|by: Kirby D. Payne, CHA, September, 1997
The company meeting we recently held in Florida touched on some items which may be of interest to many other companies. Yes, we covered the usual items on improving reporting to the Support Office, guest room cleaning and reading financial statements but the focus of the meeting was human resources. We wanted to address the issues relating to this in ways different than we had in the past because we wanted to effect change.
We looked for resources for this meeting in a variety of new (to us) places. We had key staff apply at Disney's Casting Center (Employment Office) in Orlando to steal ideas (I'm sorry, I mean to say, "Benchmark our procedures."). The Educational Institute (EI) of the American Hotel & Motel Association was used in several ways I'll detail later but among them was a fabulous tour of their new offices. We also resorted to those old-fashioned things called books including, 1001 Ways To Motivate Employees by Bob Nelson and Built to Last by James C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras. One of the most important resources was an employee survey completed for the meeting.
While we would like to believe we're better than our competitors on employment issues, the reality is no matter where we are relative to them we are not satisfied. We have some hotels with excellent staffs and low turnover in all or several departments. More often there is at least one department with excessive turnover or unsatisfactory results. All departments with excessive turnover underperform. As has become more common in recent years turnover results in unfilled positions and either overtime or less satisfied guests.
In those places where we have a particular staffing problem we just never seem to find a long term solution. The problems just seem to keep repeating themselves. Hence, the search for new ideas. I also firmly believe that if we solve the employee retention problem we'll make most of the recruiting problem go away! So what did we decide at our company meeting? The first issue to attack was employee retention followed by better recruiting and selection. Although employee retention starts when the person applies, the portion we addressed relates to current staff.
We examined the issues which were brought up in the employee survey which was done by SQS of Irving, TX. The survey results were cross tabulated every way one could imagine and actually will take weeks, if not months, to digest and understand. At our meeting, with the help of planning forms provided by SQS, we started working on correcting some of the problems brought to our attention through the survey and highlighted in the Executive Summary.
Two items which caught my eye were:
To solve these problems we're working hard to improve our staff meetings by helping each member of each hotel's leadership team develop better skills in leading meetings and in training. We're also developing better tools to communicate with employees. Among these will be a small pocket size four panel brochure explaining benefits. This piece will also be used as part of the recruiting package later. As an additional tool, we are installing a toll free number with voice mail for any employee to call the Minneapolis Support Office with questions or complaints. Why shouldn't employees have a 100% satisfaction guarantee just like their guests! I'm not sure what that guarantee will consist of but we're working on it.
Another thing we feel is key is to further develop our entry level leaders. In addition to knowing the details of the various positions they supervise (usually they were promoted from them) they must be trainers and leaders. In order to have a common minimum level of training for them we are requiring participation in the EI's Certified Hospitality Supervisor (CHS) program. Every supervisor who is not already certified must complete this program within 90 days of joining our company. If they don't complete it, they can't stay. General Managers now have "certified supervisors" as one of their Key Results Indicators. Every department head and General Manager must also complete the certification program pertinent to their positions as soon as they are eligible.
The next part of our plan is to have every employee in every hotel go through the EI's CD-ROM "Guest Service: Out of This World" program which helps employees develop skills relating to interactions with guests. We're using this program for three reasons:
We are continuing all of our existing retention programs and trying a few new ones. Each hotel has a $15.00 per employee monthly budget for employee functions and activities. These funds are used for pizza parties, circus tickets, movies, and so forth. After six months, we offer each employee a certificate for a dental check-up and cleaning with the hope we are starting them on a new habit. Among the new ideas we're considering include calling the employee's mom, dad, spouse, or whatever to tell them what a great job they are doing. We'll do this regardless of age! At the meeting we gave our General Managers a list of 60 pre-approved employee motivational activities that any hotel could implement with little investment. We stressed to them, however, that starting motivational programs and then letting them peter out is demotivational.
All our existing incentive and benefit programs will remain. We're taking greater care to insure that the staff is aware of them and understand them through the brochure mentioned previously and on-going communication.
As for recruiting, we're struggling with finding new ideas and our General Managers have told us they are willing to try anything in this tight labor supply. We want new ideas our hotel competitors and anyone else in the economy are not doing. A cornerstone will be handing out recruiting cards to any working person we observe who fits the profile of people we want working for us. That person might be working in retail, an area hotel, restaurants, the overnight shift in a convenience store (night auditor!), or what ever.
We're going to improve our application and interview process so that there will be more self-selection. That means that, like Disney but with a smaller budget, we're going to let applicants know what we have to offer and what our expectations are before they even complete an application. Appearance standards, hours and days for work, attendance and timeliness standards are all among the many things that will help a potential applicant decide if we're right for them. Peer interviews are another area we're going to experiment with. Most of our incentive plans are based on team performance within a department. Why not move to the logical idea of letting some members of a department help select new staff? Sure, some training and ground rules will have to be established but the results could be excellent! Better hires, more involvement by existing staff and more commitment to the hotel's success.
The ideas and projects which evolved form this meeting won't create overnight results but they have high potential. And you know what they say, "If you keep doing what you've been doing, you'll keep getting what you've been getting."
For additional information, contact:
Kirby D. Payne at the firm
American Hospitality Management Company
1500 South Highway 100, #375, Minneapolis, MN 55416
Phone: 763-591-7640 Fax: 763-591-1593
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