Thursday, February 16, 2017

What are some of the best ways to control attrition in restaurants and hospitality industry?

Authenticity. Real caring. Real respect. Real commitment. Real training. Starting with you. Treat your people like people, not objects to be manipulated, machines to perform mechanical functions, or puppets to perform on a string. Be real yourself, know the difference between real and phony, and don't reward or promote the phony.

If this doesn't sound much like a 'professional' 'service program' or 'employee engagement program', it's the best you're going to get out of me. I don't like such commercially produced programs. I can't make one and give it to you. A 'store-bought' solution won't work (although many are out there - I wish I had a quarter for every off-the-shelf whiz-bang program developed by some starry-eyed dreamer, and a dollar for every hundred-dollar-an-hour consultant offering one.). It has to come from you and your company. 

Otherwise, it's counterproductive. Would such a program or scheme motivate you? If hearing the magic words in its message goes right over your head, puts you to sleep, or (worst of all) sets off your own crap detector, you can bet it will do the same with your hourly help. And if you haven't spent an evening shift with your desk clerk, an eleven-to-seven shift with your night auditor, or a day with one of your room attendants at the location at which you plan to use it, you have no business even shopping for one. 

Nearly all of them are dreamed up by people who have no idea what it's like to  work in your workplace and deal with the day-to-day reality of it. Your  staff will know this as soon as they begin hearing or reading the material presented to them. 

So, nearly all such 'programs' will set off the crap detector in your employees -- and those are your good employees. The phonies, the brownnosers, the political players among your employees will pretend to buy into it, sign right on, give the most vocal positive feedback and say the right magic words in response -- and give you the delusion that it's 'working', and would work for everybody if only their 'attitude' were right . . . and rendering the 'program' worse than useless. It's in one ear and out the other material for the others. Same stuff, different day. Their bodies are still present, waiting for a prompt that the silly meeting is over, but they've left the room. The lights are on, but nobody's home. You get the idea.

Real caring, respect and commitment is going to show up in everything you do. It's not something you can train for, but the occasional talk about core values helps in a lot of places. (If your company doesn't seem to have any, maybe it's time to get your people together - it has to be a collaborative process - and work out some that they can agree upon. I read Tony Hsieh's book, and was getting a little impatient with it toward the middle and about to toss it, until I saw where he was going with it . . . Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose: Tony Hsieh: 9780446576222: Books , Is Tony Hsieh's new book "Delivering Happiness" any good? And people do like to feel that what they do is a contribution to something bigger than themselves.)  

It's not something you can buy, but we try to keep our pay scales on the high side: pay the clerks just a little more than they could make at another hotel, pay the room attendants a little more than they could make cleaning rooms at another hotel, etc. Besides enabling you to get your pick of available people once word gets around, it also keeps them aware that they won't have this good a deal elsewhere. This works, not only with pay, but with training, advancement, recognition, and inclusion (keeping your people informed, letting them have some say in decisions affecting them, etc.). You control attrition by making yours the sort of company that no one wants to leave.

Good order and discipline must be in place, but one thing that works for me is that we also have a power harassment policy (Power harassment ) and a 'no-a*shole rule (The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't: Robert I. Sutton: 9780446698207: Books ) in place. We tell everyone, no one in the company, regardless of accountability, not even I myself; has the right, or the prerogative, to treat you badly, arbitrarily, maliciously, or in a demeaning manner. It's going to happen sometimes. Even I will have a bad day and growl at you or snap at you or even get a little wound up and have a tantrum sometimes. But it's not a right, or a prerogative, that this company supports even on the part of a manager, supervisor or company officer. We don't owe you if someone does it one time, but we will have a talk with someone in a management accountability that we keep hearing stories about, if he or she seems to have a problem with wanting to treat people that way.

Use of the offensive 'a-word' (Michael Forrest Jones' answer to What words have changed the most in meaning during your lifetime? ) is forbidden in company correspondence; and if it comes up in a conversation, I want to hear the speaker grasping for words before he or she finally settles on that one because no other word will quite do for what he or she is trying to describe. Frankly, the word "attitude" is used way too much, selectively, as an invalidation device (this person has thoughts and feelings that must be considered and respected, but that person has an attitude problem). If someone's at issue with something, I want them to feel free to confront and address it with someone who'll listen; and we'll do what we can to fix it. Otherwise, not even they themselves can stop themselves from acting it out, in some way, to at least some extent.

Nothing against you for asking the question - if you don't have some idea, you did the right thing asking, and that's the first step - but people who want to outsource such a thing, hire a consultant, implement a store-bought solution are perhaps looking for a magic bullet. You can't micromanage every customer transaction, you can't manipulate for employee morale, and you can't dictate the working environment in your workspace by fiat. All you can do is create a clearing for it and lead - not guide, not drive, not direct; get in there yourself and lead - it in the direction you want it to go.

"Service employees" are not machinery. They need to be treated and dealt with as human beings, not manipulated to perform in every interaction as you (only in your dreams) want. But too many of the solutions offered out there are directed toward successfully manipulating them, getting them to perform with every customer as a concierge in a '50's movie, or like the dweeb actor in a training video. The "wind-up Barbie doll 'service' personality with the beaming Pan-Am smile". It never works. When it seems to work, it's deceptive.

And it never will work. Your customers will never be scripted, and will not play their own role reliably in response to how you to script your staff to deal with them.

Originally appeared on Quora

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