by Egi Gaisie

First-level Supervisors wear many ‘hats’.

“Our supervisors can probably have more influence on our productivity, worker absenteeism, product quality, morale of our work force, labor relations, and cost reduction than any other group in the company.” By a vice president of a company.

From the above quote, you realize that our role as supervisors is widely linked to the success of the organizations we work in, but many people underestimate this role, including, unfortunately, some of us.

We are pressurized by the demands of different groups of people within and outside the properties we work at. We are confronted with demands from employees, guests, government agencies, industry demands and managers(upper and middle management) as well as internal departments (human resources, accounting and purchasing) if the hotel is big and well structured. These demands are more often than not conflicting and even at times mutually exclusive. If the property is unionized we may also have pressures placed on us by union officials.

The bigger the hotel, the more the number and category of people we interact with, broadening the scope of demand. The smaller the hotel the more intense the pressure placed on us in handling the variety of issues which come up. 

Since the beginning of the year, this blog has presented articles identifying and dealing with some of our challenges; considering the hotel industry as people-driven and as service oriented, respectively. Hopefully readers have been working on themselves towards developing a stronger image.

This article takes a close look at the diverse relationships we must build with the different categories of people who make demands of us. In handling the variety of attitudes and values required,
first-level supervisors must excel in interpersonal skills but this can be extremely challenging.

An earlier analysis of hotels in Gana, indicates that 74 % of our hotels are rated ‘budget.’  1-star, guest houses and budget hotels together form 89% of our hotels.  Most of these hotels fall under small sized hotels and qualified supervisors working in these environments find themselves under intense work pressure.

The hotel industry is about the skills and attitudes of employees to deliver products and services required by guests. Finding qualified and skilled employees to meet these requirements and/or to support qualified supervisors is becoming quite a struggle. The industry has long been characterized by a workforce with relatively low levels of skills.  Despite the growing number of hospitality institutions and many more graduates in the system there seems to be very little impact, if any, on professional services delivered in our hotels. Some of the few personnel who seem to have been trained in various recognized institutions ‘are not able to apply themselves’ and guess who bears the bruntthe Supervisor (an entry level management personnel, also considered as key front-line management personnel).

Demands on Supervisors 
By Higher Management
These are the Board of Directors. In our work environment, they may be the Owner-managers with selected family members.

The interests of serious minded Boards may include financial development of the company, quality of financial reporting and internal control and evaluating the operations. They may work with business plans and budgets, quarterly/half yearly reports, year-end financial statements and annual reports. Some may require you to contribute directly in suggesting operational policies and guidelines.

The pressure exerted by them includes meeting job requirements generally spelt out in our job descriptions irrespective of operational handicaps.

Being innovative and avoiding excuses will enhance our image and win their support.
By Middle Management 
These are our direct bosses. Again in our environment, they are likely to be relatives of the Owners of the hotels. Although they are expected to communicate goals, strategies, tactics and policies they hardly do and a growing gap occurs if we do not ‘take the bull by the horn’ and assert ourselves by sharing information and seeking information. 
Our immediate bosses expect us to meet quality standards set, maintain records and operate  within a budget.Unfortunately, most of the standards are verbalized and many operations have poor record keeping habits. Many complain about paper/stationary, yet they do not seem to be committed to support us with systems to go paperless!

Too many of us, supervisors, shy away from figures; many find them intimidating. Consequently, a number of supervisors are not involved in preparing their hotel’s budget. We are also often unaware of budget allocations to our departments. We just consent to what the accountants tell us. (If this is you) You are shooting yourself in the foot!

Drawing up a budget involves people skills, negotiating and listening skills which we all need to sharpen whenever an opportunity! You will learn the processes and enhance your skills in decision making.

It is always useful to develop and maintain our own records on inputs and outputs. They serve as essential information in supporting evaluations and decisions made.  
By Employees
Employee pressures are usually in the form of complaints, problems and requests. Some can be quite personal. We must learn how to draw a thin line in exercising our role as a supervisor and as a counselor or  a confidant.

As responsible supervisors we must see it as our obligation, to provide a safe working environment, and provide opportunities to help good workers get ahead. We will also be representing employees’ concerns to higher or middle management.
By Guests
You remember an earlier article in which we came up with different categories of guests; Very Important Patrick(VIP), Silent Sophia, Complaining CKwesi, Aggressive Ama and Know -it-all Nancy.

Once we are able to identify which categories are guests are in, we should be able to use the appropriate approach to provide a pleasant experience, meeting quality and quantity requirements.
By Industry Government Agencies

Supervisors may or may not deal with Government agencies directly. Their main demand would be meeting regulatory requirements. 

Lack of information on our the part creates an opportunity for Government agencies to flex their muscles at us. Current dispensations, however  depict some of these agencies placing a human face to in their dealings with us.
By Internal Departments

In well structured operations demands on supervisors involve requirements ranging from compliance with operating procedures, meeting targets set in productivity and making savings among others. 

As first-level supervisors, we must have technical competence in the areas we supervise. We must be able to perform the specific tasks we ask our workers to do and must, to some degree, understand the equipment we work with.

Concluding Remarks

We need to watch out; too often when the pressure is on, our attitudes betrays us.  

  We will do well to demonstrate our attitude through:

  • improving our appearance
  • making decisive decisions
  • handling mistakes calmly
  • sharing humorous incidents
  • demonstrating our ability to communicate with superiors

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