Case Study: Delta Grand Okanagan Resort and Conference Centre Leverages the Local Demographics

Shari Avery, Director, People Resources at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort and Conference Centre in Kelowna recalls a conversation with her movers on the day she moved from the Lower Mainland to Kelowna: “You are kind of young to be moving to Kelowna aren’t you? Isn’t that a retirement place?” In response she said, “We are opening a hotel there, that’s all I know.”

Since then she has learned that there are many retirees there, but mainly people move to the Okanagan for the lifestyle – the wineries, the lake, and not too much snow. “A couple of weeks ago a retired professor from Okanagan College dropped by the lobby. He had taken a retirement package but realized he was bored and asking if we needed any help. People realize they don’t want to sit at home,” says Avery.

“Out of our 330 staff, we have approximately 12 people who are over 55 years old and the average age of our staff is 41,” says Avery. There are many advantages Avery has found to hiring boomers. “Especially when it comes to the retirees, their availability works for our operation. We are almost always busy on weekends and the boomers are available evenings, weekends and holidays and they are reliable.”

Boomer staff members hold a variety of positions, says Avery. “They are working as boat lock attendants, as room attendants, laundry attendants, kitchen and maintenance. You have to get past the stigma that someone older can’t keep up and they will get hurt more often,” comments Avery. “For example we have a wonderful gentleman over seventy working in kitchen and he has no problem keeping up with the younger team members. Productivity is not a function of age.”

For recruitment, Avery says they don’t target boomers specifically. “We ask everyone the same questions in interviews. Most of our jobs are physically demanding so we need to ensure they can handle the work tasks, and some of the more technical roles may not be a fit if a person hasn’t had experience with computers.”

“Don’t judge based on age,” Avery suggests. “At our hotel we have no evidence to suggest that the older employees are injuring themselves more often than the younger employees. They may take a bit longer to recover from their injuries but they are not having more accidents. At the end of the day I don’t think there is a correlation between the age and frequency of claims.”

Avery says that when the company was developing their Employee Value Proposition, a survey was conducted with both current employees as well as potential candidates. One key message was consistent across the ages. “Every person from every age group surveyed really wanted to be somewhere where they matter, where they can contribute and learn and grow,” says Avery. They also want interesting work that challenges them and allows them to be empowered. We value people as individuals, not based on age or other.”

For training Avery explains that one of Delta’s Core Values is that they are one team. “Everyone gets the same training; matching up with the right job to begin with is most important. More importantly, we need to remember that just because you are over 50 doesn’t mean you are any less talented or enthusiastic about contributing to the success of our hotel. We all play a part.”

Running a multigenerational workplace has not presented issues and Avery finds collaboration happens naturally. “With our older workers there is a general respect. The team gains perspective from them and they are often sharing life lessons.”

For staff who are nearing retirement age and want to cut down hours, Delta offers some options. “We have a declaration of availability to work 3, 4 or 5 days per week as a preference. If an employee wants to work a lesser week, we work with them. The manager will accommodate as best they can based on seniority,” says Avery. “For a lot of people their work is their life, there is an emotional connection to work that gets people out of bed in the morning. We allow them to reduce hours and maintain their seniority as they work towards retirement.”