Optimizing New Employee Performance And Productivity or Getting New-Hires Up To Speed Quickly

by Michael Hampton, Ed.D. CHE  December 2003

A challenge that’s faced quite often by organizations when they bring on additional or replacement team members is how to get those new employees acclimated to the property’s or company’s systems and procedures so that they can become productive as quickly as possible.  The learning curve that these newcomers must go through in familiarizing themselves with the product, with their co-workers, with the equipment they’ll use, with the operating guidelines and parameters they’ll need to follow, and with a myriad of other job related issues is frequently dependent on the complexity of each of those factors.  

As the economy and business improve during 2004, it appears that hotels and restaurants will be adding staff; so, taking steps to reduce that curve so that employees can optimize performance at the earliest possible time is a critical variable in reducing costs and maximizing revenues.  There are numerous actions that can be taken including providing job descriptions, operations and standard operating procedures manuals, orientation programs and training activities to assist an individual just beginning a new job in adjusting to the duties and tasks for which they’ll be responsible, as well as to the environment in which they’ll work.

Job Descriptions

Clearly defining the scope and depth of the position for 

Training & Support
Products & Services
For the
Hospitality Industry
which an individual will be hired is extremely important in establishing the foundation for what’s expected from them.  Hiring the “right” candidate to fill the job will help to ensure that they have the characteristics that will enable them to adjust to the demands of the work quickly.

This is a necessary first step.  Making a decision on what qualities are required for each position will launch direction for the type of individual that should be selected from the pool of available candidates.  For example, hiring employees with outgoing, congenial personalities may be essential for front-of-the house employees, whereas a more crucial quality for employees in the heart-of-the-house may be flexibility with scheduling.

The next step involves ensuring that the job description provides specific detail on the responsibilities that the employee will have in performing their work.   For example, guest services agents at the front desk may be responsible for checking guests into and out of the hotel, while room attendants may be responsible for stocking their carts and cleaning guest rooms.  In order to fulfill these responsibilities, workers will be expected to carry out certain duties and tasks that must be definitively laid out for them in straightforward and simple terms. 

The more explicitly the job description is written, the greater the opportunity to get a better “fit” between the candidate and the position.  The more qualified the individual is in matching the job requirements, the less time it will take them to adapt to job demands.

Operations And Standard Operating Procedures Manuals

Providing a ready resource for employees to use as a reference in undertaking job-related tasks significantly expedites the learning process.  This can be especially helpful for procedures that are intricately detailed or that involve multiple activities, such as those encountered at the front desk, in accounting and in the engineering/maintenance departments.  

Operations and standard operating procedures manuals that provide step-by-step guidelines for duties and tasks make it easier for new employees to follow through the process, and at the same time, create a uniform method of completing job functions.  This is important in building consistency in the way jobs are performed.  

Having a “standard” way of doing things also helps to make certain that guest experiences are the same, regardless of the who the employee is that delivers the service, who provides the interaction, or who supports the product use.  By simply following the directions, everyone on the hotel team will be able to do the job in the same manner.  

Contrast this with a scenario that may be somewhat typical in which new employees are given direction by being “told” what to do and how to do it by more senior employees.  Without a standard procedure specified in an operations manual, employees tend to do things their own way and in their own style.  Rather than teaching new employees the “proper” procedure, they’re likely to be taught to do things according to the senior employee’s preferred approach.  

If new hires follow the directions given in the operations manual it makes it easier for employees to understand the job’s sequencing and to logically internalize the procedure.  This will expedite service delivery, and it can go a long way in enhancing guest satisfaction.

Orientation Programs

At times there’s a tendency is to place novice workers in positions immediately upon being hired.  This is done without prerequisite direction, and it’s undertaken with the expectation that the worker will be able to learn and adjust as time progresses.  Of course, one of the greatest implications of this is that customer satisfaction levels can be severely impacted by guest interaction with employees who are often ill equipped and unprepared to handle many guest contact situations.  

Therefore, having an orientation period for newly hired employees can strategically assist them in getting accustomed to basics that will help them adapt to the job more readily.  Some of the most important topics that should be covered in an orientation program include:

  • A review of hotel policies and practices 
  • Cultural foundations of the operation
  • Management philosophies and priorities
  • Job interdependency and relatedness issues 
  • Job requirements and procedures
  • Expectations for performance and productivity
  • Support resources and where to go for help
  • Co-worker, supervisor and department head introductions.  
A critical component of every orientation program must involve a tour of the property, allowing each new employee to become familiar with the comprehensive facilities and attributes available.  As an integral part of the orientation routine at many hotels, new employees are encouraged to stay overnight in order to experience what it’s like to be a guest of the property.  This gives them a higher level of appreciation for the facilities of the hotel from the perspectives of both an employee and a guest.

Training Activities

Whether the new person that’s been added to the team is experienced or is a neophyte, it’s important to give everyone the opportunity to refine his or her skills, knowledge and abilities.  Training enables new employees to enhance the capabilities they initially bring to the property, and it serves to prepare them to take on additional responsibilities.  Strategically this can also provide a foundation for expanding their capacity for handling the new challenges they’ll face.  

A major benefit of utilizing training as a tool for grooming newcomers is that it gives them higher comfort levels that boost their confidence and motivation levels, which in turn helps them to be more productive.

Another key consideration in providing training for new staff members is that the methods used for performing a job will likely have been different at their previous place of employment compared to the methods preferred by the current employer.   Novices need to be shown how to adjust their approach to fit the new environment.  For example, a newly hired night auditor may have used the same property management system at the property where they worked previously, but the reports generated and the formats for summarizing and analyzing data could vary significantly.  Training could help to reduce the gap in their understanding and ability to prepare the new reports and formats.

Appropriate training techniques should be selected based on the targeted needs of the employee audience, as well as the time, financial and physical constraints of the property.  The less experience the new hire has, the more attention that may need to be given to ensuring that the training program is comprehensive and all-inclusive in nature; keeping in mind that training isn’t a one-time event but an on-going process.  Choices range from informal on-the-job learning experiences to formal classroom sessions, and from simple audiotape and videotape options to sophisticated CD-ROM/CBT solutions and distance learning on-line courses.  

Particularly to help new employees get up to speed quickly, job aids and workplace displays can provide ready access to step-by-step procedures and reminders of important performance activities.  For example, displays attached to computer monitors that show tips for handling reservations inquiry calls can help guide a new hire through the sales process with a prospective guest.  Another example is laminated cards that can be used by inexperienced room attendants as a reminder of attention-to-detail items that are sometimes overlooked.

Reinforcement Tools

Although job descriptions, operations manuals and standard operating procedures manuals, orientation programs and training activities are instrumental in assisting the newcomer in learning how to carry out their jobs, one of the most effective tactics for optimizing productivity and performance is focused coaching and development.  Identifying gaps in actual versus desired employee behaviors and then providing feedback to the employee on how to adjust their actions to reach standard can yield immediate results.

Combining the coaching with reinforcement tools heightens the employee’s awareness of the importance and significance of their actions.  Reinforcement can involve uncomplicated recognition strategies or complex incentive and reward programs.  For example, employees who know that if their job performance improves the change will be acknowledged by management are more likely to exert efforts that bring about the improvement.  

Acknowledgement can take the form of simply saying something to the employee such as: “I noticed that you handled that check-in exceptionally well.”  It can also take the form of praise in front of their peers, such as mentioning their improvement at a departmental meeting.  A highly structured recognition program may take the form of pay levels that are graduated upward from the point of hire to measurable levels of achieved performance.  With either approach, employees will have a more pronounced drive to reach new productivity milestones.


These strategies can work singularly or in unison to improve the rate at which newly hired team members are able to adapt and adjust to the property’s systems and procedures.  It’s recommended that managers begin by instituting one of the techniques, and progressively developing and launching others as is practical.  

For example, creating a well-rounded orientation program may be the least complicated and most straightforward method of helping employees get acclimated to the operation expediently. Then, as time permits, gradually introduce training and reinforcement tools. The payoff will be realized in reduced labor costs, reduced turnover, improved morale and increased guest satisfaction.  The hotel, the guests and the employees will all benefit from the initiative.

Michael Hampton, Ed.D. Is a professional speaker and serves as Chief Executive Officer of HSA International, a global provider of training, educational and consulting services for the hospitality industry.  Additional information on this topic is available by contacting him via e-mail at mhampton@hsa.com or via telephone at (954) 432-7301.


HSA International Worldwide Headquarters
1601 North Palm Avenue, Suite 211 
Pembroke Pines, FL USA 33026
TEL 954.432.7301 FAX 954.432.8677
Also See Motivating And Retaining Employees / Michael Hampton, Ed.D. / HSA International / December 2003
Hospitality Leaders Are Responsible For Setting The Standards / Michael Hampton, Ed.D. / HSA International / August 2003
Challenging Times Require Hospitality Leaders On The Front Lines / Michael Hampton, Ed.D. /  July 2003
How To Increase Front Desk Sales & Customer Service Skills / July 2003
Motivating And Retaining Employees When Times Are Tough /  Michael Hampton, Ed.D./ June 2003

To search Hotel Online data base of News and Trends Go to Hotel.Online Search
Home| Welcome!| Hospitality News| Classifieds|
Catalogs & Pricing| Viewpoint Forum| Ideas/Trends

Please contact Hotel.Online with your comments and suggestions.