Is Your Team In V-Formation?
Gene Ference
Sunday, 8th May 2005
Focus On Teamwork, geese fly in V-formation for aerodynamic efficiency.

Is management and staff focused on reaching a common goal through teamwork? Employee satisfaction surveys can help in making sure teams stay focused and fly in V-formation to customer satisfaction.

In nature, teams work together to more easily achieve common goals. Wolves hunt together in packs, forming a formidable force to be reckoned with when they surround and in unison, move in on their prey. They are much more efficient in a pack than is the proverbial lone wolf. Geese work together when in flight, taking turns as the leader when forming the familiar V-formation that aerodynamically cuts the air for more efficient flying. Even ants find better results through teamwork, whether in building nests or in finding the shortest route to food as they leave pheromones behind as they walk. As a result, ants that have found the shortest route to food leave behind more pheromones than those that have taken a longer route, effectively helping all of the following ants to take the shorter route.

In all cases, there is a certain built-in sense of urgency to get results—to obtain food, to get to warmer weather or to find the shortest route. Clear roles and responsibilities are set for each team member in building a strong team. Usually this entails finding individual strengths that compliment one another and then using those strengths to remove obstacles or challenges. In short, each team member is used effectively to reach their cumulative goal.

The same should be said for your property. Every employee should be focused on reaching a common goal through teamwork. They should have clearly defined responsibilities that management supports by identifying strengths of each team member. Team members should be selected to compliment one another by utilizing their differing skills and experiences.

During the team building process, associates' feedback, concerns and ideas are all important towards developing the team into a well-oiled machine. Semi-annual and/or annual employee satisfaction surveys can offer a wealth of knowledge and insight into these areas. Because the responses and resulting data are kept in strict confidence, the responses are therefore truthful and informative. HVS/The Ference Group and The Center For Survey Research has been providing the hotel industry with custom, detailed reports that have been data-mined from these surveys for over 20 years.

The latest example of the benefit in utilizing a Team Member Satisfaction Survey is Station Casinos in Las Vegas. Having been recently named to Fortune Magazine's "100 Best Companies To Work For," this prestigious award can be traced back to corporate "drivers" that are measured in the survey. When organizational dimensions such as "Job Satisfaction and Morale" reach over 87% (an Excellent rating) you can be sure that management and team members are communicating and supporting each other. Additionally, almost 86% of respondents indicated that their managers created good team efforts for their property. Over 88% indicated that they were not afraid to ask for help it they did not know how to do something, thereby encouraging support towards each other to do their very best work and to help in solving job-related problems. Associates that network and perform as a team in order to respond to guest's needs allow managers more time to continue to upgrade the working environment and help celebrate successes.

Managers that communicate their approval and let their team members know of the great job they are doing inspire their team to even greater heights. Developing their team through education and allowing them time to problem solve is an investment that pays dividends for both the individuals as well as the property. Making sure that recognition is fairly distributed and that the team is appreciated can be an extremely beneficial tool.

Teams that have fun and enjoy their work will focus on yet higher goals and be more willing to get the job done, as opposed to employees that commit only to a humdrum existence of working their shift each day with no incentives in sight. If at all possible, throw a party, have an outing or invite your team for an informal get-together after work. Even if you can celebrate a team's success with pizza for lunch or a cake during a break, it is another positive reinforcement of the team effort and a building block to future successes.

Once again, whether or not employees are recognized for the contributions they are able to make to the success of the property is a measurable survey question that can aid in furthering recognition and promoting teamwork. It is extremely important to find out what the team's perception of their efforts are and not rely only on what management thinks or looks at. Realizing the shortfalls as well as the successes of the teams can initiate new and improved avenues of attack to acquiring a more satisfied and loyal guest.

In a time when every customer is precious, when every hotel and casino is seeking a bigger piece of the pie, and when each property is looking to gain more loyalty in guests returning time and time again, the road to success may lie in the focus on teamwork. Individuals must work together within their department to wow the customer. Teams must work together between departments to present a seamless experience for each guest as well.

Management must focus on supporting, improving, recognizing and rewarding excellence in teamwork. Line staff must focus on using their strengths and developing a close-knit team that effectively takes care of each guests' needs. Both management and staff need to focus on celebrating success and having fun while reaching team goals.

As in nature, when teams come together, they can offer a formidable force to be reckoned with. Finding that "V-formation" that cuts through to service excellence and discovering the shortest route to your goals can provide limitless success to both individuals and to teams, and ensure that each property will not only survive in these challenging times, but prosper and grow.

Station Casinos has become increasingly proficient in flying in "V-formation" to consistently increase team member satisfaction over the last decade. Now it's up to you to either get in formation or lag behind the leaders. With its recent Quality Award of Fortune 100's Best Companies, Station Casinos is one of the companies leading the pack. Will you be able to run with that pack, or merely be left to howl at the moon?

HVS/The Ference Group provides programs in TeamStrategics: organizational development, business health assessments, and strategic planning. Our clients include successful applicants for the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, Employer of Choice, Best Human Resources, Employer of the Year, as well as quality of work life and service culture awards of Great Britain, Mexico, Brazil, Australia, The Netherlands and Singapore.

About the author
Receiving a Doctoral Degree in Organizational Development from Cornell University in 1977, Gene Ference earned post-graduate certification in Change Management Leadership from the NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Sciences. For over 25 years, he has conducted management retreats in Strategic Focus, Leadership Development, Team Dynamics and served as an Executive Coach to many of this industry's business professionals.

For more information, please contact HVS/The Ference Group at + or GFerence@HVSInternational.com
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