Do you know of business contracts between friends which ended up badly? Often, these are the results of misunderstandings, conflicts or changes in relationships and motives as the business is doing poorly or is prospering. As a result of this, for the many who have been ‘bitten’ even once, and who have learnt their lessons, they find it necessary to put an agreement in writing no matter how well they know the other party, should they find themselves going into similar business relationships.
One can always refer to the agreement for clarifications. Further, each party has a clear understanding of the rights and responsibilities which established the relationship.
Every hospitality facility I know of, requires personnel to perform specific tasks for which the employer pays the employee. It is a work relationship. The job personnel have been hired to do, whether it is cleaning, serving food, baking, cooking, carrying out maintenance activities, bookkeeping or welcoming guests and visitors etc. come with expectations from the employer. Such expectations include employees acting professionally (spelt out in job descriptions and explained during orientation sessions) and exhibiting certain behaviors which contribute to making money for the employer.
It is from the efforts of all (in the business) that money is generated and from which salaries and other emoluments are paid. If the business loses money or is compelled to shut down, the employees lose their jobs; the case of a number of hotels during this coronavirus pandemic all around the world.
In ‘Hard Talk’, the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the need for a healthier employee-employer relationship. There were obvious challenges posed by the pandemic. In the series of articles presented, you may have observed in at least two of the dialogues with our employee-guests that there was little or no engagement with their employers on the approach used to handle their challenges. On the ground, this practice is quite rampant.
In wrapping up, we understand that building a relationship is a 2-way affair, we engage with Mr. Kodjo Haizel (a hotel human resource consultant), to help employees in contributing towards building strong work relations in their respective work places.
HOST: When it comes to good employees, there is no one-size-fits-all definition. However, being in this business for long, what makes a good employee particularly in the hotel industry? In other words, what do our employers look for in employees?
GUEST: Before the employer goes into the job-market to look for the employee, he has to, determine the type of human capital desired for the role expected of the job-holder. It is very critical for the employer to establish some criteria as a guide, in making the right choices.
When our mothers go into the market to buy, they go with this mindset, however subjective it may be. In making choices for vegetables, for example, they take into account the season, the perishability, the longevity, taste, color, the yield that can be gained from the product, etc. So they take a very long time before exiting the market and ultimately there are convinced in themselves that they have made good and quality buys.
I think similar principles are applicable in any work situation, including hotels. This is just the starting point because once these principles are applied scrupulously, the employer would be firmly set on the starting-blocks to gain from the selected employee.
Some of the criteria in securing the best employees may include designing the right job descriptions, competencies and skills, multi-functional traits, professional qualifications, measured experiences, the yield-qualities in the employee, i.e. the futuristic gains to be gotten out of h/her during the course of employment, linguistic advantages and so on and so forth.
The other side of the coin is that in practice most hotels recruit only to fill spaces and not gain spaces. Cultural traits act as spokes in the wheels to sustainable and gainful employment.
Advertisements placed in the media are always the same and copied from previous ones neglecting the fact that for even similar positions, the criteria could be different depending on the specific roles and use the employee would be put to.
Consequently, employment contracts suffer the same fate as similar contracts are copied out to employees to serve different roles and responsibilities. Is it any wonder that employments crash in due course and no “post-mortem” analyses are done to ascertain the causes of such failures.
I have to be candid and say that because there is a huge labor market, employers are always in a hurry to recruit people to occupy spaces rather than looking for the “performance” and “yield” gains that can be derived from employment situations.
HOST: In our smaller hotels, many people who get employed (permanent or casual), are not given any document despite reminding their employers several times. How else does such an employee ensure s/he is ‘covered’/has a documentation on employment?
GUEST: First of all, the market supply of labor far exceeds the demand. Secondly, for most of the smaller hotels, many of the owners see the work of staff as extended household chores from home whether they are in the areas of cleaning rooms, cooking or serving drinks.
And because supply is greater than demand, staffs are sometimes employed long before any contracts are made. This is also due to weak HR structures that are put in place. In one of such hotels people have worked in more than a year without any contract documents, let alone job descriptions and workplace policy frameworks. Fear of job security and the propensity to lose their livelihood put most employees in the fear zone, a debilitating factor that scares people to make such demands.
HOST: Is it offensive for a newly hired employee to write out his/her understanding of job responsibilities and to show it to his/her ‘boss’ to endorse?
GUEST: Job Descriptions basically describe the job and functions expected of the employee while in employment. From my experience, job descriptions are usually added to the employee’s contract and given to him weeks before h/she moves into the hotel to assume the position.
A progressive HR Manager should rather discuss the contents of the document with the employee, opening windows for innovations and adjustments based on the objective conditions prevailing in the hotel. As I go round hotels in my work as a consultant, I am sometimes surprised to see the same job description from another hotel, copied and pasted into similar positions in another hotel, even though they may not be of the same star-rating. There are too many of such practices going on currently.
It is important to know that job descriptions are not static instruments. It should be seen as a joint tool arrived at after a thorough discussion with the employee to enable/her understand and play the role expected.
HOST: I am really thinking of the majority of hotels who do not have HRs. In this environment the Owner-Manager also plays the role of HR.
GUEST: I think an employee may be capable of writing his/her own job but it has to be approved by the HR, acting in the stead of the GM. However, job descriptions are generally the sole preserve of the employer who possess the business plan, to be able to design and describe the specific jobs that would improve on the business objectives and strategies.
The employer is responsible for the formation, standards and tactics it would employ to beat its competitors.
HOST: What is an employment manual and how does it enhance work relations?
GUEST: Employment manuals set out the broad basis for the conduct of work and professional relations in every work environment. They may include, the vision and mission of the organization, core values, corporate governance processes and procedures, standard operating procedures, conditions of service, disciplinary codes, organizational culture and behavior, policies and procedures covering a range of issues as in health, SSNIT, taxes, welfare bonuses, etc.
Manuals ensure a serene work environment and enhance professional relationship and productivity.
To be continued