Employee Engagement: How to use recognition and non-monetary rewards to drive employee engagement

By Justin Sun Compensation Analyst, Lockheed Martin | March 11, 2012

In today’s market where rewarding staff with salary increases and bonuses may be difficult to come by, the use of non-monetary rewards to drive engagement is no longer just an optional or nice thing to do. One of the most common nonfinancial rewards is recognition, and you can experience a high return on investment in the use of this simple, yet powerful reward through increased guest satisfaction ratings and loyalty.

But what does recognition actually have to do with the bottom line? A model that demonstrates the importance of recognition’s role in driving financial performance is the service profit-chain. Developed by a group of Harvard University researchers in the nineties, the service profit-chain claims that a direct link exists between top service experiences, customer loyalty, and profit. Research shows that low employee turnover, due to high engagement, is correlated with high customer satisfaction and that a culture focused on showing genuine care for both customers and fellow employees is one of the highest drivers of engagement.

Furthermore, a recent study by MarketTools Inc. for Globoforce confirms that a lack of sincere recognition provided to employees is a leading cause of turnover. The study identifies a solid correlation between the level of recognition delivered by managers and the loyalty of their direct reports.
Thus, the effort that managers invest in getting to know their employees and the motivators that drive them to go above and beyond in their performance can translate into a dramatic increase in guest satisfaction scores and loyalty.

To illustrate, let’s take as an example a top-performing front desk agent in your hotel who is having a difficult week due to a personal issue outside of work. Being aware of the trauma that this employee is dealing with, you could offer her the option of working a more flexible schedule, at least temporarily, to show that you are concerned about her personal needs. Catering to this employee’s needs outside of the workplace is one way in which you could show her your appreciation for her continuous commitment to exceptional guest service and enhance her motivation level in doing so.

Managers need to take the time to get to know their employees and what makes them tick in the same way that they seek to learn more about their guests’ preferences. By becoming more aware of what incentives—from a flexible working schedule to gift cards—are most meaningful to your employees, you can ensure that you obtain the greatest return on investment through your nonfinancial rewards. In an environment as mentally and physically stressful as a hotel, a simple effort to show real care and concern for your employees can have a dramatic impact on how they treat your guests.

If you want your employees to smile sincerely at guests and to greet each of them by name, you should demonstrate this behavior by smiling and greeting your own employees by name. If you want employees to engage in conversation with guests about how their day is going, you can encourage this behavior by showing a sincere desire to know how your employees are doing throughout the day. Only a few minutes of your time engaging in conversation with your employees can go a long way in driving engagement and achieving business goals.

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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.