Reaping benefits from back-of-house success

Richard J. Caines, Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, Orlando.
Richard J. Caines, Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center, Orlando.

By Colleen Isherwood, Editor

ORLANDO — “Welcome to Culture Corridor,” said Richard J. Caines, banquet captain, as he gave a tour showing where the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center’s 1,700 full-and part-time “STARS” hang out. Gaylord Palms in Orlando has a very low employee turnover rate in a highly competitive convention market because it keeps the employee quality of life top of mind, even offering employee benefits such as a farmers’ market and an onsite pit stop for car care.

“Our overall turnover is much lower than most hotels. We try to do the right things to make sure our STARS stay,” Caines explained. He has been with Gaylord Palms for 16 years, after retiring from the military.

Gaylord Palms hires for heart — STARS stands for Smiles, Teamwork, Attitude, Reliability, and Service with a passion. “The interview starts as soon as they come in the front door,” said Caines. “Teamwork is crucial from the front drive to the front desk, housekeeping and engineering — the entire experience is teamwork. If people don’t have the right attitude, you can’t teach it. They have to think, ‘I am looking forward to getting to work.’ If there is paper on the ground, they pick it up. Reliability is important — if they don’t show up, then someone else has to pitch in. Service with a passion is that little something special that makes the guest come back. Our culture is in us — it’s what we bring to work every day.”

The company offers these STARS a guarantee that states: “At Gaylord Hotels, we are committed to providing our STARS with the support and resources necessary to offer flawless service in an environment that fosters fun, encourages open communication and development, and upholds our values.”

Gaylord Palms has cultivated a guest service style that includes ideas like, “Discover and Delight” and “Make it Right.” They believe in empowering STARS to act on the spot to make guest experiences right. They also incorporate fun in everything they do.

Caines showed off a wall of awards, showing Gaylord Palms has consistently ranked as one of the Top 100 companies for working families in the Orlando area.

The STARS have a special entrance where there is always music playing, complete with an overhang in case of inclement weather. All of the corridors in the staff area, located under the hotel’s sprawling buildings, are colour coded and name the area of the hotel that is up above. 

Gaylord Palms has an onsite gym and fitness classes, eliminating the need for a gym membership. “The STARS make appointments with the trainers, and even come in on days off,” said Caines.

“We have to look sharp, so we have an area where you can get your own clothes dry cleaned for free,” Caines noted. There is another area where tagged uniforms are dry cleaned as well. All the staff have to do to get their correct uniform is swipe their card, and the automated system will deliver their uniform in a garment bag. 

For STARS who need their car oil changed or small engine repairs, there’s a pitstop on site. There’s also a farmers’ market called the Crop Shop, plus a shop called simply STAR Mart for sundries.

There’s an onsite employee cafeteria called the  Green Room for when STARS are ready to relax, complete with free coffee and beverages, along with a nearby computer lab. The price of a meal in the STARS cafeteria hasn’t changed since the hotel opened in 2002 — it’s still just $1.50 U.S. per meal.