HOST: Since it is an employer who brings the employee into the organization, is it the employer’s sole responsibility to make the former comfortable and happy while at work or does the employee have some roles to play?
GUEST: Relevant sections of the Labor Law Act 651, 2003 clearly demarcates the responsibilities of management and workers in any given work environment. Statutory regulations aside, natural law dictates that at the workplace, industrial relations should be conducted on the basis of consensus-building.
These days employees are no longer considered as “factors of production” enunciated in classical economic theories, but rather “partners in production” Any employer applying the obsolete theory is bound to fail.
The employer does not employ the worker because the worker needs work or there is a vacancy to be filled; on the contrary, the employer engages the employee because he/she has a major contribution to make to the growth and sustenance of the organization.
As I alluded to in Part 1 of our discourse, the prime-moving pillars in our industry are made up of the customers, the staff and our business organization and profits. Contemporary research and practice have shown that a new paradigm which places staff (people) at the top of the pyramid is more preferable than putting customers first.
The scientific reasoning behind this paradigm is that if staff (people) are well resourced and have job-satisfaction, they tend to positively affect the customers and invariably, the business processes and profits (Reference Matt Tenney).
So, determining employees’ happiness in a hotel work environment should not be a “one-armed bandit”.
What an employer may envisage to make the employees happy may not inure to their benefit. A two-pronged approach is recommended where the workers play greater role in determining choices on the job. I have always recommended bottom up, participatory management in all hotels; the reason being that our major raw materials are our esteemed customers, who are as human as the staff who work there.
If staff are not smiling at the customers; if staff delay service to customers; if staff are not quick in selling benefits to the customers; if staff do not exhibit active hospitality but passive hospitality traits, then the customers would be negatively affected and consequently erode business processes and profits.
HOST: Knowing our industry, how much emphasis should be placed on conducting orientation for the newly employed and what should this entail?
GUEST: Staff induction and orientation programmes are the bedrock for integrating new staff into the growing service and product culture and standards. Such programmes serve, more or less as ‘baptism’ for the new employees into the vision, mission and values that imbue in them the expected service standards demanded of them.
Unlike other industries where they work with raw materials for production, the hotel industry uses customers as its raw materials to produce quality service. Of course, customers are also humans just as the employees and therefore demand more professionalism in their management and service.
A well-structured staff induction and orientation exercise may take various forms and time-periods, depending on the strategic objective of the hotel in question.
The HR Department is solely responsible for this but the activities may involve all the departments of the hotel. It involves a basic introduction into the history, vision, mission and core values and strategy of the hotel. It will include practical job-rotation programs to enable staff get into the entrails of its integrated functioning and opening up the opportunities that may exist for growth for individual employees.
A well-planned orientation scheme serves to motivate workers and position them well for the difficult service and productive task ahead of them.
HOST: What factors affect employee-employer relationships?
GUEST: I will mention openness, trust and constructive engagement with the principal partners, training and capacity-building, backed by good and effective communication. Especially so in the hotel industry, if the grapevine is allowed to overwhelm the formal lines of communication, professional relationship suffers at all levels.
HOST: Having reciprocal trust and respect can be challenging for many hotel operations. Do you agree? How can the challenges be minimized?
GUEST: The hotel industry is set on a platform where all manner of people whether as guests or professional service-providers meet on daily basis in a never-ending interaction. The tendency for petty frictions and common disagreements occurring cannot be overemphasized. These are in the nature of human actions.
One of the ways to ambush such petty “politics” is to stay professional on the job and strive to separate your personal self from your impersonal one. If all stakeholders can always try and put on their professional mantles, then it will be as good as having even enemies working together for the sake of the common cause.
HOST: Generally, when an employer micromanages, employees feel like they cannot be trusted to do their job. This negatively impacts on their productivity and confidence. Yet when employers relax a bit, many employees seem to ‘abuse’ it, breaching the trust. Why do you think this occurs?
GUEST: The difficulty has always been finding the fine, seamless middle line that is acceptable to the majority. This is, by no means, an easy calling. This situation happens in most human organizations, especially where respect and reciprocity have been thrown into the trash bin. It is utterly impossible to have a perfect situation; but, to a large extent, we can only look into specific situations and measure the degree to which such factors are far removed from that particular organization. Here again my prescription is for more openness and transparency in the management of affairs.
HOST: When an employee’s expectations are not being met in an employment, is that the time to quit or to renegotiate with the employer before reconsidering quitting?
GUEST: It depends on the situation and the employee. If the situation persists and other opportunities offer themselves, there is likelihood that the employee may leave rather than negotiate. If other opportunities become slim, then the employee may be forced to negotiate under the prevailing circumstances.
HOST: High turnover in the hospitality industry seem to be a norm. How can it be arrested?
GUEST: This is a double-edged sword each with its own positives and negatives. High turnovers may not be that bad if the mobility stays within the industry. In that respect, if a person develops himself and another opportunity for a higher position occurs in a sister hotel and the employee moves to take advantage of it, then he would be moving into a higher pedestal in the same industry and the benefit would stay in the industry.
The thriving nature of the industry could account for this phenomenon. With the rapid emergence of new hotels with quality and modernized products, employees, especially those at the lower skill levels get attracted and move, most of the time against the advice of their HRs and other line managers.
Sometimes the attraction, in terms of salaries and other compensation packages, fuel this mobility.
One of the ways to curb this trend is for hotel managers to put in place a progressive staff development and career plan that is visible and achievable. If an employee can see, right from the first day, a roadmap that he/she can follow to develop a career, the employee might be motivated to stay. I am yet to see any such career strategies and opportunities being rolled out in our hotels in Ghana.
HOST: It’s been insightful listening to your views. Thank you so much for making time with us on this platform.