Error Recovery Performance: A New Component of the Hotel Employee Job Assessment
By Priyanko Guchait, PhD Associate Professor Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, University of Houston | January 26, 2020
Errors are defined as "unintended deviations from plans, goals, or adequate feedback processing as well as an incorrect action that results from lack of knowledge. The unintentional nature of the deviation is one way to differentiate between errors and violations, since violations are intentional deviations from standards, norms, practices, or recommendations.
Errors occur in every hospitality organization and can result in negative consequences such as loss of time, faulty products, production and quality losses, increased costs, loss of revenue, decreased employee performance and morale, loss of clients, and even physical injuries. Even after using sophisticated technologies, developing rigid systems, and enacting strict policies to control employee behavior, errors (especially human errors) will occasionally occur, leading to negative consequences. As such, managing or handling errors effectively is crucial for the success of any hospitality business.
One type of error that has been extensively studied in the service, hospitality, and tourism areas is "service failure". Service failure is defined as service performance that falls below a customer's expectations. Service recovery refers to the actions an organization takes to respond to a service failure. Managing service failures effectively is crucial as well-executed recoveries enhance customer satisfaction while poor recoveries lead to customer defections. Thus, the majority of service failure/recovery research initially focused on customers. Hospitality scholars noticed the importance of frontline employees in service failure and recoveries, and as have extensively focused on service recovery performance of frontline employees.
However, this line of research has not been applied to errors other than direct customer service failures. What about errors that do not directly involve and/or influence customers? For example: What about errors that an accountant in a hotel makes that may affect the overall company's performance? What about an expeditor who notices that a wrong food order is about to be delivered or the food was not cooked properly, and corrects it even before the food reaches the customer? Scholars have mostly ignored such errors and error recoveries.
It is important to be able to evaluate how employees handle or manage errors in general rather than only focusing on errors where a customer is involved. There is a need to focus on these internal errors and recoveries as well, as they can have a long-term and indirect effect on service/product quality, customer satisfaction, and firm performance. A service recovery performance measure may not be applicable to employees who do not regularly interact with customers (e.g., accountants, auditors, cook, dishwasher etc.) but that does not mean these individuals do not make errors/mistakes and do not engage in managing those errors.
Additionally, some errors and their recoveries may be noticeable only to employees, peers, and managers. Therefore, there is a need to evaluate if employees are effective in managing/resolving errors and failures.
Error Recovery Performance refers to dealing with errors and their consequences after an error has occurred. Service recovery is conceptualized as employee abilities and actions to resolve a service failure to the satisfaction of the customer. Thus, service recovery focuses particularly on recoveries of service-related errors involving customers. On the other hand, error management/recovery incorporates recoveries of all errors including external (involving customers) and internal (excluding customers – e.g., errors made and recovered by employees handling back-of-house operations such as human resources or accountants). Moreover, error management/recovery incorporates proactive error trapping –- that is, catching the error before its negative consequences can unfold.
Error recovery performance is defined as the extent to which employees believe they are capable and willing to handle, manage, and resolve mistakes or failures effectively after they have occurred. Thus, the concept of error recovery performance is broader in scope compared to service recovery performance as it incorporates recoveries of all errors including service errors. While service recovery performance is geared towards customers, error recovery performance may be geared towards coworkers, managers, departments, and organizations along with customers.
This allows hospitality organizations to use a standardized instrument to evaluate error recovery performance of all employees in the organization irrespective of job positions. The following instrument can be used by organizations if employees are self-evaluating their error recovery performance. However, the instrument can be used by peers to rate their coworkers, and by supervisors to rate their subordinates. For example, the second item can be "This employee feels comfortable ….situation." The third item can be "This employee does not …errors."
Effective service recovery performance of employees has been linked with customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction, and intention to leave. Effective organizational error management practices has been linked with firm performance.
Error recovery performance of employees and managers is likely to lead to work-unit effectiveness. A study by Van Dyck et al. (2005) found that organizations' effective management of errors drives firm performance, as errors and their negative consequences are effectively handled and minimized. Error management also incorporates quick detection and catching the error before its negative consequences can unfold, often referred to as "error trapping." Such proactive recovery behavior (e.g. addressing error recovery issues before they become major problems) drives firm performance.
Drivers of Error Recovery Performance include leadership, supportive work environment, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment.
Leader behavioral integrity (BI) has been defined as the perceived pattern of alignment between an entity's words and actions. It comprises both perceptions of promise-keeping and of enacting espoused values. In the hospitality work context, it would represent the extent to which the employees believe their manager lives by his or her word. Leader behavioral integrity affects the trust employees are willing to place in their leaders and therefore the extent to which they will allow leaders to shape their behaviors and attitudes.
Leaders high in behavioral integrity offer stability and consistency by promoting clear directions and values with which followers may identify. This personal identification of the follower with the leaders and the organization makes them more willing to promote a good image of the organization and they are also more willing to adapt to changes and take initiative to improve the overall effectiveness of the organization. Thus, leader behavioral integrity is likely to drive employees' error recovery performance.
Strong hospitality leaders set clear expectations that occasional errors may be inevitable, but the goal is to minimize their occurrence and to manage and recover errors efficiently and effectively, instead of ignoring the problem or blaming others. Such clear expectations are likely to enhance employees' error recovery performance. Employees would be less likely to panic and freeze in these situations and more likely to know how to change/adapt their own behavior to resolve the error once they figure out that things did not go as planned.
The focus will be on correcting the error instead of blaming. Thus, leader behavioral integrity is likely to make employees believe that they have the capability to recover errors effectively and also increase their willingness and engagement in handling errors effectively.
Organizational support for error management involves: encouraging employees to communicate about errors, helping employees in error situations, sharing error knowledge, supporting quick detecting and handling of errors, encouraging employees to learn from their own and/or others' errors, caring about employees' wellbeing, showing concern, and having regard for employees' best interests. Support for error management from the organization, supervisors, and coworkers make employees feel obligated and they reciprocate through engagement in superior error recovery performances.
Availability of support for error management also make employees believe that they are psychologically safe (i.e., they will not be blamed, ridiculed, or punished when errors occur). In such positive work environments employees trust and respect each other. Such positive work environments lead to higher job satisfaction and commitment towards organizations, which consequently result in superior error recovery performances.
Tips for Managers include practical recommendations – to reward, train, equip and empower. However, the most critical factor for all of these practices is that employees must see them as a genuine commitment on the part of management. Companies can focus on error recovery training. For example, simulations can be used to train employees on predicting errors, or detecting errors quickly, and resolving errors before it results in a major problem. Companies may choose to reward and recognize individuals for effective error recovery, which can be included as a criterion in employee performance appraisals.
Excellent recoveries need to be celebrated where possible. Managers can strive to create a comfortable working environment where employees feel comfortable sharing error information, and seeking feedback about how to handle mistakes effectively. Hospitality organizations may also need to select individuals who maintain their composure in the face of errors and service failures, and do not panic or freeze in crisis situations.
Companies should consider an assessment test during the selection process of candidates, to also help identify the appropriate individuals who can remain comfortable and confident in such service roles.
Van Dyck, C., Frese, M., Baer, M., Sonnentag, S., 2005. Organizational error management culture and its impact on performance: A two-study replication. Journal of Applied Psychology 90, 1228-1240.
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