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An Anonymous Tip to Opportunities at Your Hotel

by Jim Hartigan
October 24, 2011

The annual employee survey for your hotel closed last week and you restlessly anticipate the results for your hotel teams.  You think you have a good sense for your team members’ opinions, but you’re still a bit nervous.  All of a sudden you hear that familiar “You’ve got mail” ding as the anxiously awaited report lands in your inbox.  As you scan the results, which are overwhelmingly positive, you notice you scored quite low in one area: encourages teamwork.  What do you do now? Mandate monthly retreats, during which employees must take turns falling backwards from a 5-foot high platform into the outstretched arms of their peers?  Or perhaps you go a tirade in the office, demanding to know why employees would think such a thing.  In either case, you won’t really know for sure what the appropriate next steps are until you dig deeper to uncover the root cause of the issue.

To that end, it’s helpful to think of the results of the survey as an anonymous tip, alerting you to a perceived problem.  Although you don’t know exactly who provided the tip, or at least you shouldn’t, the survey results will give you enough information to investigate further.

We suggest beginning an open dialog with your team by conducting a feedback session, during which several, if not all, members of your team come together to discuss any issues identified on the survey.  It’s best to conduct these feedback meetings by department, to allow for individuals to feel comfortable in sharing their ideas.  The primary goal of the session is for you to discover the root cause of any concerns or issues.  In other words, the one or two specific things to which you can point and say “This is where the issue originated and why it became an issue in the first place.”

There are several ways to get to the true origin of an issue (fishbone diagrams, Pareto charts, or the Magic 8-ball).  Many of our clients have been successful using the Five Why’s method, where you as the session leader ask “why” five or more times until an issue’s root cause becomes obvious.  Here’s an example, using our teamwork scenario:

Manager –                              The results of the employee opinion survey show I’m not doing enough to encourage teamwork.  Would one of you please share with me why you feel this way or why you think someone on the team would feel this way?

Front Desk Employee –           I sometimes feel lost when I need to make reservations.

Manager –                              Why do you feel lost?

Front Desk Employee –           Well, I don’t know how to access the system.

Manager –                              Why do you think that is?

Front Desk Employee –           Well, there really isn’t any training.

Manager –                              Actually, there is training.  It’s under “Reservations and Sales” in our Learning Management System on the front desk computer.  Have you looked there?

Front Desk Employee –           I tried to look there and could not logon to the LMS. 

Manager –                              Why not?

Front Desk Employee –           Well, to be honest, I have a hard time remembering my user ID and password.

Manager –                              No problem, this is what team work is all about.  I will talk to the intranet administrator and get you access.  Is anyone else experiencing a similar issue?

Note – The root cause may become obvious after two or three “why’s”, so don’t feel obligated to continue asking questions.

Conducting a feedback session sounds easy so far, doesn’t it?  Ask “why” a few times, uncover the root cause of your problems and now go solve them, right?  Not so fast, Sparky!  Although some team members will be more than willing to openly share their feedback, others will clam up, go with the status quo and/or become defensive when queried for more information.  With that said, here are a few tips for conducting the session:
  • Establish a comfortable, non-threatening environment. Be prepared to ease any tension that may arise during uncomfortable moments.
  • If the tension starts to rise, step in and diffuse the situation. Remind everyone the purpose of the meeting is to identify specific challenges and ways to make things better!
  • Be prepared to jumpstart the conversation with your own ideas for improvement if attendees are less than willing to participate in the discussion. This also demonstrates to the team that you’re not being defensive.
  • Conduct more than one feedback session if that’s what it takes for you to gather the information you need.
  • Above all else, listen and ask questions in ways that get participants to share what they think and feel.  Remember, the goal is to get past the symptoms or effects of an issue and discover the root cause.
Once you’re followed up on the anonymous tip, now it’s time to start problem-solving.  For more information on that topic, please click here to view a previous article titled “Plan your work.  Then work your plan.”  Best of luck in your future feedback sessions and until next time remember; Take care of the customer, Take care of each other, Take care of yourself.

About the Author:

Jim Hartigan, Chief Business Development Officer and Partner joined OrgWide Services, a Training/e-Learning, Communications, Surveys and Consulting firm in April 2010 after nearly 30 years experience in the hospitality industry, including the last 18 as a senior executive with Hilton Worldwide. Jim’s last position was that of Senior Vice President – Global Brand Services where he provided strategic leadership and business development and support to the $22B enterprise of 10 brands and more than 3,400 hotels in 80 countries around the world. His team was responsible for ensuring excellence in system product quality, customer satisfaction, market research, brand management, media planning, and sustainability.

Jim Hartigan
Chief Business Development Officer & Partner
OrgWide Services
165 N. Main Street, Suite 202
Collierville, TN 38017
office: 901.850.8190  Ext. 230
mobile: 901.628.6586

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