Pointless Panels…| By Enda Larkin
By Enda Larkin, Owner/Director at HTC Consulting
I mean really take it.
Like a certain hotel worker in the U.S., for example.
According to a report on the CBS news website, this particular girl was a sales coordinator at a Sheraton hotel in Iowa. By all accounts, she wasn't exactly what you might call a highly motivated individual; she seemed to have a lot of free time on her hands.
So, to look busy – and that word 'look' should be the first hint at where this is going – she began recording her working day in a journal.
Her 'work' included typing interesting observations into the said daily journal, such as:
"This typing thing seems to be doing the trick. It just looks like I am hard at work on something very important."
"I am only here for the money and, lately, for the printer access. I haven't really accomplished anything in a long while … and I am still getting paid more than I ever have at a job before, with less to do than I have ever had before. It's actually quite nice when I think of it that way. I can shop online."
She was later denied unemployment benefits by a judge who said her journal showed a refusal to work and "amusement at getting away with it".
You have to admire her neck, though, for even taking the case in the first place.
Yes, this young sales coordinator was not what you might call Employee of the Month material, was she? Still, she comes a distant second to my all-time favourite employee, a chap from Aberdeen.
This guy's story is simply beyond belief.
Based on a report in Scotland's Evening Express, a young man worked as a cleaner for a hotel in Aberdeen. And he wanted a day off, or as the chap himself later put it, he didn't "much fancy" going to work.
But instead of just asking for one, he concocted a story that he had been assaulted.
And here's why he is my favourite character.
On his way to work on the day in question, but not wanting to go, the guy removed a razor from his pocket and dragged it down his face a number of times. He also picked up a boulder and struck it off his head and repeatedly hit himself on the face and body. After that, he then went to the police station to report 'the assault'.
Later, he admitted he was lying and received a £100 fine for wasting police time.
When asked about the incident, our unwilling worker friend said, "Looking back, I should have just phoned work and asked them for the day off."
Indeed, young man. Indeed.
Okay, I probably shouldn't mock the guy, as clearly he was unwell.
Thankfully, as we all know, most employees are honest, hard-working individuals who – for the most part at least – give their all every day. Sure, everyone has off-days, but the vast majority of employees I encounter actually like their job and want to do it to the best of their ability.
But, let's be honest too.
Some employees, admittedly a small minority, are – now, how shall I tactfully put this? – yes…are complete and utter wasters.
Anyone who has ever managed people will no doubt already be well aware of this.
My question, and the focus of this article is how do these losers manage to sneak under the radar with such apparent ease and frequency?
For sure, it is partially explained by the fact that there are individuals who thrive in an interview setting to the extent that they can pull the wool over our eyes.
That said, from what I have seen, the main reason why we are so frequently caught out in terms of hiring wasters has more to do with the fact that the recruitment process itself is frequently mis-managed in many hotels.
That may sound harsh, but it is a reality in my experience; and particularly so where small or medium enterprises are concerned.
Now, for definite, there has been a vast improvement in the general quality of recruitment across our industry over the past decade or more, but it can still be a bit hit-and-miss at times.
Let me give a simple example of what I mean.
Recently, as a favor to a consultant colleague, I was asked to sit on an Interview Panel to help recruit a new Sales Director for a relatively big city-centre based hotel. I knew nothing about this particular business – but I do know about hotels and indeed recruiting – and was simply filling in for my colleague who couldn't make it.
When I arrived on the day – not having received the CVs in advance, as had been promised – it was clear that the whole thing was going to be a bit of a shambles to say the least.
By the time the four of us who were sitting on the panel, including the owner, had arrived, there were only a few minutes available before the interviews started in order for us to get a handle on the CVs and to plan how the interviews would be conducted.
During that short time, I asked the owner what 'type' of person he was hoping to recruit.
"Someone who can sell," he said looking at me as if I had two heads "and obviously the best of the five people we will be interviewing today," he continued, placing the emphasis on the 'obviously' bit and clearly wondering why I had been recommended to sit on the panel.
I rest my case.
As you are likely well aware, effective recruitment involves a comprehensive process with many interlinked steps which individually combine to minimize the potential for 'bad-eggs' to slip through the net.
Now, even if all these steps are managed to perfection, you will still get caught out occasionally – it is a human process after all – but just less often.
Anyway, my intention here is not to focus on all elements of the process but rather to concentrate on what I believe is a common failing throughout this process seen in many hotels.
One of the key failures, for me at least, is that during the recruitment processes – in many companies – the focus is still too much on what someone can 'do' – their skills, as opposed to who they 'are' – their mindset and personal qualities.
Of course, a balance between both is clearly needed, but sometimes there is too much emphasis placed on the doing bit.
But when you really think about it, you can quite easily determine what skills someone has from their CV, so the focus in terms of recruitment should actually be to figure out whether they are the right 'fit' with your hotel. What's more, ultimately skills can be learned but it is far harder, I find, to teach someone not to be a jerk.
All leaders should pay attention to the type of person they bring into their teams – regardless of the level involved. Selecting the 'right' individual for the job can make a major positive contribution to building overall team effectiveness; get it wrong and the potential damage to morale, cohesion and team spirit can be significant.
For example, you might employ someone who is considered to be very highly skilled a given role, but if they are prone to acting like an idiot all the time, then they will reduce the overall effectiveness of that particular team.
You should also recognize that it is always easier to keep such individuals out than it is to get rid of them once they have joined. Add to this the wasted costs of having to begin the search all over again when you later find out you have been conned.
Without a clear idea of the type of person you are seeking, from what I have seen, the typical interview process tends to go as follows: the first candidate in sets the benchmark and each subsequent candidate is either better or worse than that.
In other words, candidates are measured against each other, as opposed to a set of ideal characteristics.
This makes it easier for certain people – those who 'do-a-good-interview' – to appear on the surface to be the best option on offer.
And there is plenty of research out there which supports the notion that we give more credence to, and are less critical of, the responses provided by a candidate who wins us over early. What's more, such candidates may have some traits we like and this causes us to assume they have the other qualities we are looking for as well, or to ignore any negative qualities they might possess: the 'Halo' effect as it is known.
Although many hotels now have tools such as employee profiles in place to aid the recruitment process, some managers still do not make best use of them and continue to place too much emphasis on gut feeling, which is a factor of course, but should not form the majority component of any recruitment decision.
In seeking any new employee, you need to think about three dimensions:
It is only through having a clear picture in your mind of the type of person you are looking for that you can ever hope to have any chance of finding the most suitable individual from the pool of applicants available.
Armed with this profile of the ideal candidate, you can then better prepare for interviews (or whatever selection methods you use) by devising a set of questions based on that profile which will help you to reveal the true nature of the person sitting in front of you. What's more, by creating a simple evaluation form – also based on the profile – each candidate can then be benchmarked against the ideal characteristics required.
In other words, you compare like with like.
That doesn't mean, as I said, that you won't get caught out by the odd disappointment on occasion, but it will happen less frequently – and less severely.
As to the panel I recently participated on?
Well, to be honest, it was not something that I feel very proud about.
Given our lack of preparation, we, as a panel, must surely have come across as a bunch of amateurs to the candidates, what with some people asking the same or similar questions as others, people talking over each other on occasion, and generally looking like we had never held a panel interview before.
I was pretty embarrassed by the whole thing.
And I definitely won't be asked back again, because at the end of the day – as I didn't feel that we had managed the process well enough to be in a position to fairly recommend one interviewee over another – I refused to nominate a 'best' candidate.
I could see the red mist descending in the owner's eyes as I said that too.
Anyway, that left the other three to make a decision; and each one of them had a different preferred candidate in mind.
The Owner opted for his choice.
Pointless Panel exercise in the end.
But, as I always say, there is learning to be found in the strangest of places.
Phone: +41 (0) 22 700 8675
of senior management positions in Ireland, UK and the US. In 1994 he founded HTC Consulting, a Geneva based firm, which specialises in working with enterprises in hospitality and tourism. Since that time, he has led numerous consulting projects for public and private sector clients throughout Europe and the Middle East. He is author of Ready to Lead? (Pearson/Prentice Hall 2007), How to Run a Great Hotel (How to Books 2009), 'Quick Win' Leadership (Oak Tree Press 2010) and Journeys – Short Stories and Tall Tales for Managers which is due to be published in March 2012. He may be contacted via www.htc- consult.com or at email@example.com. Read his Blog at www.htc-consult.com/new/blog