Productivity - a Euphemism that Costs Hotels

Are you leveraging productivity beyond its cliched definition?

By S. Lakshmi Narasimhan Founder, Ignite Insight LLC | November 25, 2018

Among the various cliched terms that are bandied around in business circles, nothing is more of a euphemism than the term productivity. Everybody talks about it, everybody claims it in no small measure but rarely does anybody have a hang of it. It means different things to different people and is the equivalent of a business enigma. If you were to pick at random 10 business individuals and ask them what productivity meant to them, it is almost certain that you will get 10 different versions. Productivity may be defined in terms of volume, cost, price, revenue, profit or any number of other performance measures. This has the effect of making productivity an enigma of sorts.

The term productivity can broadly be defined as: "the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input."

Going Beyond the Cliche

So, effectiveness or efficiency in terms of output for each unit of input can be considered the definition of productivity. In the manufacturing industry, productivity can be measured with this definition accurately. You produce so many units of output for every unit of input. However, in the service industry and in particular hospitality and restaurant business, definition and measuring productivity are much more tricky.

For instance in the rooms department of a hotel, productivity in cleaning guest rooms is a common measure to determine the efficiency of the Housekeeping department. Productivity here is determined by dividing number of hours spent by rooms cleaned per shift. This is a rooms cleaning efficiency expressed as the time it takes to clean each guest room in a shift. It can also be expressed the opposite way - number of guest rooms cleaned per hour. While all of this is a straightforward seeming performance measure, digging a little deeper raises questions such as: 

  • Are all employees who clean guest rooms in the Housekeeping department permanent employees or are there temporary ones or even trainees?
  • Does the calculation for number of hours include break time? If break times are included, does this really reflect efficiency accurately? and so on.

Finite Resources / Time

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Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.