Why Employee Engagement is Essential for Hospitality

By Kimberly Abel-Lanier Vice President & General Manager Workforce Solutions, Maritz Motivation Solutions | April 05, 2015

In the hospitality industry, it’s no surprise that the guest experience is a top priority. Yet customers today are looking for more memorable and dynamic experiences - ones that make them feel their business is appreciated. Whether it’s altering a menu item to accommodate individual preferences or extending a room check out time, these above-and-beyond actions are what guests have come to value in their experiences.
While organizations place an importance on this need to please customers, many fail to realize that their employees play a pivotal role in creating these guest experiences. The reality is that employee satisfaction and employee loyalty have a direct link to customer satisfaction and customer loyalty.

Unfortunately, many organizations have a skewed view of the experiences their employees are delivering day in and day out. A recent study conducted by Bain & Company, a global management consulting firm, investigated the gap between actual and perceived customer satisfaction. The study found that 80% of firms surveyed believed they deliver a “superior experience” to their customers, while only 8% of their customers reported receiving “superior” service.

That disconnect should not be ignored. When 81% of satisfied consumers are more likely to give a company repeat business, you can be sure that disengaged employees delivering subpar guest experiences are impacting your bottom line.

Look Internally for a Competitive Advantage

Hotels used to be able to compete on price, location and amenities alone, but the growing demands of consumers in the “Customer is King” landscape mean that great service has never mattered more. While the era of Amazon.com has some consumers favoring convenience and price above all, you can’t win the hearts and minds of customers without great service. Your associates and managers often leave the first and most lasting impression on guests — and their dedication to customer service relies on their engagement with the company.
Walmart founder Sam Walton wrote in his autobiography: “The way management treats the associates is exactly the way associates will then treat the customer. And if the associates treat the customers well, they will return again and again.”

This quote embodies this revolutionary idea that engagement is not a simply a transactional relationship between employer and employee, but rather a translational relationship between an organization, its employees and the customer. If organizations in the hospitality industry wish to remain competitive, they must meet their customer’s service needs by first meeting the engagement needs of their employees.
When guests arrive at your hotel and expect great service, you can bet that an engaged hotel associate is going to be the one more willing to work to find solutions for the guest. In addition, an engaged employee will help spread positive word of mouth to their friends and family and ultimately will be a driving force in a guest’s decision for repeat visits.

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Human Resources: Value Creation

Businesses must evolve to stay competitive and this is also true of employment positions within those organizations. In the hotel industry, for example, the role that HR professionals perform continues to broaden and expand. Today, they are generally responsible for five key areas - government compliance; payroll and benefits; employee acquisition and retention; training and development; and organizational structure and culture. In this enlarged capacity, HR professionals are no longer seen as part of an administrative cost center, but rather as a member of the leadership team that creates strategic value within their organization. HR professionals help to define company policies and plans; enact and enforce systems of accountability; and utilize definable metrics to measure and justify outcomes. Of course, there are always new issues for HR professionals to address. Though seemingly safe for the moment, will the Affordable Care Act ultimately be repealed and replaced and, if so, what will the ramifications be? There are issues pertaining to Millennials in the workforce and women in leadership roles, as well as determining the appropriate use of social media within the organization. There are new onboarding processes and e-learning training platforms to evaluate, in addition to keeping abreast of political issues like the minimum wage hike movement, or the re-evaluation of overtime rules. Finally, there are genuine immigration and deportation issues that affect HR professionals, especially if they are located in Dreamer Cities, or employ a workforce that could be adversely impacted by federal government policies. The March Hotel Business Review will take a look at some of the issues, strategies and techniques that HR professionals are employing to create and sustain value in their organization.