Industry Update
Opinion Article19 October 2011

Increasing Employee Engagement Part 1

By Larry Bowman

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How often have we checked into a hotel, had a meal in a restaurant, or experienced a flight and noticed that the people with whom we have interacted appear indifferent to our needs and uninterested, whereas at other times the front line staff are motivated and eager to please?

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What we are talking about is employee engagement and how it affects the customer experience. So what is it? Employee engagement can be described as a combination of commitment to the organization and its values and a willingness to support colleagues. It goes beyond satisfaction and is not simply motivation, as engagement is something that the employee has to offer, rather than a strict requirement as part of the employment contract.

Why should hospitality organisations be interested in employee engagement? Because engaged employees deliver improved business performance and higher guest/customer satisfaction. Research (CIPD UK) has demonstrated links between the way people are managed, employee attitudes and business performance. Businesses increasingly recognize the importance of their "brand". Engaged employees will help promote the brand and support improved customer service levels.

How can organizations build an engaged workforce? One of the first steps is to measure employee attitudes, either through a formal employee attitude survey, or for small businesses, through more informal methods of gauging employee views. Results of such surveys typically provide valuable information about employee sentiment across a number of areas including pay and benefits, communications, training and development and management style and effectiveness. The results can then be used to identify areas in need of improvement and combined with other data to support performance management initiatives.

Efforts towards building an engaged workforce need to stem from good people management and development policies with the active support of team leaders and management. People management strategies and policies need to be closely aligned with those of the wider business with employees clearly understanding how their work contributes to a company's overall success. There are no short cuts to building and maintaining employee engagement. Investment in the time, effort and resources required will pay dividends in the enhanced performance outcomes that result, particularly in customer satisfaction levels.

So what are the principal drivers of employee engagement? These are understood to be:

  • Employees having opportunities to feed their views upwards
  • Employees feeling that they are well informed about what is happening in their organization
  • A belief that direct supervision or management are committed to the organization

Another study (Institute of Employment Studies) has concluded that the main driver of engagement is a sense of feeling valued and involved. The main components of this driver are:

  • Involvement in decision making
  • Freedom to voice ideas, to which managers listen
  • Feeling enabled to perform well
  • Having opportunities to develop the job
  • Feeling the organization is concerned for employees' health and well being

The way in which both senior management and supervisors behave towards and communicate with employees and the way in which work is organized and jobs defined, contribute successfully towards making work meaningful and engaging.

The positive linkage which research has found between employee engagement and performance outcomes means that it is in employers' interests to drive up levels of engagement amongst their workforce. Interestingly, levels of engagement have significant benefits for employees as well, since engagement is positively associated with job satisfaction and employment experiences.

So, what are the implications for hospitality business managers? Given the clear association between engagement and performance, there is every incentive to improve engagement levels. Areas for consideration include:

  • Giving people the opportunity to feed their views upwards is the single most important driver of engagement
  • Keeping employees informed about what is going on in the organization is critical
  • Employees need to see that managers are committed to the organization in order to feel engaged
  • Having fair and just management processes for dealing with problems is important in driving up levels of performance

Different groups of employees are influenced by different factors and managers need to carefully consider what is important to their own team and design measures that resonate with them.

So what are the specific steps that a hospitality business needs to take and what are the systems and processes that should be put into place to improve employee engagement?

In the next edition of Hotel Matters, we will discuss this topic in more detail, drawing on the experiences gained and learning derived from the assignments undertaken with our clients in this important area.

Related News

Employee Engagement Part 2 | By Larry Bowman

8 December 2011 — As a follow up to my previous article, let's briefly refresh our memory regarding what we discussed concerning employee engagement: There are a variety of definitions for employee engagement, however one that I like sums it up well: "Being focused in what you do (thinking), feeling good about yourself in your role and the organisation (feeling), and acting in a way that demonstrates commitment to the organisational values and objectives (acting).
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Larry Bowman

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