Mobilizing a Mentoring Mentality for Empowering Associates

By Nigel Cossey General Manager, Courtyard by Marriott Dallas Allen at the John Q. Hammons Center | April 22, 2018

Think about the many doors in a hotel. Have you ever thought of theses structures as barriers to communication with your associates? A closed office door can communicate, "I'm not to be disturbed," or simply, "I'm out on hotel rounds." In my early career, I saw a general manager physically remove the door from the hinges of the food and beverage staff's office area because the door tended to always be closed. 

A consistently closed door can emit an unapproachable management style. When I was working my way through the hospitality ranks with a former employer, I experienced an environment in which a couple of general managers probably didn't even know my name or what I did at the hotel. I promised myself that I would not adopt that management style, nor would I foster a culture where other managers around me did so.

Open the Door

Now imagine an open door and its possibilities. An open door can encourage healthy communication, welcome input and ideas, and build trust with associates. By making yourself available and working side by side with your team, both figurative and real walls can come down. You can pave the way for helping associates feel more comfortable approaching you, potentially leading to their becoming more empowered in making decisions.

My open-door policy is one of the first things I discuss during new hire orientation. I emphasize how it is critical to be available to your team. This means being accessible around the hotel and in your physical office space. My experience has been that this approach inspires a more positive culture and sparks associates' interest in hospitality career choices that they previously may not have discovered or shared.

I hold regularly scheduled meetings with our hotel's assistant general manager, department heads, and line level associates in training. By promoting a workplace where everyone can speak up, share ideas, and have a voice, I am working to nurture an open environment in which we strive toward a common goal as well as individual development. This approach is leaving its signature on our local hotel culture.

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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.