Keys to Success: Employee Satisfaction

2016 is going to be an amazing year for the hotel industry as we previously forecasted. We have also covered the Top 10 Trends of the year to help us stay ahead of the game.  But one of the additional keys to success in the coming year is employee satisfaction. Without a satisfied hotel staff we have no foundation upon which to build.

At the recent Marriott owners meeting I attended in December, when asked what will make Marriott hotels successful, Bill Marriott said that the key to success at a hotel is to take care of our employees because employees will in turn take care of our guests and our guests will come back.  I could not agree more so here are some thoughts on how we should walk that talk.


Strong leadership is one of the areas we focus on within our hotels to promote a positive environment. Attitude starts from the top and trickles down to everyone else. Good managers/supervisors with a hands-on approach can build teams up and help grow individuals. When employees have someone to lean on, learn from, and that listens to them, they are much more satisfied and their quality of work significantly increases.

As an example, our front desk staff has some of the most challenging work on property as they interact with our guests more than anyone else. This makes their jobs extremely important to the success of our hotels and as such, their satisfaction in the workplace is paramount. Whether it is assisting with a guest issue or covering the front desk while an employee is on break, it is the littlest things that can make the biggest difference.

As most of us know, employee satisfaction extends well beyond front desk agents to housekeepers, maintenance staff, and all other employees be they managers, supervisors, or line level employees.  What could be perceived as the smallest interaction between an employee and a guest could create a lifetime of memories translating into a loyal guest, referral business, or an excellent TripAdvisor review.

The phrase “that’s not my job” is a killer for a hotel, restaurant or frankly any service business. Likewise, a title does not limit one’s ability to assist in other departments. Seeing a General Manager cover the front desk or a Director of Sales helping room service clear trays may not seem significant on the surface, but it sends a unifying message to the entire team that we have each other’s backs. Teamwork breeds satisfaction.

Recognizing the team for doing a good job is equally important in overall employee satisfaction. Individual accolades are always nice for a positive guest comment or a job well done. Setting goals for the team as a whole creates key performance indicators (KPIs). Whether these goals are for perfect sells in a given period or reaching a certain TripAdvisor ranking, these KPIs give the team something to strive for that can then be celebrated together as a team once the milestones are achieved.  An ice cream social or bringing in lunch is not that expensive and will pay dividends in terms of increased revenue well above and beyond the cost of these functions.

As was discussed in Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager, leadership behavior that acknowledges someone for having done something right will stimulate the team as a whole. Unfortunately, many managers see their role as correcting behavior only when it is wrong. We have all worked for the manager that was always on our case when we made a mistake, was slow to give praise for having done something right and rarely said, “good job.” Good Leadership is always noticing when someone does something right and makes mention of it. Blanchard also promoted “management by walking around” which in our business refers to checking restaurant service in process, inspecting rooms and working “in the trenches.”

In Service America by Karl Albrecht and Ron Eke, “moments of truth” was a phrase coined by Jan Carlzon, then president of Scandinavian Airlines, to reflect moments of customer service interaction. As such, every service encounter that a team member will make and every expectation that leadership has must be communicated and reinforced. When a team member has clear expectations from leadership, job satisfaction greatly increases and service scores soar.

Labor Costs

Fiscal health is another leadership responsibility item that requires guiding the organization toward profitability. Line managers and department heads sometimes lose sight of the fact that their decisions have financial impacts on the business. Leadership must always be caring and compassionate but today’s worker compensation costs, insurance costs, energy costs and labor costs may cause a business to fail. If that occurs, human conditions like layoffs, bankruptcy, foreclosure or hostile takeover will be much worse than the stress of dealing with and reigning in expenses.

One of the easiest ways to add stress to the team is by understaffing the hotel. Labor is one of our biggest costs as hoteliers and while we need to be diligent in managing labor levels, cutting hours only to save a few dollars leaves a heavy burden on the team and may actually be detrimental to the hotel’s financial performance in the long run. A stressed out team is not only bad for internal morale but also noticeable to guests. Alternatively, an adequately staffed hotel with satisfied employees is not only evident to our guests but tends to be acknowledged via social media platforms that provide terrific exposure for the hotel.

We are in the service industry. This means that despite the cost of labor and benefits, we need to provide good service to our employees as well as our guests. Employees who are satisfied at work, show up with a positive attitude, receive strong guidance, have clear expectations and are recognized for their efforts convey these attributes to our guests and provide a substantially better service experience. After all, employees want to feel valued, cared for and respected.  Give them that and they will go above and beyond every time.  By ensuring that our service is top-notch, we are setting our hotels up for success not only in 2016, but for years to come.



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