Increasing Employee Engagement in Hospitality

Have you ever wondered about the similarity between the words hospitality and hospital? Of course, they have the same root. Searching etymology.com you find both words come from “mid-13c., “shelter for the needy,” from Old French hospital, ospital “hostel, shelter, lodging” (Modern French hôpital), from Late Latin hospitale “guest-house, inn,” and from the Latin adjective hospitalis “of a guest or host” (as a noun, a guest; the duties of hospitality).” You might be surprised that another word is also related: hostage! But the similarities among all of these words are clear and simple – they all involve giving shelter to people you don’t know (whether willingly or against their will!)

There are other similarities between hospitals and those in the hospitality industry: your guests are in unfamiliar surroundings, they may be anxious or uncomfortable, some of them might prefer to be somewhere else (in their homes). Taking care of people in these circumstances requires exceptional customer service delivered by committed employees.

Some of the biggest challenges facing the hospitality industry today are related to employees:

  • High staff turnover costs the industry money for attracting and training new employees but also has an impact on the morale and productivity of other staff members, who see a constant stream of new faces in and out the door.
  • Accidents, safety issues, quality of service issues, and absenteeism all increase when employee morale decreases.
  • And of course, guest satisfaction suffers as loyal guests cannot create lasting relationships with staff who do not stay around, and are doubly impacted by the poor morale of the remaining staff.
  1. Willard “Bill” Marriott is widely quoted as having said, “Take care of your employees, and they will take care of your guests.” There is also another quote by him that seems to be a recipe for increasing employee engagement in hospitality: “Motivate them, train them, care about them, and make winners out of them… they’ll treat the customers right. And if customers are treated right, they’ll come back.”
  2. Motivate them: In hospitality, where all individual functions must work seamlessly and smoothly to deliver a great guest experience, a cohesive team that works well together is a must. Keep an eye on inter-departmental relations. Make sure your team has the tools and processes that support them in reaching their goals. Create accountability through clear and frequent communications, setting expectations and measuring individual performance.
  3. Train them: Train all staff members adequately for their role and provide ongoing training to brush up their skills. This gives employees the confidence they need to perform their jobs well. In addition to training for individual roles, make sure employees understand your policies, such as how to handle customer complaints. Developing employees for their future roles in your organization also increases employee engagement.
  4. Care about them: Willard Marriott Sr. went so far as to have a doctor and nurse on staff to care for employees’ health. While you might not have to go that far (think of the liability!), employees need to know you care for them. Flexible work schedules, consideration of the needs of working parents, even a simple thank you or pat on the back can show employees that you care – and want them to stay with you.
  5. Make winners out of them: Webrezpro suggests “Most employees want to be a part of something meaningful, so share your company’s goals with your staff and ensure they know how their specific role contributes to your business’ performance and success.

While improving employee engagement will improve profitability in any industry, it is an absolute imperative for hospitality. Without devoted, well-trained, enthusiastic employees, you cannot deliver excellent service to your guests. Tried-and-true employee engagement techniques are very effective at improving profitability and customer satisfaction in the hospitality industry.

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