Restore the Connection With Your Staff

Today, more than ever, our staff wants to know how they are doing and to be recognized when they’re doing something right.

I had just made that gigantic and exciting leap from hourly associate to line-level manager. I was as excited as if I had won the lottery. I was going to set the hospitality world on its ear and quickly move up the ranks. I was on my way.

After two weeks of arriving early and staying late to cover every detail, I had not heard anything from my direct supervisor, the Food and Beverage director. I was wondering what was happening and how I was doing. I decided to take a walk to the Executive Office to see him. As I walked into his smoke-filled office, the first words out of his mouth were, “What do you want?”

I sheepishly asked, “Well, how am I doing in my new job so far?”

He looked at me with a smile and said, “Hey, when you screw up I will let you know. Until then, just assume you are doing okay.”

I quickly exited the office and headed back to the banquet rooms. I was always appreciative of the chance he gave me, but I never felt the connection that would allow me to share my ideas with my boss. As I grew in my career, I came to realize that the best information about any operation comes from two main sources: our associates and our customers.

The Human Touch

In the 21st century, more is being demanded of every manager and owner each year. And with the advancement of technology, we are able to accomplish more with less. But with all the demands, we must never forget the human touch: That connection with our associates and customers can provide the valuable information that allows us to continuously improve our product and our organization.

Today, more than ever, our staff wants to know how they are doing and to be recognized when they’re doing something right. No need for a grand ceremony but a simple act of thanking them for the job they do each and every day.

How can we restore that connection? Here are a few tips:

1. Get out of your office. We are trapped by having information at our fingertips, and therefore, we can gather all the operational information we need from our office. But does that give us the understanding of what our associates are seeing or feeling? What about our customers? Management walking around has been part of every management theory since the 1950s, but today we must make that extra effort to get out of the office to see what is going on. We must show an interest in our associates and recognize the fact they are not machines that simply turn on by the flip of a switch. We have to show an interest in their careers and their jobs. Our associates have to make the connection that they are the face of the organization, and their customer service skills must reflect the appreciation we have for each and every customer. This cannot be accomplished by a memo or a text but by face-to-face interaction each day, which emphasizes their critical roles in the organization.

2. Catch your associates doing something right. My Food and Beverage director only spoke to me when something was wrong, so how do you think I reacted when he came walking down the back halls of the hotel? I was too nervous to actually let him know what was going on from the line level. When you catch an associate doing something right, you are able to extract more feedback (good and bad) on the organization because the front-line associate is more likely to share valuable information about our customers.

3. Seek opportunities to thank your associates each day for the job they do. I once had a Housekeeping supervisor who stood at the time clock each and every day she worked, thanking each housekeeper for the job he or she did that day. When she left (she got a promotion), three-quarters of her staff left to follow her to her next hotel. The other fourth could not leave due to other reasons or I am sure they would have gone, too. The simple act of “thank you” for what, arguably, was the most thankless job in the hotel formed a strong bond with the supervisor and her staff. Customer service is not always the easiest job in the world, so make sure you make up for the thanks our customers sometimes forget to give.

What About the Customers?

For our customers, spend some time in the lobby. Welcome your guests to your hotel, ask them for their feedback, and make sure you are modeling the behaviors you expect from your associates. Customers have increasingly greater choices on where they stay, so make sure they understand you value their patronage and you want them to return.

The next time you sit at an airport, look around and see how many people are looking at their mobile devices. These people are barely acknowledging the people around them and seem trapped in their own worlds. This is sometimes our world today, but it doesn’t have to be the organizations we work in. Restoring the connection means restoring the human touch. It’s worth your time and the time of the organization to make sure your associates and customers feel valued and respected.

Joe Lipham is a Training account manager at Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, OH-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800.398.0518 or visit You also can connect with Signature on Twitter @SignatureWorld and on Facebook.


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