Maximizing Results Beyond Minimum Wages: Cost Free Tips to Enhance Hospitality Employees’ Lives
By Joshua D. Hayes MA, Peggy A. Hayes, David K. Hayes Ph.D.
It is no secret that President Obama is seeking an increase in the minimum wage that could affect all hospitality business owners and operators. At the same time, Pope Francis challenges business leaders the world over to ensure there is a "fair distribution of wealth." And interestingly, late last month the Los Angeles Times reported that "Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century," a book by French economist Thomas Piketty was the No. 1 best-selling book on Amazon.com. In fact, it was so popular that the Times reported the book was currently out of stock.
thoughtful deliberation in the US about a variety of income-related topics, including whether it is appropriate to increase the minimum wage in the United States. Hospitality trade associations, business owners, and their managers are, of course, keenly interested in that wage-related debate, regardless of where they may stand on the issue.
As industry professionals, we all recognize the important role lower-waged workers playin the success of any well-managed hotel or restaurant. It is a reality of today's economy that much of the work done each day is assigned to workers who have limited skills, limited education, or both. The lower pay of these workers may appropriately reflect those limitations. It is essential to understand, however, that while their pay may be low their importance and that of the work they do is very high. Hotel front desk agents and room attendants, food service kitchen workers, cashiers and servers, are just a few examples of the myriad groups of hospitality employees who daily perform tasks that are of critical significance to those they serve, as well as to the efficient operation of our economy and the betterment of all our businesses.
The economic hardships many of these workers face are certainly real. Yet in today'seconomy, increasing their wages significantly is often not an easily implemented option. However, that does not mean managers and supervisors are powerless to help these workers overcome many of their challenges.
In the best of worlds, perhaps, these lower-paid workers would immediately receive payraises that would allow them to readily achieve the dreams they have for themselves and to meet the aspirations they have for their families. The reality for many of these workers, however, is that due to economic practicality most will not receive significant increases in pay. If they stay in their current jobs they will, in many cases, remain in the same lower-scale pay ranges.
Just or unjust, lower-waged workers are a fixture in the fabric of every nation's economyand certainly in the service-intensive hospitality industry. It is true that even the most considerate of employers may not be financially able to significantly alter the pay structure of their lowest-paid workers. However, these employers can, without question, do a great deal to improve the lives of their lower-waged workers and the even the workers' families. Concerned managers can take no-cost or low-cost steps in several areas such as:
- Recognizing the Valuable Contribution of Lower-wage Workers
- Affirming the Dignity of Each Worker
- Assisting With Training and Education
- Improving Workers' Health
- Enhancing the Lives of Workers' Families
Here are some concrete examples of significant actions hospitality managers can takeright now:
At least twice per year hold private, closed door, meetings with each lower-wagedemployee to personally thank them for a specific and positive aspect of their work performance. Examples could include good attendance, punctuality, and adherence to dress code requirements or attitude toward customers. Find the positive in each employee and make your appreciation known to them.
Because many lower-wage or part-time workers need to work more than one job to meettheir economic needs managers can do the unexpected. Ask employees directly about their outside employment. Use this information when determining work schedules. Ensure your lower-waged workers know that you recognize the economic necessity of multiple jobs they may hold and assure them that your organization will be fair and reasonable with policies that could affect accommodating their outside work schedules.
Identify cross-training opportunities for as many of your lower-paid workers as isreasonably possible. Cross-training demonstrates to workers that you have faith in their abilities and want to provide them with opportunities for career growth.
Double the number of your workers' paid breaks. Yes, you read that right! Productivitystudies consistently show that the total amount of work that will be completed will actually increase (not decrease!); and worker health and satisfaction will increase as well. Some work in lower waged jobs can be fairly tedious, monotonous, stressful, and physically challenging. Small things like extra breaks can make the day much more enjoyable and aid a worker's good health. Fresh air, nutritious snacks, and the chance to relax, stretch or exercise can all help to decrease the amount of mental and physical stress your employees endure though out their work day.
Many lower-wage workers face significant issues directly related to securing safehousing. Having problems with housing if children are involved increases the chaos and distraction. Make a list of habitat resale stores, charitable repair services, and temporary housing options employees can access in case of emergency. Post or make the information easily available to all employees.
These ideas cost little to nothing, and can directly enhance the lives and feelings ofself-worth of lower-waged employees, but they are not original. They are presented (with permission) from a book all hospitality mangers should read.
The book is Minimum Wages-Maximum Dignity: A Manager's Guide to Affirmingthe Worth of All Employees. Written by hospitality industry professional Brother Herman Zaccarelli C.S.C., it is an inexpensive how-to guide that should be enthusiastically embraced by managers of minimum-waged and other lower-paid workers in all hospitality businesses. In the book, the author explains the reason he produced it when he writes:
"America's working poor face real challenges in how they are viewed at work andoften in how they view themselves. In most cases, lower-waged workers have little power to change the circumstances they encounter at work. So this book is most importantly dedicated to those managers who do have that power, and the desire, to transform the lives of their lower-waged employees for the better. My hope for them is that they have the understanding, the compassion, and most of all the courageous will...to do just that."
In the book, the author provides a list of over 100 no-cost or low-cost actions managerscan consider taking right now to assist their lower-waged workers.
Doing the good things for employees is, of course, a virtuous thing to do. But it is alsothe right thing to do; for all those employers who understandably must be just as concerned with the success of their bottom lines as with the success of their lower paid workers. Fortunately, for businesses and workers, these dual concerns are inextricably connected. The good news is that success in both can often be achieved by utilizing a variety of low-cost or no-cost actions available to many managers.
Our suggestion? Do your organization, your employees, and yourself a favor. Buy acopy of Minimum Wages-Maximum Dignity: A Manager's Guide to Affirming the Worth of All Employees from Amazon.com (while it's still in stock!)