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Is Change Stressing Out Your Workforce?

by Erica Arnold & Douglas Rosen
July 2011

In this era of reduction, the employer must get creative to ensure their employees feel valued. But are the changes in your workplace stressing out your workforce?

For today’s hospitality companies, achieving growth without considerable change is impossible. Change takes on many forms: technological innovation, fluctuation of staffing levels, turnover at the executive level, and even the constant evolution of guest preferences and industry trends. If handled inappropriately, change can disrupt an organization and create stress for its employees. In order to mitigate this stress and other undesirable side effects of change, companies must plan ahead up and down the organization chart. Those who get in front of these issues will have a significant competitive advantage.

What are the most omnipresent forces of change we are seeing today? Revenue management is a moving target these days. Revenue managers are trying to get in front of OTA issues while effectively managing their ADR. This is especially true with independent hotels as the online travel industry evolves; how do you get a web savvy customer to book directly with the property? Staying ahead of the pricing curve requires revenue mangers to master evolving technology. Due to the accelerated pace with which updated software and hardware come to the market it is getting increasingly challenging to stay on top of the latest trends and be competitive at the same time.
Possible solution: Create a forum where people can share ideas and best practices. Make sure the conversations are solution-oriented and address common frustrations. This will allow for a faster ramp up of revenue managers at the property and corporate level.

Another dominant force for change in hospitality operations are updates to property management systems. While these do allow for operational efficiencies, changes in technology have a direct affect on employees as their normal way of doing business transforms; comfortable routines are interrupted affecting both the front and back of the house. Learning a new or updated property management system can decrease productivity and increase stress levels for employees.
Possible solution: Having a thorough training plan will avoid the painful side effects of learning a new technology. Create a roadmap that teaches employees how to use the new technology making sure to highlight how these changes will make their jobs easier. With a significant effort by management to train employees on the new system, much of the fear would be removed within the first few sessions as familiarity starts to set in.

In today’s business environment everyone is constantly plugged-in therefore it is more important than ever to react to change effectively even as you are getting in front of new trends. In addition to keeping up with the latest trends in technology, employees have greater workloads and fewer resources which can result in higher levels of stress. For cost saving measures many companies have restructured, downsized their workforce, and decreased benefits. But what happens when jobs are permanently changed or eliminated? At New York City’s Yotel which opened in June 2011, they have employed a robot (called Yobot), which stores guest luggage. Does this mean the end for the bellman once these robots get more mobile? Probably not. This seems to be more of a marketing strategy than a labor solution. But it does foreshadow how technology can create an environment in which the employee feels stress and anxiety about their job stability.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “High rates of job destruction and creation may also lead to high levels of stress from chronic employment uncertainty, particularly since the jobs created may not provide the same level of compensation and benefits nor the same quality of working conditions” 1. When there is turnover at the executive level, or change of asset ownership/management it is particularity chaotic, making it hard to execute both short and long-term initiatives.

An Effective Change Agent
In the era of reduction, the employer must get creative to ensure their employees feel valued. The CDC states “increased flexibility, responsibility, and learning opportunities seen in many of today’s jobs may hold potential for improved satisfaction and well-being in the workforce” 2. Many times it is a senior leader whose role it is to be a change agent. This leader must use a combination of techniques to help facilitate change, most important of which is to get the buy-in from the employees of the new strategies. You will get greater buy-in by initiating change from the ground up.


The Inverted-U Relationship Between Stress and Performance 3

The responsibility to lead change can fall upon anyone in the organization. In the hospitality industry employees at the operations level have the most exposure to the guest. They can offer a wealth of information regarding current preferences and trends. For example, the prevalence of the boutique and lifestyle segment and the customer’s desire for more individualized service and experiences can leave brand managers scrambling to position their hotel. Understanding the service needs of your customer will allow the hotel to capture more of its market share. Give your employees a voice and listen to what they have to say about the guest and overall working environment.

How can you create even more change agents within your organization? This responsibility lies at the feet of several people. Senior management needs to demonstrate an inclusive open environment, one which reduces the fear of line level employees to reach out to them. There needs to be a mechanism, a conduit, for which ideas can reach the top of the ladder. This can be through employee opinion surveys, or even a suggestion box. Perhaps the greatest onus resides upon the employees. They need to have the motivation to better the company, and not dismiss a potentially great idea. Apathetic employees will continue to simply toil through their work day. Those who reach out are your potential superstars of the future.

1 Sauter, S. (April, 2002 p. 1). The Changing Organization of Work and the Safety and Health of Working People Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2002-116
2Ibid
3 Adaptation of the Yerks-Dobson Human Performance Curve: Yerkes, R. M. & Dodson, J. D. (1908) Journal of Comparative and Neurological Psychology, 18, 459-482 Retrieved from http://www.mindtools.com/stress/UnderstandStress/StressPerformance.htm



About Erica Arnold
Erica Arnold first joined HVS in 2006 in the company’s consulting and valuation division, providing appraisal services for properties throughout the United States, the Caribbean, and the Middle East. She went on to work for Starwood’s Sheraton and Westin brands in the United States before coming back to HVS in 2010. Erica now specializes in the firm’s mid-management recruitment service HVS Career Network (HCN). Her extensive hotel operational experience includes group/leisure sales, hotel/spa operations, revenue management, quantitative/statistical analysis, budgeting, forecasting, and property management systems. This in-depth knowledge of the industry provides Erica with ideal insight into understanding our clients’ needs and the demands of their recruitment assignments.



About Douglas Rosen

Doug Rosen is Partner, North America for HVS Executive Search, specializing in retained executive search, compensation consulting, and performance management for the lodging, restaurant, and gaming industries. Since joining HVS in the fall of 2000, Doug has written numerous articles and is a frequent lecturer on trends in human capital management. Additionally Doug has helped launch several internet based businesses and handles executive level search, with a focus on mixed-use development.
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Contact: 

Erica Arnold – Vice President
Tel: +1 (303) 440-7516
Mobile: +1 (970) 445-8225
Email: EArnold@HVS.com

Doug Rosen — Partner, North America
Tel: +1 (516) 248-8828 ext. 251
Mobile: +1 (516) 244-6696
Email: DRosen@HVS.com

 

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