Resetting the Burnout Clock

By Joyce Gioia CEO, Employer of Choice International, Inc. | August 01, 2013

With non-traditional workweeks, night shifts, and difficult guests, hotel employees have very taxing jobs. On top of that, the demanding responsibilities and long hours often lead to the condition known as "burnout". Often hotel executives think of this state as irreparable, however wise hospitality leaders know that they can help the employee and retain a valued team member with a few very strategic moves.

Recognizing the Signs

Most hotel executives become aware of a burned out employee, when they see that productivity is dropping and there is less attention to detail. Other signs of burnout are reduced energy, higher absenteeism, higher levels of irritability, increased use of food, drugs, or alcohol to "feel better", and unexplained headaches, backaches, or other physical complaints. They may even feel "lost" or "beaten down"

Whatever the symptom, it is important to catch this condition early. The earlier you take action, the more likely you will have a positive result. Employee turnover is very expensive—for you, as well as the company.

Saving an employee is truly a win–win-win. The employee wins, because they get to keep their job; the supervisor and executive win, because they do not have to train a replacement employee; and the employer wins, because it drives more profit to the bottom line by saving the costs of advertising, interviewing, onboarding, training, and more.

"Some people simply can't shake off burnout", said Linda Fulayter, General Manager of the Hampton Inn and Suites Flagstaff West in Arizona. "I teach them to ask for help," she continued. "They need to come talk with me to discuss what happened so that we may address the situation together."

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Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.