How to better capture employees’ passion, loyalty
How to better capture employees’ passion, loyalty
12 APRIL 2016 7:04 AM

Once hotel management companies have assembled the right team of employees, how do managers sow passion and loyalty into team performance? 

One of the greatest challenges for any hospitality management company is how to select and retain team members who are committed to their roles and motivated to deliver the best possible service.

The importance of selecting the right people for the job cannot be overstated. It’s the front-line team members who, by and large, have the most face-to-face contact with guests. If they’re successful in providing a first-class experience, there’s a greater likelihood the guests will return. These team members become the face of the hotel.

While operators seek to win the “hearts and minds” of team members, winning their hearts presents a more difficult challenge of going beyond the logical motivational engagement responses to create an emotional attachment to the organization that enhances loyalty and service delivery.

Redefining employee loyalty
Successful management companies want team members to work hard, be passionate and dedicated while delivering exceptional hospitality, and in return management strives to provide team members with a value proposition that engages them and builds loyalty.

Such team members sincerely consider themselves to be professionals. They become passionate about their work. They buy into the service culture and, consequently, they’re less likely to think about leaving. Their thoughts more likely run to building their entire career in hospitality.

To truly succeed, this kind of proactive approach has to permeate the organization, starting with the general manager at the property level and working its way up to the regional director at the management company, the area vice president and up the ladder.

Management should seize every opportunity to reinforce the message that the organization values each team member. This includes making sure the team facilities are top-notch. For example, team member restaurants should be restaurants and not cafeterias. Facilities should be attractive and welcoming spaces where team members are treated like our guests in the front of the house.

Likewise, it pays to decorate the back of the house with bright colors to make that part of the workplace as cheerful as the front of the house, so team members don’t feel they’re toiling in a basement. Trash containers should be relocated away from the employee entrance to reinforce the notion that the employees are entering an environment that values them and makes them feel proud. The whole idea of the back of the house should be reframed as “heart of the house.”

Preparing your employees
In terms of career advancement, compared with U.S. industry overall, entry-level hotel employees indeed can build careers in the industry and rise to the level of general manager or higher.

Hotels offer multiple levels of job opportunities. Management companies need to work with motivated team members to devise personalized career plans. These plans need to be tailored to the each individual and have a high degree of focus on leveraging their personal strengths, not just addressing development needs, as is more typically the case. What’s more important is the need for managers to take an active interest in individuals’ development plans and coach them to adopt the learning and embed the changes in their job roles. Research suggests that having a manager not interested in an employee’s plan is worse for motivation than the employee having no plan at all.

Great managers live by a method of continuous feedback and coaching; they don’t wait for the annual review to gauge how the employees are progressing toward their desired goals. This is a big change from the annual feedback mantra of old, and it keeps pace with the needs of our new smartphone-enabled millennial workforce where everything, including feedback, is shared in an instant.

Today’s employers are looking for more and more general athletes who have experience across many disciplines. Cross-training holds myriad possibilities for team members to gain on-the-job experience. For operators, cross-trained team members not only are able to better engage with guests but also tend to be more committed to the job because of their broadened abilities. It’s also to the owner’s financial advantage to have team members cross-trained because it cuts down on labor costs, given the seasonality of the business and fluctuations in demand.

Similarly, the opportunity to be part of a short-term task force can yield unexpected career advancement possibilities. Management companies are smart when they assign high-performing team members to participate in these projects, whether it is assisting in the opening of a new property or overseeing a major renovation at another property in the portfolio.

The team members chosen will gain knowledge and perspective and will add value in return. The exposure they gain will be just as valuable. The hospitality industry in many ways remains a business of relationships, and one never knows when a positive impression made weeks or months ago will lead to an opportunity.

Joseph (Joe) Berger is Executive Vice President & President, Americas for Hilton Worldwide. He is responsible for the operations functions of over 300 corporately managed Hilton Worldwide hotels and Hilton Grand Vacation resorts throughout North, Central and South America.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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