Monday, August 7, 2017

What is the difference between a 'guest relations officer' and a 'guest service provider' in a five star hotel?

Ask the hotel chain who has those titles posted on their job board.

Employers define their needs, they divide up the work that needs doing to meet those needs into individual jobs, they define those jobs and the accountabilities that go with each . . . and they dream up the titles for them. And you do have some very dreamy people in this business.

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That's why W Hotels is always looking for “Go anywhere, do anything” people -- that's an actual job title. This past month, a Hilton Garden Inn near where I live was advertising for “Happy Morning People” to serve breakfast. A desk clerk can be a “guest services agent”, a “guest services representative”, a “host” or “hostess” (a breakfast server can also be a “host” or “hostess”), the list goes on and it's not standardized for every hotel. Even Walmart refers to its employees as “associates”, as though being a low paid hourly “associate” at a high-pressure job adds dignity to it when you have to apply for food stamps to feed your kids because you can't do it on what they pay you.

Some people think it adds some dignity to a low-paying dirty job -- nobody wants to be a “maid” after all when you can be a “room attendant” or a “housekeeper” instead (although in many hotels, “housekeeper” is the title reserved for the person who supervises the entire housekeeping department). Others land for me as an attempt to make the job seem more fun or interesting, as with the “go anywhere, do anything” people.

Prior becoming the general manager of a hotel in Groton, Connecticut in 1997, which was my first, I lost count of the number of assistant general manager, operations manager, and front desk manager positions I held. What I never told too many job interviewers when I submitted a resume is that in nearly all of those cases, the title was a thrown bone -- some extra responsibility (much more whenever something went wrong), not that much extra pay per hour, and no real authority. But I worked for people who knew I was ambitious, and thought the title would make me feel good, and so I had the title. For all it really mattered, I could be mayor of Hartford or Yertle the Turtle if I wanted, but guess who's doing the night audit with no weekends off?

Sometimes it's done in an effort to redefine the job. We don't do “sales”, for example, we do business development. So, we don't have “sales managers” or “directors of sales and marketing”, we have business development reps. Sales is very little of what they do, marketing is a slightly larger part but still only a small piece of the whole, and they don't “direct” anyone, or “manage” anything except their own work.

Some, I find to be a bit disrespectful and offensive, like the “Happy Morning People”: titles like that reduce the job to a caricature in a way that I feel is demeaning to the employee holding it -- and anyone who works for me who intentionally demeans a employee who reports to them runs a high risk of being asked to seek a more appropriate career opportunity. I do not believe in demeaning employees.

Starry-eyed dreamers are responsible for most of the evil and unworkability in the hotel business. My company is committed to treating every employee with respect and dignity, and we place a high value on integrity and authenticity. An employee is just an employee, a desk clerk is just a desk clerk; but if you work for us there's nothing wrong with being an employee or a desk clerk. It's actually quite respectable and that's the way we treat you. You do an important job. Much of the time, you run the hotel: in those situations, all the general manager does is respond in some way to something you tell him. If you are a newly hired room attendant, you're what keeps me from having to put on an apron and roll out a cart and clean those rooms. You shouldn't feel silly, or feel bad about yourself, because that's “all” you do. You should be proud to tell people you know that you do what you do, working for us.

But that's just our company. Other hotel companies define their own jobs, and the responsibilities, and the working conditions, and the fancy (or silly) titles that go with each.

Originally appeared on Quora

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