SpotLight: Big Brother is watching YOU.
By Sarah Muxlow ~ weekly column exclusive at 4Hoteliers.com
Thursday, 19th July 2007
Over recent years we have witnessed the increased use of high-tech security cameras in all sectors of hospitality -

When it comes to improving security conditions for both staff and guests alike, no-one can doubt the value of knowing who is coming in and out of the building and what they are doing when in-doors. 

However, in-house security cameras are also being increasingly used to watch not only for outside intrusion but also day-to-day activity on the inside. What is the price and effect of the spying eye? Employees are already frequently subjected to drug testing, mass screening and accountability form filling, all to deter misbehaviour.

A working environment that is so people focused, such as in hotels, resorts and restaurants is run both on trust and being in the ‘know'. However, where trust is concerned, there is a need for a healthy internal environment. For example, a structured and planned internal culture which fosters open communication, offers training and the acceptance of error, delegates suitable amounts of responsibility and has defined measurable accountability, enables positive growth.

One criticism of security camera's is that they are eroding trust. Performance is already measure in relation to quality control and assurance. Auditing is becoming a subject greater than in the financial context. There are new standards of recommended accounting practice, detailed health and safety requirements, complex employment and pension legislation and measures to ensure non-discrimination and complaint procedures. However, over recording and reporting at times leads to regular re-ranking and restructuring which in tern creates a defensive work force.

Whilst a camera aims to reduce security problems, there is increasing evidence that such systems can undermine trust and elicit the behaviour set up to eliminate. When employees know they are being watched and feel this, their motivation is reduced. Honesty and integrity in the work place isn't all together scarce. There are, as mentioned, frequently sufficient accountability systems for monitoring effectiveness and efficiency of work. Similarly to being micro-managed on a task by task basis, it can all fee too much and ‘being watched' can induce stress for the honest and willing employee.

Distorting professional practice can also evoke the action they are trying to catch. "Well if we are believed to be stealing food from the dessert buffet and we are not…..we may as well be and there are clever ways to do just that, ways that the camera can't catch."

Alternatives to the camera are empowering staff to take a pride in their job. Managers who are present, hands on and know their staff are more likely to spot signs of misdemeanour. Detailed protocols and procedures, record keeping and defined targets give the structure, personal contact adds depth.

Empowering accountability and making sure staff have the know-how and are happy to do the job they are in is a good start. Following up with installing a value for the organization as a whole and real concepts of team work.

SpotLight is the weekly column exclusively written for 4Hoteliers.com by Sarah Muxlow, it is highlighting the challenges and issues which the global hospitality is facing today.

Sarah is writing for hotel and restaurant owners, hotel chain managers, producers/growers/sellers of food & beverage, restaurant associations, governing bodies and hotel schools. She is looking at the problems they face...competition, trends of branding, staff shortages, unskilled staff, turning out students who are looking for good in-house management training schemes with hotel chains, what makes a good quality training course at a hotel school and more... 

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