Meaningful Work: The Act of Service
By Kimberly Abel-Lanier Vice President & General Manager Workforce Solutions, Maritz Motivation Solutions | April 10, 2016
The American workforce is changing. By 2020, Millennials are predicted to represent 50 percent of the working population. In terms of attracting, retaining and motivating the best and the brightest in this group "it's simply going to take more than a paycheck, good benefits and a ping pong table. This group (and the upcoming Baby Z's) has lofty goals...they want to impact the world and connect to a higher purpose. This means there are higher expectations for meaningful work coming to the mainstream employer. In 2013, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reported a 12 percent increase over 10 years in the number of employees who rank "meaningful work on the job" as "very important" to their satisfaction at work. Other factors like compensation, job security, and communication" remained high-ranking, but didn't increase by more than 1 percent in the same period. Increasingly, workers just want to feel that they are making a difference and doing something important.
More than a paycheck, employees today want to know they impact society as a whole, beyond the organization or any one individual. They want to be acknowledged, appreciated and rewarded for making a difference through their work.
Simultaneously, the expectations for service have gone up. In a 2001 article for HRZone, Tom Knighton recounted the prediction of Dell's at-the-time Chief Information Officer, Jerry Gregoire(1), "The customer experience is the next competitive battleground." Knighton elaborated, "The customer experience makes the difference between a loyal customer and an enthusiastic customer. The people who are involved in creating and delivering the experience make the difference between customer affection or customer defection; and building a powerful service brand makes the difference between market leadership and market indifference."
Hospitality employers are now charged with the task of connecting meaning to great service for their workforce. This task requires climbing up a mountain of disengagement in today's workforce. In 2013, Gallup reported(2) only 30 percent of American employees were "actively engaged" in their work." Aside from the costs of lost productivity, the opportunity cost of subpar service can be the difference between high and low occupancy rates. Companies with high employee engagement had twice the customer loyalty (repeat purchases, likely to recommend, higher wallet share) than companies with average employee engagement levels(3). Researchers for Gallup reported, "When organizations successfully engage their customers and their employees, they experience a 240 percent boost in performance-related business outcomes compared with an organization with neither engaged employees nor engaged customers."(4)
Let's establish what makes engaged employees unique. New York Times bestselling author and Forbes columnist Kevin Kruse defines employee engagement as "the emotional commitment an employee has to the organization and its goals." Engaged employees give discretionary effort; they go what's known as "the extra mile" in support of delivering on the brand promise.
Imagine the level of service your employees could offer customers if the majority were engaged in accomplishing work they consider meaningful. When employees are dedicated to going beyond their job descriptions to accomplish the greater goal of service, the customer experience goes from problems, to good, to great, to memorable. And, that's where "cult loyalty" starts.
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