Ensuring Your Hire Won't Ruin Your Culture

By Zoe Connolly Co-Founder & Managing Director, Hospitality Spotlight | December 25, 2016

Corporate culture is critical to ensuring that the experience guests actually receive is representative of the experience that hotel leadership hopes to portray. Culture can be affected in any number of ways, from management implementing employee appreciation programs to maintain top talent, through far less formal interactions like a couple of workers putting together a plan to ensure there's coffee to start a shift together. It can be augmented, strengthened, improved, measured, and yes; culture can be ruined.

In fact, ruining corporate culture at a property or across a region can happen far more quickly than one might expect, and all it takes is a single bad apple.

Astoundingly, recent data points to the idea that a single toxic employee can ruin an entire corporate culture. In fact, the average toxic employee can cost a company more than $12,000. This number does not include efficiencies that can be garnered by keeping the right team in place. And naturally, turnover rate increases when there is a toxic employee in the mix.

As a hiring manager, you've taken the time to review resumes, meet candidates, negotiate benefits and salary and finally on-boarded a new employee. This last piece of the equation, onboarding, offer leadership the ability to ensure that one potential bad apple doesn't ruin an entire batch.

The next few steps allow leadership to ensure that potentially great new talent doesn't ruin your culture:

  • Increase Leadership Engagement - As a management team, being both available
    and visible to your employees is a necessity. There is a well-intentioned,
    but ultimately misguided theory that having an open door policy is all
    that's required. These policies are great, but don't ensure that employees
    will come to talk. Leadership should ask questions and check in regularly,
    even when nothing is going on.
  • Take Stock with Those Involved in the Hiring Process - Management should
    connect with those employees that helped in the interview process and loved
    the candidate. While there is a risk of confirmation bias (that is, those
    who loved a candidate will seek to validate their initial feelings), it's
    important that advocates for a recent hire are given an opportunity to feel
    validated. This is a great way to make team members feel more invested in a
    new hire, and can help more readily integrate this employee into the team
    and environment. The opposite of this is also true. It's important for
    people who may feel as though their feelings were overruled in the hiring
    process be given an opportunity to be heard. So-called "bad apples" can be
    hired, as well as created. If you've got someone who's empowered with hiring
    responsibilities, it should mean you trust their judgement. Be certain they
    feel appreciated, even if you went against their recommendation.
  • Speak to the Skeptics Too - As mentioned, bad apples can be created when an
    employee doesn't feel heard. Going against a hiring recommendation happens
    regularly, but is a terrific way to inadvertently make an employee feel
    alienated. Leaders must meet with those employees that helped in the
    interview process and were skeptical about this new talent. Maybe they
    fought against the hire or they just didn't sign off. If they felt
    threatened or just dislike the person, they may still feel the same. Unless
    they've become friends or friendly, more than likely they still feel the
    same way. Make sure they aren't shutting this person out. If there's been a
    "check-in" talk and things stay the same randomly change schedules, groups or
    cubicles. There is a reason why teachers moved kids around back in
    elementary. The idea works. Make sure not to point anyone out.
  • Incorporate Team Building Events - Whether it is a catered working lunch or a
    grill set up outside the office for a BBQ, team building events let the
    employees know you care about them as individuals. In addition these events
    can encourage new hires or shy employees to become more involved in an
    organization's corporate culture.
  • Keep Your Ears Open - More often than not, people usually just want to feel
    heard. Be certain to greet both formal opportunities for feedback (such as
    360 degree reviews) and informal chances for employees to make their opinion
    heard. Surveys where employees can offer a vote, small events and focus
    groups, and yes, team building events can enable a hotel's employees to feel
    as though their voice is being heard.
  • Reward Your People - As we've discussed in previous columns, various employee
    engagement programs can range dramatically in size, scope and cost. One
    simple approach to maintaining and improving corporate culture is creating
    an award system where employees can provide recognition for their peers and
    colleagues. For this to work, it's important to establish ground rules
    (this isn't a popularity contest) and ensure that praise is spread
    throughout an organization (the same person shouldn't be eligible to win
    more than a certain number of times per year). In an ideal situation, it's
    best that any award is something that the employee can share, so it can turn
    into a team building event. However, if you're looking to minimize costs,
    something as simple as a killer parking spot (and the bragging rights that
    go with it) can be effective.
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Coming up in April 2019...

Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. 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.