Taming the Beast... What Hotel Managers Need to Know To Reduce Turnover.
By Neil Salerno
Thursday, 10th August 2006
"When dealing with people - remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic - but with creatures of emotion" (Dale Carnegie).

How often have you had a problem with an associate and tried to deal with it in a good logical business manner; only to make matters worse? Maybe using logic, instead of appealing to emotion, is part of the problem.

Turn-over has been the scourge of our industry for a very long time. The cost, in terms of both productivity and money, is huge; a problem which almost every hotel shares. I don't propose to know all the answers to this complex problem, but allow me to offer an additional paradigm to consider.

In the last fifteen years or so, it seems that our industry has taken a more clinical and logical approach to hiring and dealing day-to-day with associates. Years ago, the process was a far more simple one; perhaps too simple, but have we now eliminated the emotion, gut-feel, and our own impulses from dealing with associates?

We now have "screening" by human resource experts, and "warnings", both oral and written, to discipline associates; yet very few reward programs. Are we relying on clinical processes just a little too much? When did we stop relying on the hotel manager's experience and gut-feel?

The Hiring Process

It all starts with the hiring process. In the 80's, human resource experts outside our industry told us that employment testing aides would solve our turnover problem forever; hence the birth of one such system, the P.I. (Predictive Index). Human resource experts told us that it was simply a matter of hiring the "right" people.

The P.I. seemed to be a fairly simple straight-forward process; it was a matter of matching the personality traits of job candidates with those of successful associates already on staff and doing well in their jobs. This was to be one of many new clinical approaches to solving an ongoing problem.

The principle was to take some of the subjective decision-making out of the hiring process. We were told that we were simply hiring the wrong people; problem solved, right? Well, not quite.

I hate to speculate how many potentially good people were eliminated by various forms of testing. Perhaps the best interview method I have seen was one which used the department head to conduct the initial interview; after-all isn't this the most important relationship? The department head then presents the candidate to some of the people in that department to discuss the job, the second most important relationship; then, finally to the general manager and human resources for final approval.

This system gets more people involved and gives each and every one of them a vested interest in the new person's success; a good support system. But, this is only one part of the problem.

Keeping Good People Motivated

Stephen Covey, the author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, said that trust is the highest form of motivation. Why is it that new associates usually start a job with vim and vigor, ready to conquer the challenges of their new job, yet fizzle within a few months or less? Lack of trust is often the demon.

There are many possible reasons for management turn-over and it usually results from a combination of several contributing ills, however, the most common cause of turn-over is a lack of trust and a fixation on the need to micromanage people. In the 90's, we referred to the fix as "empowerment"; but empowerment requires trust.

Micro-managers beware; obvious lack of trust will destroy self-motivation and create insecurity in even the best of associates. Micromanagers generally have one thing in common; they only trust their own decisions, their own procedures, and constantly feel "If I want it done right, I need to tell them how to do it". The thing which makes them feel this way is a complete distrust of their associates' ability to accomplish tasks assigned to them.

It's ironic that most micromanagers have never even performed the jobs they prefer to micromanage. They are simply fixed on maintaining control.

Arrogance, as opposed to confidence, is common with micromanagers and contributes to and supports their feelings that only they know how to get the job done. Hotels, led by micromanagers, never experience the wonderful results possible when innovation and trust is a part of the hotel's culture.

Micromanagers are constantly seeking people who will only do as they are told. For micromanagers, directing job tasks is easier than clearly defining goals, providing guidelines, supplying resources, and then giving managers and their subordinates the freedom to create their own methods to achieve those goals.

Now I know that there may be some micromanagers shaking their heads as they read this article. Micromanagers rarely recognize this trait in themselves. Hands-on micromanagers rarely ask questions; they prefer to dictate tasks. They are generally obsessed with reading reports yet rarely accept the veracity of the reports they read. They get involved in the details of performing specific tasks instead of providing leadership and guidance.

Trust is a powerful quality. Develop trust for the competency of your associates. Provide them with a clear picture of the goal, guidance sources, access to additional resources, and a good benchmarking system to measure effectiveness; but leave the methods to them. It may take a little more time to set up "Stewardships" with your managers and associates, but you will be rewarded with a happier, more loyal, and more productive team.

Neil Salerno, CHME, CHA
Hotel Marketing Coach
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