By Jane Auster
Change comes in many forms in the dynamic hospitality industry: preparing for reorganization, adopting a new business model, introducing a program, managing growth.
Change, whatever the reason, is most successful when your employees share your vision, understand the path to change, and participate fully in the process. How can you help them accept and adapt?
Promoting exceptional customer service
Compass Group Canada launched a program in 2008, called the Seven Essentials of Exceptional Customer Service. “The idea was to promote to our employees a retail mindset, and in that retail mindset, the highest priority is exceptional customer service,” says Brenda Brown, Vice President of Human Resources. “Our motivation was the simple concept that great people deliver great service, leading to great results. If your customers are happy, you feel good about what you’re doing, and you get great results.”
How then to communicate a far-reaching mindset change to 22,000 employees over 2,200 units across Canada?
Compass Group Canada developed a day-long session, rolled out over the year to all of the (line) employees, in a road show of interactive learning, anecdotes and role-playing.
“We wanted to package it as a learning opportunity in seven easy steps in the way employees relate to customers and how customers, in exchange, will relate to the employees,” Brown explains.
The seven essentials program
1. Promote good taste. Take pride in your appearance, merchandise your food in good taste.
2. We “guest” right. Greeting customers with a smile, remembering customer names and preferences.
3. Add a personal touch. Make eye contact with your customer to show you’re friendly. Remember to say thank you to customers.
4. Fast action, say thanks. Respecting that customers’ time is valuable and employees should respond quickly but never compromise on quality.
5. You own your station. The importance of employees “owning” their stations and positions.
6. Use every chance to earn their thanks. Exceeding customer expectations.
7. We win this together. Respecting and helping out co-workers.
In 2009, the focus shifts to managers, who will engage in their own “Seven Essentials” training to ensure alignment at all levels of the company.
Managing aggressive growth and shift of focus
Benchmark Hospitality is in the enviable position of planning to double over the next seven to 10 years from the current 5,200 employees. That’s news to celebrate in the hospitality industry, but as with downsizing, aggressive growth must be managed properly.
“With that kind of big change comes the need to help employees adapt to a more international reality,” says Alex White, Benchmark Hospitality’s Director of Recruitment. “First and foremost, we’ve seen the company grow from being domestic-specific to more of an international presence. We have one property under development in Panama, with others waiting to be announced in South and Central America.”
To prepare for a bigger and more internationally focused hospitality company, Benchmark is investing in an aggressive program of employee training and development.
1. Communicate within the company. Benchmark’s first step has been sharing the company’s plans with the current employee base. “What it’s done for us is create an excitement and enthusiasm,” says White. “People want to be associated with a company that’s growing and strengthening.”
2. Train and develop employees for growth. Benchmark is focusing on the essentials, such as what it means to be a better leader or manager. Training aims to nurture and mentor talent and help high potential individuals with the goal of retaining top performers.
3. Educate your employees. Benchmark has a partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute to offer up to 50 different classes ranging from basic hotel operations to international relations and facilities management.
4. Spread the word. Benchmark is using its plans to create excitement among existing employees as a way of attracting new talent.
Tips to help your employees adapt
- Start change at the top. Everyone, from the CEO down, should share and embrace change.
- Communicate the value of change. To get buy-in from your employees, show them the importance of doing things differently and their impact on the health of your hospitality operation.
- Engage your employees and involve them in the process. Says Brenda Brown, “You’re not simply preaching to them, but getting them to touch, feel and experience what has to happen.”
- Empower your employees. They need to know the changes they’re adopting will make a difference in your hospitality organization.
- Train to retain. Investing in employee education keeps your employees flexible and committed. Lasting change involves a combination of training, reinforcement, follow-up and refreshers.
- Recognize achievement. Use customer satisfaction surveys and other measures that demonstrate how your employees have met and exceeded expectation.
- Don’t forget compensation. Nothing helps employees adapt more effectively than just rewards.