Monthly Archives: October 2009

How to maintain and retain a happy and motivated team

Having a happy, motivated and productive team is key to customer service, maintaining sales and controlling costs. Conversely unenthusiastic or discontented staff will not only affect the quality of service, your sales and the day-to-day running of the operation, but will also rub off on everyone else, and ultimately lead to high labour turnover.

The average labour turnover for the UK hospitality industry is around 30% (considerably higher in London). With the average recruitment and training cost per employee estimated at around £1500, this equates to a £886 million cost to the industry per annum. So it’s far more important to retain the staff that you have than to treat them as a disposable item.

If you want to retain the your best people you need to give them what they want.

Communication

Training and development

Good leadership

Communication

Communication is a two-way process, not only do people need to know what’s going on, they want to be heard. Daily briefings need to include what’s happening that could affect the operation or the customer experience in any way (e.g. maintenance, staff shortages, unavailable products or services), as well as any feedback from staff on their observations or ideas. Let your team know how the business is performing, and what this means to them. Communicate any changes that are happening in the business before they happen, and how this might affect them.

Training and development

The first six weeks is critical to any new staff; it’s during this time that make up their mind whether or not this is the right job for them. Rather alarmingly it is reported that 33% of hospitality businesses don’t do any training. If this is the case, how on earth do people know what is expected of them on a day-to-day basis, let alone know how they can contribute to the business or develop their career?

Training your staff in the mechanics of the business operation puts them in a better position to contribute to cost control and income generation. If people understand how the business makes its money they are then in a position to contribute to this and put forward their own ideas.

Make training a part of day-to-day management, so it’s not seen as something that is additional or optional. This goes to both staff and supervisors/managers. Identify those who have an interest in developing their CV’s and are willing to take on training responsibilities as part of their own development.

Think about your succession and grow from within. Give people the opportunity for career progression as well is enhancing the skills to do their existing job. Think also about life skills; for example offering English lessons. And make use of the training grants available through the tourist boards, colleges, People 1st and Train to Gain.

Good leadership

All of the above points contribute to good leadership and I could go on the hours on the subject, but there are three areas in particular I’m going to home in on here.

Direction

We’ve already talked about communicating what’s expected. Set standards so that people can measure their own performance.  Be consistent, ensuring the same ‘rules’ apply to everyone. Focus on telling people what you want to achieve, i.e. the end result, rather than dictating how to do it.  This give people flexibility to adopt their own style and you’ll be surprised how often they end up improving the process.  Lead by example so there are no mixed messages. And make sure you provide the appropriate tools, resources and training to do the job effectively.

Look and listen

Ensure that you and your management team are approachable. Provide support when it’s needed, and be receptive to when this is required. Not everyone will be confident enough to ask for help. Consult staff and listen to their ideas; they may be able to offer better ways of doing things.

Take time to talk to staff to build relationships and show an interest in them as individuals. Listen to and act quickly on any concerns. Identify what’s important to them recognising that with the varied cultures and backgrounds of your staff that their values and priorities may sometimes be different to your own.

Recognise

Recognise and rewarded performance and achievements. This includes giving constructive feedback-what have they done well and how it has contributed; where they have fallen short and how this can be improved. Celebrate and share successes; identify and utilise people strengths, delegating and giving them control and ownership where appropriate. Be sure to recognise all departments, including back of house staff, e.g. housekeeping is often the most undervalued department, but is commonly the most profitable aspect of a hotel.

Encourage and reward loyalty by conducting regular pay/benefits reviews. Think about incentives that are within reach of any member of staff who performs well. This might mean focusing on a different theme each month so that everyone has an opportunity to be recognised for their particular skills or strengths.


My transatlantic travels

You are probably wondering what on earth any sane person could possibly do for 6 days at sea?  Well, quite a lot actually!

As a Strictly Come Dancing fan of course I had to do the dancing lessons.
Then there were the art classes – 4 of our party went every day, and we had a competition every evening for the best painting of the day.
Shuffle board and Quoits on deck gave us more than our fair share of fresh air.
And with 3 circuits of the promenade deck equalling more than a mile (and a fully equipped gym if you were really keen) there was no excuse for lack of exercise to work off maybe a tiny fraction of the food that was on offer 24 hours a day if we wanted it.

Our trip was to celebrate the Silver Wedding Anniversary of some close and dear friends.  So we had plenty of opportunity for celebrating. Every evening was like a special occasion, with posh frocks and DJ’s. And with food and service to match. Catering for some 2500 covers per night in our restaurant I was amazed at the quality of the food – how did they manage to get chateaubriand so perfectly cooked to all our varying requirements on such a scale.  My previous visit to P&O’s Arcadia gave me an insight into the sheer logistics of such an operation – ordering food stuffs at times 6 months in advance for it to be in port when they arrive.  Certainly no nipping down to Tesco’s here!

The standard of hygiene and cleanliness was very impressive.  Naturally I asked to see the galley, and it was immaculate.  The immaculate galley on board QM2Apparently everything is cleaned to a standard that most operations would only do on a deep clean basis – every single night!  This does have its logistical problems.  It imposes very strict deadlines on last orders, so that fryers and hot plates can cool down sufficiently in time to be cleaned.  However there were plenty of alternative restaurants serviced by other kitchens once one had closed.

The other impressive aspect was the loyalty of staff.  Many had been there for years, working for anything from 2 month to 8 month stints before having a break.  Each time they returned they would undergo 3  weeks of refresher training.  Not just the usual food safety and health and safety, but everything else associated with responsibility for 2500 passengers when you are stuck in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.  Why did they do it? – Because they were well rewarded, training and promotional prospects were good and they were all well treated.  There must be a lesson in here somewhere.

Did they get everything right? Well, not quite.  The buffet food court area was a shambles and resembled a down market cafeteria.  Basic customer flow had been completely ignored, so everyone was back and forth causing congestion.  And for some reason you couldn’t get a cup of tea for love nor money at breakfast – coffee was no problem and came within a milli-second of sitting down – but ask for tea and you’d nearly finished your full English by the time it arrived – it seems they were short of teapots!


93% is unconscious

Have you noticed how we are able to just ‘click’ with some people, and with others it’s a real uphill struggle?  It’s all to do with rapport.  The ability to build rapport is key in any business, not just hospitality.  It has such an impact on our relationships – not only with customers, but also with suppliers and staff, in turn making our job a lot easier and more enjoyable. 
 
What is rapport
   
Rapport is a relationship of mutual understanding or trust and agreement between people.  It is what happens at an unconscious level that makes us ‘click’ and is enhanced by a perception of likeness and liking.  It includes the ability to see the other person’s point of view (even though you may not necessarily agree with it), and is a vital element in any form of communication, including the business context.

Indicators of good rapport include
      Similar body posture
      Gesture in similar ways
      Same rhythm in movement and speech
      Breathing levels are similar
      Voice tone

Why is rapport important?
   
How often have you heard “She was so rude”, “He just didn’t seem to care”, “You don’t understand”, “I’m not sure if I trust him”.  Rapport gives the ability to relate to others in a way that creates a climate of trust, openness and understanding, it is a key part of building relationships in the business world.  Having the ability to build rapport helps with:
 
Customers: All things being equal people will have a better experience being served by people they can relate to, and are more likely to do business with people with whom they have good rapport.   And by maintaining that rapport throughout will enable us to identify what our customers really want, to help us provide the best services we can, and ultimately increase our chances of further business.  
 
Suppliers: Be it your butcher, your plumber or your accountant, having a good rapport usually leads to better service, puts us in a better position to negotiate when we need to, and makes it easier to ask for assistance when it’s needed. 

Your team: Having great rapport with your team will open up 2 way communication and builds trust.  You’ll get the best out of them if they feel comfortable to make suggestions, they are less likely to be critical of ideas offered to them, and for you it will be a lot easier to call in a favour when it’s needed.  And it makes for a more pleasant working environment all round.

And of course it’s important that our staff know how to build rapport too, so they can do their job effectively.

How to achieve great rapport

 
Think of people with whom you already have great rapport.  What is it you do, how do you communicate and what do you talk about?  All these factors can give us a clue to the key aspects of building rapport.  But what can you do in business if it doesn’t occur naturally?  You need to pay conscious attention to matching or mirroring (not mimicking) those elements that are part of natural rapport.

Research indicates that only 7% of our communication comes from the words that we use – for example the use of common expressions, terminology, etc.
How we say things – that is our tone, volume, pitch, emphasis – accounts for a further 38%.
And a massive 55% comes from a person’s appearance and physiology – how you sit or stand, your facial expressions and so on.

This means that  93% is unconscious.

So how do we make use of these factors?  Well, the closer we can match these (not mimic) to the other person the more likely we are to build rapport.

Let’s take each in turn:  

Tone

A part of building rapport is respecting the state, style and feelings of others – essential factors when dealing with complaints, and staff concerns; e.g. if someone is feeling frustrated by poor service show understanding for that frustration.  The biggest impact on this is our tone – Do we indicate an understanding for someone’s complaint rather than sounding defensive?  Do we sound empathetic towards a frustration instead of sounding irritated by it? And if someone is excited or happy about something, do we also show excitement or happiness, or do we dampen their mood through sounding bored or impatient.  The closer you match the other person’s tone the greater the degree of rapport.

Physiology

I am sure you have experienced a time when you have arrived somewhere and felt instantly out of place because you felt either under dressed or over dressed.  This is just one example of how our appearance matching those of others helps build rapport.  But this aspect also includes the wider and less obvious aspects of our body language, gestures and facial expressions, and can also extend to our actions.  Next time you are out, just take a look around you and you can easily spot people who are in rapport.  The way they stand or sit will mirror, their facial expressions will be similar and the chances are that when one reaches for their drink or to take a bite of food, the other person will do the same.  So to build rapport, ensure you match the other person – you don’t want to be too obvious about it, but it is surprisingly easy to do this without it appearing as if you are mimicking.

Of course, the more you know and understand your perfect customer, the easier it will be to match these aspects, and build great rapport – and attract and keep the customers you want!

And by remembering that the tone and physiology will be more unconscious ways to build rapport, next time you are in disagreement with someone (disagreement will usually be based on words i.e. just 7%) work on matching the other 93% – their tone and physiology – and you will be amazed at the impact this can have on your ability to reach agreement.

Words

What we actually talk about and the words we use will go some way to building rapport, so listen out for the terminology others use and try to use their terms rather than yours. But this also extends to showing common interests, common goals and common values.  So assuming your share these let them know, as these can help to bond you together.  A relationship with a customer will be a lot easier if you share something you have in common.  This doesn’t only apply to face to face communication – it also extends to any other forms of communication – so consider this in your marketing messages, on site promotions and any customer notices or information.