Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The High Cost of Apathy

Have you ever wondered why turnover in a particular department seems uncharacteristically high, compared to other departments in your hotel?

Or maybe, you’ve been frustrated because you have lost one or more star performers, but for some reason that mediocre employee that everyone seems to be clear is just that, manages to keep his job in spite of what seems like his limited abilities? 

Could it be that you have a manager that is committing one of two particular hospitality sins?  Is he or she either managing to the lowest common denominator, or, apathetic in the management of their team members?  Either one will net you the same affect. 

It’s one of the reasons that I like exit interviews.

Granted, employees have to be confident that what they share, in confidence, will indeed be held in confidence after they leave, in order for them to be willing to share, but it’s worth it if you are able to coach departing employees into sharing what’s really going on in their department, and perhaps, why they are really leaving, despite what they may have told their manager, and he in turn told you.

All too often when you scratch beneath the surface you may find that you have a manager that does not hold his employees accountable, or, he doesn’t hold his employees equally accountable, and after a while, those star performers that you were so excited to have on board in the first place, get frustrated with the lack of consistency, or worse, the lack of commitment compared to what they were told when they were hired, and they decide to try their luck elsewhere.

They joined your hotel because of the commitment to service, they read about your company’s values on your web site, they read testimonials from existing employees on your recruitment pages, and then once they were hired, they were subjected to your extensive orientation for new employees, where manager after manager came in and spoke about your unwavering commitment to service.

Then, they landed in their new department, all excited about what they were a part of, and sooner or later they found themselves on a shift paired up with that mediocre employee I referred to earlier, (let’s call him John).  They watched as John repeatedly arrived late for his shift, unprepared.  They watched as he dispensed the minimum of service requirements to guests who were clearly unimpressed, and most importantly, they watched as they saw that their manager could see these things too, and did nothing.  They saw their manager roll his eyes as John fumbled to move a guest who had been sent to a dirty room, and most likely, before becoming so frustrated, and embarrassed by John’s service standards, they approached their manager, probably more than once, to complain.

Unfortunately, their manager likely responded by telling them things like; he’s only a few minutes late, or, there’s nothing I can do (about his lack of service) because I haven’t received any guest complaints, or, he’s always been like that and he’s been here forever, or other responses that clearly demonstrated that their manager either did not know how to hold his employees accountable, or what’s worse, he chose what he perceived as the path of least resistance, an apathetic choice to manage his employees to the lowest common denominator.

It has never ceased to amaze me when managers don’t realize the impact on other employees when they do NOT take the necessary action, to hold sub-performers accountable to the high standards that their company stands for, and that their guests expect, bringing down the whole team as a result.

Employees who are proud and passionate about what they do – the service that they provide to their guests, will not stick around in that environment.  They become frustrated and they actively choose to vote with their feet, and it doesn’t end there, not with the technology that we all live with now.  They tell all of their friends, on facebook and twitter, their fellow students in hospitality programs, that your hotel may talk about service, but it’s just that, a lot of talk, so if you really want to work at a hotel that is committed to service, don’t work there.

And if you don’t think that impacts your ability, over time, to attract the best and the brightest as they search out ways to make their mark in our industry, you’re kidding yourself.

No one can afford an apathetic manager or a manager that manages his people to the lowest common denominator.  It’s like a cancer, it starts out small, it goes unnoticed for a while, then it pops up in one area and before long, if it goes untreated, it spreads to other areas, and left untreated long enough, it will kill your business. 

Need an experienced hospitality professional to help your property reach its full potential?  Contact me.

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