Staff Power

Looking back, I haven’t written a lot about my staff. I’ve certainly talked a lot about myself, and a good amount about guests in general, but the largest portion of my day is dealing with my staff more than anything else.

I have a department of 14-17 to oversee (it fluctuates over time), usually in a day 7 to 10 of them are actually here and on duty. Most of them are somewhere in their 20’s with a few outliers that are in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. It’s not necessarily typical of this business that a Front Desk team will be so young, however, it is generally considered an entry-level position, and it’s typical for there to be a good amount of turn over. I say an entry-level position, but I and many hiring managers at similar properties usually won’t even consider you without at least some customer service experience under your belt. I definitely won’t even look at someone looking for a first time job right out of high school, unfortunate but true. And yes I realize the paradox. I once got a resume from someone right out of high school once that in place of job history, listed classes he had taken, I didn’t stop laughing for a couple of minutes. I’ll admit, I’m super judgmental of resumes, but having a bad one isn’t going to exclude you from selection, it just works against you. And I’ve found my most successful hires have been those with prior hotel experience, spa experience, and restaurant experience (hospitality generally). A relative of mine accused me of having an age biased, and for the record, that’s entirely false. I’ve interviewed people in a wide range of ages, and offered this job too much older people than what is currently the mean age of my staff. All of those people have turned me down or failed to pass the back ground check we require. I had one lady with a great resume and experience walk out of the interview when we discussed the wage, and we pay on the higher end of the spectrum for hotel front desk in this region. I’ve also had many point out that my staff is entirely female other than our graveyard crew. That’s entirely unintentional. I’ve hired a man for this position, he’s since left when his personal life fell apart and he left the area. And I’ve interviewed and offered the job to men, it just hasn’t worked out so far. And statistically, I get far more qualified resumes from women than men. I’m not sure why that is, but I noticed that there were more women in my degree program then men. Not sure why, if we discussed it in a class, I either missed it or have since forgot it.

Generally, I’m very fond of each member of my staff (even the people I’ve had to terminate). I have some that irritate me from time to time, and some that I pretty much always get along with well. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, and yes some of them are stronger than others. When I look at a situation involving a guest, I take into consideration the people involved when estimating whether or not there was an error made. That isn’t to say that any member of my staff is incapable of making an error, but there is a degree of probability calculation that affects my decisions. I get a good grip on who I can and can’t count on. Most everyone provides very strong customer service, and after getting to know my staff I know that most of them make decisions from that standpoint. That is to say, I think they usually all approach situations from the perspective of “What provides the best service for the guest?” For one thing, when the guest is happy, their jobs become a lot easier.

My fiance and some friends think that I have an immature staff from some of the stories I tell about them. That’s not entirely untrue. Some of them are very immature, and even unprofessional sometimes. I expect to deal with some rough edges, because even though I try to hire for experience, that hasn’t always happened, and like I said before this is an entry-level position. Or at least somewhere along the tier of entry-level. Only 2 or 3 of my staff have any kind of post-high school degree. And most of them just view this as a job, not a career, and are still to young to realize that those two can be related in the long run even if they don’t stay here forever. But it’s easy to spot the ones that think of this as more than a job, either because they want to build something here at this property, or they just know that it’s good to develop good habits and a strong work history now for other employers.

We talked in school about “management theory” “conflict resolution” and “management techniques” but we never really talked about the true day-to-day grudge of managing people. Holding their hands, training them, backing them up, juggling the work schedule of 15 different people while still trying to meet the needs of your property, people sick, incompetent people, malcontents and malingerers, delivering disciplinary actions, and listening to their whining. My LORD THE WHINING SOMETIMES! And writing performance reviews! Holy frak is that awkward sometimes. Because like I said, I generally truly enjoy every member of my staff on some personal level. They’re all people to me, not cogs, they have to be in this environment. At the same time I have to be the boss. My predecessor let a lot of issues in my department fester because she didn’t enjoy confrontation and she was trying to “protect her department”. I’ve never been able to understand that and get behind it. For one thing, they’re performance reflects upon me as their manager. So covering up for slackers really doesn’t help me, it’s much better to go through the process openly, because if it becomes apparent that they’re just not going to work out, I don’t want it to seem strange that I’m cutting them loose. There has to be a foundation for that. And maybe that’s part of why I haven’t stopped hiring since I got here, because there was a lot of dead weight left for me to trim.And I’ve had to terminate people, and I hated it, even when it was justified, even when I gave the person every chance to succeed and I did everything I could to help. I still loss sleep over it. I still agonized over the decision, and never reached it lightly or out of anger. The first person that was terminated on my say-so, I could have avoided the entire process, it was going to happen on my regular day off, and the GM and our HR manager could have handled it without me, but I got up that day, got dressed and came in. I didn’t even really do any talking, I let more experienced hands handle that, but I sat there and watched what I had done unfold. It had ultimately been my decision, and I felt it was important to see it carried out. I probably would have lost more sleep if I hadn’t.

Slowly, I honestly believe this staff has only gotten stronger since I came on board. The biggest thing I took away from my Human Resources class in school was that you can’t train the talent of customer service, and it’s as much talent as skill. You can refine it, absolutely. I know my service is 1000 times better than 5 years ago or 10 years ago. But in the end it’s like hiring a juggler for the circus, ultimately, they either have the talent or they don’t. And customer service, truly great customer service, is a talent as much as a skill, it’s something innate in us that pulls us towards our jobs and makes us successful. Not everyone enjoys giving strangers smiles. And not everyone has an innate empathy for strangers coming in off the street. You have to have both of those things to be truly great at any customer service job. Because it will affect what your first reaction is to any situation. So my biggest goal when hiring is, I hire for customer service as a talent, and realize that a lot of the other skills, the technical stuff, can be trained and even rough service can be refined. That said, given the choice between a polished gem and a diamond in the rough, I’ll almost always take the gem. I’ll let someone else clean up the diamond.

A Hotel can be made or broken on the service of its staff. That’s Staff Power.

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  1. #1 by The Hook on July 10, 2011 - 3:07 PM

    “Heavy is the head that wears the crown”, right?
    I’m glad I found this blog, it’s nice to see someone who’s wrestling with the same issues.
    Well done!

  2. #2 by hotelnerd on July 11, 2011 - 7:12 PM

    Thank you Hook. I was similarly pleased to find your work.

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