Columbia Hospitality Blunts Workforce Churn With Family Values

Columbia Hospitality bucks the trend in an industry notorious for high turnover

September 24, 2019By Emma Franke


This article appears in the September 2019 issue. Click here for a free subscription.

The hospitality industry is known for high stress, low wages and long hours that make it hard to keep employees happy, leading to high turnover. John Oppenheimer, chief executive officer of Seattle-based Columbia Hospitality Inc., is proud to note that those turnover rates are significantly lower at his company than the national average, which is estimated to be up to 75 percent annually at hospitality companies.

Acting with enthusiasm and in the spirit of service becomes contagious, Oppenheimer says. People that love doing that love working here.

Columbia operates 43 properties in 27 different communities across the western United States, including hotels and resorts, conference centers, golf courses and residential towers, and has five more projects under construction. The company had revenue last year of $160 million.

Columbia offers standard 401(k) plans and benefits, along with the additional perks of meals during shifts in property restaurants, and the opportunity to stay at properties in the portfolio. Most significantly, team members at Columbia note that the environment is one of support and open communication.

I love our commitment to our team members and our customers and to continuous, incremental improvement in everything we do, said one anonymous employee on the survey nominating the company as one of Seattle Business magazines Best Companies to Work For. Our people are inspiring at every level of the organization, and our properties are amazing.

Oppenheimer, who launched the company in 1995 after being selected by the Port of Seattle to manage the then-new Bell Harbor International Conference Center, says he considers it the highest recommendation when team members encourage their own family members to apply.

At last count, we had over 90 family units in the company, he says.