Creating innovative business ideas involves establishing a group of like-minded employees who will create magic for hoteliers.
The recent announcement from international hotelier Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts that the hotel company was again named to Fortune Magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list was in several ways remarkable. Not only has Four Seasons managed to lasso this honor every year since the list was created in 1998—a 15-year unbroken stretch the company was quick to point out in a news release—the organization mentioned a specific team of employees, hailing them for a recent guest service breakthrough that made obvious the value of teamwork.
The challenge Four Seasons faced was offering guests in-room meals in a quicker timeframe than the normal wait times for in-room dining. Four Seasons then “set about to establish a 15-minute room service menu, offering a selection of creative and delicious dishes.” The menu was tested at the Four Seasons outpost in Boston, and now the “15-minute menu” is standard at all Four Seasons hotels worldwide.
“Grassroots innovation is possible when you have a group of like-minded employees working toward the common goal of service excellence,” Nick Mutton, executive VP of HR for Four Seasons, said in the news release.
Indeed a “group of like-minded employees” can create magic for hoteliers, and that magic shows up in employee satisfaction ratings.
Work teams are an old idea. In the 1920s, studies revealed attitudes bloomed when employees were provided three critical stimuli: managers paying attention to the employees; employee contributions being recognized; and employees being informed and made a part of the employer’s decision-making process—providing the employee with a sense of feeling in on what’s going on in the business.
The overarching requirement: Employees must know the hotelier places employee satisfaction on par with that of the guest’s. As Hilton Worldwide summarizes its employee care program, “only those who feel valued can add value.”
The Four Seasons example illustrates that in tackling what could be seen as a fairly routine challenge, energized work teams can sometimes surprise observers—developing a creative solution that not only fits a local need but also doing so in a way such that its benefits are replicated across thousands of miles and many cultures. But how do employers make certain their work teams are energized? And how should work teams be led to produce outstanding results? Follow these eight simple keys, and you’ll reap the rewards:
Key No. 1: Pick a winning team. If a hotel has a sales challenge it might assume sales managers should be tasked to solve it. What could work better, however, is bringing creative high achievers from various departments together and asking them to bring 10 ideas for discussion.
Key No. 2: Focus on the prize. Groups of all kinds get hung up on group dynamics, worrying about a group member who talks too much, for example. Moving the focus back to the work team’s goal will help individuals as well as the team keep their eye on the prize.
Key No. 3: Encourage creativity. Define goals generally to leave room for creative solutions. Encourage brainstorming and random comments. Design the work team’s “space” using comfortable furniture and a more relaxed atmosphere.
Key No. 4: Banish most rules. Work teams don’t need many rules to function. For example, does one person always need to be the note taker? If everyone is encouraged to keep his or her own notes, the group can compares notes, and a better outcome is more likely.
Key No. 5: Say “yes” to most ideas. “That will never work” is not a phrase for winners. Allow everyone on the team to hear yes, and follow that with, “tell us how we can make your idea work.”
Key No. 6: Use loose-tight leadership. Group leaders should resist the temptation to set time limits or to saddle work teams with older, office-based concepts that by nature encourage compliance rather than creativity and free thinking. If it’s necessary to get the team refocused, do so deliberately, and then withdraw to see whether the team goes back to work with its eye once again on the prize.
Key No. 7: Personalize rewards. A meaningful reward goes a long way to energizing a team member. Poll team members in advance as to what rewards would mean the most.
Key No. 8: Finally, don’t be bashful. Multiply! As more teams are spread out around a property, the greater the likelihood an overall esprit de corps among employees will prevail.
Chuck Conine, managing partner of Hospitality HR Solutions, leads a team of high-energy, seasoned HR and training professionals providing HR and employee development solutions to clients throughout the hospitality industry. Chuck also partners with clients of HVS Executive Search, Synergy Restaurant Consultants and Cayuga Hospitality Advisors.
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