Orientation for all Staff is Essential for Lasting Success.
John Hogan Ph D CHE CHA MHS
Thursday, 8th November 2007
The sad truth is that opportunity doesn't knock twice. You can put things off until tomorrow but tomorrow may never come. Where will you be a few years down the line. Will it be everything you dreamed of, we seal our fate with the choices we take, but don't give a second thought to the chances we take.         ~ Gloria Estefan ~

If one were to ask almost any hotelier their most important asset, the response will likely be their "people."  For years, Ritz-Carlton Hotels defined it most specifically – "Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen."   Today, this brand is evolving its training to remain true to its foundations as it  is updating its messages to address the current workforce.  While Ritz-Carlton caters to the luxury segment of lodging, their interpretation is appropriate for all markets: we are a service industry. 

Progressive, realistic hoteliers today realize that while technology plays a growing role in the hospitality industry, the "people", personal-touch side of the business inevitably determines the long term success.

An old saying states there is one opportunity to make a good first impression.  While most of us recognize there are high costs associated with staff turnover, too many of us don't make the connection between how we might contribute unintentionally to that turnover by how we expose "our most important asset" to our hotel and company.

Too many hotels "throw" their newly hired staff into jobs with little or no orientation.  It is assumed that since they worked at Brand X that they understand the industry and "how- to" do whatever their job title says.  Too often is it assumed that the hotel down the street treats their guests the way we want to, when in fact, their techniques or values may be why our new staff member left them.

Essential Information

Orientation Overview – Tell your new staff what the program will be about.

Services/Products – A full service hotel can have as many as 20 departments and dozens of services.  Give your new people an overview of the property's offerings and where they fit in.  A rooms-only property has at least 6 areas of activity (desk, housekeeping, laundry, engineering, accounting, sales, security, transportation, breakfast, etc.) that merit enthusiastic and detailed overviews.

Property Philosophy  - Hoteliers have different ways to communicate commitment to their customers and staff. Turn-of-the-20th century American hotelier Ellsworth Statler had a service code he required his staff to memorize.  There are hotels and companies who use this concept on business cards, lobby plaques and other public places to pay more than "lip" service to their commitment.  What is your philosophy?

Policies/General Procedures – Procedures manuals must be precise and worded in a fashion that is both legal and understandable.  Orientation is an excellent time to review the manual with all new hires. Have them sign a receipt that it was covered. 

Benefits – All hotels do not or cannot give extensive benefits.  Review the coverage your property does have and include all items such as workmen's' compensation, social security and other matching taxes paid by the employer, etc. Review other benefits such as discounted or free meals, uniforms, free or discounted parking, educational grants, tuition reimbursements, free or discounted rooms at other hotels, etc.

Dress Code

The Chain of Communication – While many of us traditionally called this a Chain of Command, today's hotelier might rethink the concept and make the two synonymous and thoroughly understood at orientation.

Smoking Policy

Performance Appraisals – the who, what, where, how often, based on what criteria, etc.

Training Programs – Initial and ongoing programs should be explained, including outside community or industry programs you may support .

Community/Professional Growth
We all like to know where we can grow.  Not everyone wants to be a GM or an owner, but we do all want to continue our personal skill development on some level.

Termination procedures – including the all important exit interviews

Healthcare options and Insurance Availability – If there isn't some kind of medical program, this needs to be explained.  Options might include HMOs, credit unions or other potentials in the community.

Holidays/Vacations/Time off – Be specific about what is or is not covered.  Remember that our work force is much more diverse than a generation ago. There are many other religious and international days to take into account.  If you allow "bonus" or personal days, clearly state the guidelines for qualification.


Drug-free Workplace

Courtesy on the Phone

These three are self-explanatory, but should not be played down or overlooked.  Because they are so basic, they should be fundamentally part of the orientation.

1. Job Safety

2. Attitude   

3. Enthusiasm needs to be reinforced regularly and from day one.

Recognition Programs
Some chains and many independents have some kind of program to demonstrate the value of recognizing people for a job well done.  These programs can be very meaningful if they are consistent, held in esteem by senior management and welcomed as a positive reinforcement. 

Security Procedures – Every one on every staff MUST be aware of providing reasonable care to our guests and to each other. This needs to be stressed.

After 90 days, you may wish to follow-up orientation.  The 3,000-room Opryland Hotel in Nashville for years  has had a structured, follow-up program at which new benefits are extended to the now presumed permanent staff, as well as some old fashioned "cheerleading."

For orientation to be effective, there needs to be:
1. a consistent time
2. mandatory attendance for all new hires at all levels
3. a regular agenda
4. a tour of the entire facility
5. a greeting from senior management.

Orientations can be held by HR (if you have this department), a department head or a   ualified administrative assistant.

The critical element of orientation isn't just completion of paperwork, but the comfortable and enthusiastic greeting that your new hires receive.  How well they feel on that first day may very well dictate how they treat their guests and fellow staff.

Think Tank
Questions of the day
These questions are offered to stimulate discussion about the way we do business.  There is not necessarily only one "correct" answer – the reason for this section of the column is to promote an awareness of how we might all improve our operations.

1.  Who welcomes new staff members to the hotel very early in their first day of employment?  Does this make a difference?
2. Do you have a corporate philosophy at your hotel? Formal or "whatever"?  Do you think that it matters?
3. Who explains the benefits and rules?  If it is not someone who does it in a comprehensive and professional manner, what kind of first impression does that new employee have of your hotel?
4. If you were to be an hourly person starting at your hotel tomorrow morning, what kind of questions might you have?  Is someone there to answer them?
5. If you had started at your hotel this morning, how do you think you would feel after your first day?

Contact me at 602-957-5810 or John.Hogan@bestwestern.com anytime and remember – we all need a regular dose of common sense.

John Hogan, Ph D CHE CHA MHS 
Director of Education and Cultural Diversity
Best Western International

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication or of Best Western International.

JOHN J. HOGAN, Educator, Hotelier, Entrepreneur
John Hogan currently serves as the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for Best Western International, the world's largest hotel chain.  Best Western International has more than 4,200 hotels in 80 countries and is one of the worlds most established and recognized hotel brands. 

He has served on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity and is the Best Western liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners' Association with his ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.

His professional experience includes over 30 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis.  He holds a number of industry certifications and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association's Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism, as well as operational and marketing awards from international brands, including Sheraton and Best Western International.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John's background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor at three different colleges and universities over a 20 year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independents hotels.  Prior to joining Best Western International in spring of 2000, he was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors' bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He has conducted an estimated 3,100 workshops and seminars in his career.  He served as senior vice president for a client for a specialty brand for six years.

He has published more than 350 articles & columns on the hotel industry and is co-author (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from a range of industry sources and AMAZON.com. 

He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is finalizing his 2nd book based on his dissertation –  The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.

Expertise and Research Interest
o Leadership and Executive Education
o Cultural Diversity
o Operational Management
o Professional Development
o Customer Service

Service to the Industry and Hospitality Education
o the Educational Institute Certification Commission of the AH&LA
o the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute
o the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council
o the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration
o the Commission for Accreditation on Hospitality Management Programs
o the AH&LA and AAHOA Education and Training Committees
o Panelist  - CHRIE annual meeting   2002  Security/Safety
o Panelist -  International Hotel Show – NY  2003  Trends in Customer Service
o Paper Moderator – CHRIE annual meeting     2004  three sessions
o Presenter – Real Estate Development  2003  Hunter group – Atlanta
o Presenter – Diversity West (Las Vegas) 2004  Industry Best Practices
o Presenter – AH&LA Spring show  2005  Cultural Diversity
o Presenter – Diversity West (Las Vegas) 2005  Trends - Cultural Diversity
o Host – Accreditation Commission Meetings 2005  CAHM, ACPHA
o Judge – Diversity East   (Atlanta)  2006  Industry Best Practices
o Presentation at Graduation Ceremony 2003-2007  Asian American Hotel Owner certifications

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