis on appreciation and recognition at Hilton. This is their culture.

Good culture persists, despite 15 new General Managers in 34 years. Good culture is like the metronome that keeps the time no matter who is playing the music.

Chen told us that the leaders at his hotel don’t tell him what to do, they involve him in the problem-solving process. They ask him for his ideas and solutions. He’s empowered by them. What else makes Chen stick around at the Hilton? “The teamwork. People are friendly here.”

Chen noted that he is requested by returning guests. The management knows this, and he receives regular recognition for it. You can visibly see Chen’s chest rise with his own feelings of pride as he talks about it. Working his way up from dishwasher to captain was a journey just as much about hard work as it was about a team of people believing in Chen. Yes, he may be able to do this same job at another hotel down the road, but the Hilton feels right. This place makes him feel good. Like it should.

That Golden Egg

After the leadership retreat was over, Adam called the Hilton and remarked how great Chen had been. So great, in fact, that the leadership experts wanted to learn from him. The Hilton representative remarked, “That’s what we do here at the Hilton. We recognize everyone who’s valuable to us.” They understand that they are building loyalty.

Retention is not just an empty expectation. It’s a thoughtful, purposeful, values-driven approach to leadership.

If you’re looking for the golden egg to solve your staffing crisis, we have good news and bad news. The bad news? There is no golden egg. The good news? The small, seemingly meaningless interactions you have with your team every day are creating your Chens of tomorrow.

What can you do today to make someone feel valued and appreciated? As our great anomaly, Chen, can attest to, it turns out if you pump your people full of good feelings, they want to stay working for you. They want to represent your company with a puffed-out chest, proud to do so. They want to contribute to making your organization the best place it can be.

All because of how you have made them feel. No golden goose is required.