What to Do About Training

September 15th, 2014

In a number of articles I’ve enumerated the challenges that standalone operations have in designing and implementing the robust and consistent training programs necessary to enhance organizational effectiveness and customer/guest/member service.  While most operations focus their training efforts on line employees, I have long advocated the need for manager and supervisory training in all areas.  As agents of the enterprise, these individuals can do far more harm unless well-schooled in leadership, business disciplines, and legal and liability issues.

woman-manager-3While there is no doubt that the challenges to comprehensive training are significant, the ramifications of weak, inconsistent training are even more significant in that they impact performance at every level and area of the operation – and may ultimately prove to be a threat to the enterprise’s very existence.

Despite its critical nature, there always seem to be reasons not to train.  Often the biggest obstacle to formal training programs is cost – as every hour of training is an hour of payroll.  But as I’ve said before, there is a lot of wasted time in every operation, so the real issue is one of organization and the “will to make it happen.”

So what is a General Manager to do, should he or she want to institute a formal system of comprehensive training?  Here are four basic requirements:

  • Identify needs.  While every operation may have specific needs, Training Requirements for Hospitality Operations lays out the general types of necessary training.
  • Develop a training plan.  One organization’s first pass at a plan can be found on the Hospitality Resources International website under Operations>Resources>White Papers.  Certainly this can be used as a basis to develop your own plan.
  • Establish priorities.  As usual, go for the “low-hanging fruit” – those that are easiest to implement.  You might even use one department as the testing ground for others before full implementation.
  • Use “on the go” training.  The use of ongoing, short training topics will help keep the cost of training down, while providing constant reminders of important issues, best practices, and service techniques.  Hospitality Resources International has pioneered the concept of “on the go” training and has developed materials for Organizational Values, Leadership, Human Resources, Accounting, Employee Development and Discipline, Service, Management Disciplines, Food Service Management, and Safety.  Others are under development for Golf Management and F&B Knowledge.  These can be purchased from the HRI Marketplace and provide a proven method of training.

Surveying the needs of setting up formal training program, you realize it’s a lot of work.  But much of it has already been done for you, so no need to reinvent the wheel.  Should you decide to develop your own materials; the above mentioned modules provide a powerful example of how it can be done.

Lastly, I would suggest the concept of “incremental progress” to guide your training development.  You don’t have to do everything at once.  Make it a multi-year goal; assign tasks, responsibilities, and timelines.  Make a little progress each week while keeping your eye on the end result.  Each step forward will bring incremental improvements.  In time you’ll be amazed at the results!

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Managers’ Fiscal Responsibilities

September 8th, 2014

Managers with bottom-line responsibility are responsible for the financial performance of their areas of the operation.  There are a number of specific elements associated with this responsibility, which is broken down into the following broad categories:

Budgeting.  Budgeting is the process of establishing a financial operating and capital plan for a future fiscal year.  Budgets are formulated using past history, benchmarks, knowledge of upcoming events or trends, and one’s best professional judgment.

budget-4Comparing Actual Performance to Budget.  Once approved, budgets are the fiscal plan for the year.  Managers are responsible for comparing actual performance to budgets on a monthly basis and intervening as necessary to achieve budget goals.

Achieving Revenues.  Achieving revenue projections is one of the two primary means of meeting budgets (the other being controlling expenses).  Managers are responsible for monitoring revenues and aggressively intervening when revenues fall short.

Controlling Cost of Goods Sold.  Departments with retail operations must also control the cost of goods sold and investigate when these costs are out-of-line.  Managers can do this by ensuring accurate monthly inventories, carefully tracking departmental transfers and adjustments, and using retail buying plans.

Controlling Payroll Costs.  Payroll is the single largest expense in most operations and the most significant expense that managers must control.  In order to control payroll costs, it is vital that managers have timely and accurate data regarding their departmental payroll costs.  Essential to getting this data is having staff correctly follow timekeeping procedures, setting schedules to meet forecasted levels of business, and the dogged determination to track payroll expenses closely to ensure that budgets are not exceeded.

Controlling Other Expenses.  Other Expenses comprise all of the other departmental operating expenses.  Managers can control these expenses by carefully reviewing expenditures on a monthly basis, using some means, such as Tools to Beat Budget, to track other expenses in real time, and by periodic in-depth reviews of significant expense accounts.

Benchmarking.  Benchmarking is the act of measuring operating performance.  Each department head should track detailed benchmarks for his area of the operation

Pricing.  The starting point for meeting revenue projections is proper pricing of products and services to ensure a sufficient markup to cover associated expenses.  Pricing should be reviewed on a periodic basis to assure that budgeted margins are being maintained.

Purchasing.  Some managers are responsible for purchasing materials, supplies, and inventories for their departments.  Managers must be familiar with all company purchasing policies to properly fulfill these responsibilities.

Expense Coding.  Managers are sometimes responsible for ensuring that invoices for all purchased items are coded to appropriate expense accounts in a timely, accurate, and consistent manner.

Inventory Management and Security.  Given that high inventory levels tie up capital that might be put to better use elsewhere, managers must use common sense and good business judgment to maintain inventories at levels that balance business demands, lower pricing for bulk purchases, perishability of stock, and available warehousing space.

Inventories must be kept secured with access limited to as few individuals as possible.  Storerooms must be kept neat, clean, and organized to facilitate physical inventory counts and minimize damage and spoilage.

Merchandise inventories should be purchased using Open to Buy or other retail buying plans, thereby constantly monitoring inventory levels and product mix while minimizing markdowns.  All special sales of merchandise during the year should be noted and marked-down items analyzed compared to buying plans to ensure that lessons are learned from buying mistakes.

Asset Management.  Managers are responsible for protecting the assets assigned to their departments and in their care.  Periodic physical counts are required for assets under your control:

  • Resale inventories—monthly to determine cost of goods sold.
  • Supply inventories, such as linens, china, and glassware— quarterly to ensure you have sufficient stock on hand.  Some consumable items, such as ware washing chemicals, cleaning supplies, and paper products should be inventoried more frequently.
  • Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment inventories—to ensure presence and accountability.

Internal Controls.  Internal Controls are defined as the systems and procedures established and maintained to safeguard a business’ assets, check the accuracy and reliability of its accounting data, promote operational efficiency, and encourage adherence to prescribed managerial policies.

Internal controls, while often considered an accounting function, are actually a function of management.   The ultimate responsibility for good internal controls rests squarely with managers.

Point of Sale (POS) Transactions.  The initial entry for most revenue data is through point of sale systems.  Managers are responsible for training their employees to correctly use the POS system and to retrain as necessary when a pattern of errors is evident in their departments.

Accounting Standards, Policies, and Procedures.  Managers should be familiar with and follow all requirements of their company’s accounting standards, policies, and procedures and recommend changes as necessary.

Summary.  The thoroughness and professionalism with which you meet these fiscal responsibilities will have much to do with your success as a manager.  Consider which ones you currently do well and in which areas you need to improve your performance.

Ed Rehkopf, Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, Clarity Publications, 2009

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

The Leader’s Mood

September 1st, 2014

Years ago, as a young man of twenty-eight, I was managing my first hotel—the historic Hotel Thayer at West Point.  The “grand old lady” as we called her had suffered from years of neglect and was in desperate need of renovation and renewal.  Fresh out of hotel school it was a great challenge for me, but one I relished.  Its high profile clientele – generals, corporate CEOs, even heads of state – gave me a prominent stage to feed my ego-needs and demonstrate my competence and abilities.

But with this opportunity came high-level stress as I labored to prove myself.  Given its many problems – both with poor physical plant and a lack of service culture – I was in a hurry to show a turnaround.  To say I was driven would be an understatement.  So I pushed hard to make improvements; yet, as always, the forward progress was not consistent or without setbacks.

Sometimes I became angry at unexpected obstacles or the fact that some employees didn’t seem to understand or fully support my program.  I was usually pretty quick to move beyond my flashes of temper because I had so much to do.  But I did expect the employees to share my enthusiasm, if not my passion and need for results.

One day, growing tired of what I perceived were my administrative assistant’s constantly changing moods, I called her on it.  I told her that she needed to make more of an effort to be in a good mood – that her moodiness was affecting others around her.

To this day, I’ll never forget her sharp reply, “Me?  You’re the one who’s moody.  I never know when I come to work what kind of mood you’re going to be in.”  With that she turned on her heel and stormed out of my office.

Her response struck me like a slap in the face – but certainly one that I deserved and needed.

Her sudden and unexpected rebuff caused me to do some deep soul searching that night.  I called her in the next day to thank her for her honesty and courage in telling me what no boss wants to hear.  I acknowledged my moodiness and asked her help in combating it.  Anytime she sensed my irritation or anger, she was to let me know, while I would work to control my temper.

One of the important requirements of leadership is to possess the emotional maturity to understand how your moods and emotions impact your followers.  Employees are looking for a leader in whom to place their trust and confidence and will have difficulty following anyone who doesn’t possess the emotional stability and self-discipline to control his emotions.

Leaders must recognize that while they can’t control all that may happen to them, they can certainly make the effort to control their reactions to it.  They must also recognize the significant impact their moods have on all around them, but particularly their followers – who properly expect more from their leader.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

What You Owe Your Boss – Loyalty and Support

August 25th, 2014

In Leadership on the Line, we talked about managing your boss with a “State of the Union” report, timely and accurate information about your plans and projects, as well as the progress of your initiatives.  In doing these things you keep your boss informed and assured that you are properly attending to the needs and requirements of your position.  The ultimate purpose of managing your boss is to make her job easier, allowing her to focus on the other pressing issues of her position.  Beyond this, what do you “owe” your boss?  Most importantly you owe her your undivided loyalty and complete support.

Hopefully your boss is an active and engaged leader who has a plan of improvement and works diligently toward its implementation.  In the process of implementing her agenda she will develop plans and programs and issue directives for their accomplishment.  It is your responsibility and duty, then, to wholeheartedly support her agenda in its thorough implementation within your area of the operation.

theworkbook_cover-4But what if you have doubts about the wisdom or efficacy of her program?  In this case you as a leader have a duty to fully and frankly express your reservations to her.  However, this should always be done in private in a calm and deliberate way.  Your purpose here is to convince, not attack or criticize.  Clearly, rationally, and with suggestions for alternative courses of action, you must express your reservations and persuade your boss of other means to her desired ends.

If, after exhausting your powers of persuasion, your boss is unmoved and insists upon her original instructions, you have but two choices—to completely support and devote yourself 100% to accomplishing her directives or, if sufficiently opposed, to resign your position since you are unable to fully support her initiatives.

Why is the choice so stark?  Is there no alternative between these two extremes?  No!  Either you fully support and implement her program without grumbling, complaining, or hesitation—as if the initiative was your own—or you step aside because you can’t.

The most damaging thing you can do is to undermine your boss’ efforts by publicly criticizing her plan or by failing to actively and aggressively implement it.  Both send a clear message to your employees that you neither agree with nor support the plan.  This will quickly set up divided loyalties in the workforce.  Its impact on employees will be similar to the well-known phenomenon of parents sending mixed behavioral messages to their children.

Even worse is to pretend to support your boss’ agenda while secretly acting to sabotage it.  This passive-aggressive behavior is unfair to the person who hired you and is damaging to the organization.  Your employees will readily understand your lack of commitment and ultimately your boss will recognize it too.  In this instance, your boss’ only recourse is to discharge you—and you will certainly deserve it.

The bottom line is that you have a responsibility to fully support and show loyalty to your boss.  If, for whatever reason, you have come to lack respect for your boss, it’s time for you to move on.

Still unconvinced?  For one moment put yourself in the position of the boss—how long could you tolerate a subordinate manager who, either actively or passively, worked at cross purposes to your plans?

Excerpted from Leadership on the Line – The Workbook, Clarity Publications, 2009

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Guest Blog: Getting the Training Wheels Turning

August 18th, 2014
Don Vance, CCM, CPC Chief Operating Officer General Manager Hound Ears Club

Don Vance, CCM, CPC Chief Operating Officer General Manager Hound Ears Club

A recent Gallup survey reported that less than one-third of U.S. employees are “actively and genuinely engaged” in their jobs, while 17% are “actively disengaged.”  That means that the remainder—over 50%—are just going through the motions of their jobs and flying under the radar, basically trying not to get noticed.

As front-line managers, it’s up to us to create and maintain the relationships that stimulate employee engagement, while reducing physical and psychological turnover.  The worst employee is the one who quits mentally, but stays in your employ and has no inclination to leave.

One of the primary goals of all training programs, then, should be as much to generate enthusiasm and staff involvement— and ignite commitment—as to impart the needed knowledge and skills required for the specific duties of particular job responsibilities.  Making sure that our training programs include components for these critical motivational purposes will prove to be just as important factors in how successfully we can improve employee retention and service consistency, create customer loyalty, and drive business results.

Ready for the Call

This all becomes especially critical in industries like hospitality, where there has always been a traditional emphasis on promoting from within.  If you’re going to first look to fill positions by advancing people who are already on your staff, you certainly want to have confidence that those who are sitting “on the bench” and waiting for their chance are eager and motivated, not disgruntled and disengaged.  If we only have people on board who are not only not ready, but also not willing (or even just one of the two), we are only setting them up to fail.  As one of my favorite sayings holds, “You can’t send a Duck to Eagle School.”  And if our training programs fail to recognize this, we will be forever trying to fit square pegs into round holes.

A friend and colleague of mine and I recently had a conversation about this very subject.  He recently accepted the position of General Manager at a very fine city club in Florida.  Prior to his appointment to this position, the member-owned club’s Board of Directors had to terminate the previous General Manager, who had been promoted from within, simply because he was not capable of fulfilling the responsibilities of this role.  To get the opportunity, this manager must have done a good job in his former position.  But it sounds like this may have been another case of someone failing largely because they hadn’t been trained effectively for the next step in their career.

Yes, it could certainly have also been a case of the old “Peter Principle,” which held that many people will eventually be promoted beyond their capabilities.  But I think that’s a principle that has largely gone by the wayside, especially in the hospitality business.  In this day and age, we’ve become much better about identifying the people who “have what it takes” to move up in the managerial ranks, versus those who are also valuable contributors, but clearly have limits.  But that doesn’t mean we have also become much better about making sure those people who “have it” will be properly prepared when we do move them up.

Firing Up the Floaters

Effective training programs can only occur when we have gained the trust, loyalty and commitment of our employees—and a big part of gaining this trust and commitment is making sure they don’t see, or know about, examples like the one at the Florida city club.

Our employees aren’t stupid.  If they sense situations where they, or others, are being set up to fail, or feel that training programs are largely self-serving and designed only for the organization to feel good about itself or show that it has met an “obligation,” they will understandably do all they can to settle in as part of that 50-plus percent segment of the workforce identified by the Gallup study: People who just try to keep their heads low, get through the day, and float through their careers.

If we are to energize and excite our employees and maximize the talents and strengths of our entire workforce, we must do more to align all employees with their own individual needs along with our organization’s strategic plans.  The first key step to accomplishing this is to recognize that we shouldn’t “force feed” everyone into the same standard training programs.  Rather, we should do more to shape and customize our training efforts around three key initiatives;

  1. identify special training needs for individuals or groups through “skills assessments” of our employees;
  2. focus on continuous employee development, rather than ramming everyone through upfront training and then assuming that will be enough to carry them through forever, no matter how long they stay with us or what roles they advance to;
  3. create an overall “learning culture” within our organizations that requires more of a partnership with our employees.

Coaching ‘Em Up

In my experience (both as an employer/trainer and employee/ trainee), a key to pursuing these initiatives is to shift from the Boss to the Coach mentality.  As managers, we need to find ways to interact and identify with each individual employee in a way that give us better insights into their desires and aspirations.  Through a conversational process, we need to probe into not only their strengths but their weaknesses, so we can help to coach them beyond where many of them may ever see themselves going.

This is a real transformational process that requires time and patience—but the results can speak for themselves.  We have to base our approaches as managers in the belief that if an employee has a learning attitude, desire, passion, and the willingness to commit to something greater than themselves, we can teach them to achieve levels of success that they have never imagined on their own.

This notion of unearthing and nurturing hidden abilities, as a coach or talent scout would do, is especially apt in the hospitality business.  In fact, I have always believed that we are entertainers in this business, and that our workplace is the stage.  There is nothing more beautiful to me then to see a server on the dining room floor executing what they know how to do flawlessly (and instinctively) in the heat of the action on a busy night.  It is like watching and listening to a ballet of the highest caliber.

But if our training programs don’t touch the inside of our employees individually, they will not change on the outside, and then instead only go through the motions.  And when that happens, they will be depriving us (as managers), themselves (as employees) and most importantly and sadly, our members and guests (as customers) of their best performances.

Employees must also know, and believe, that they can benefit from whatever training we require of them.  We must have strong recognition and benefit systems in place that reward growth and performance.  In addition, we must continually reexamine the effectiveness of our current training programs, to monitor their success.

Group Dynamics

We must also not forget the importance of group training.  At The Club at Longview, we recently developed a program we call our Employee Member Experience Team.  Using an individual employee from every department of our club, this group learning experience is designed to identify and develop “Moment of Truth” opportunities that can define and enhance our members’ experiences, every time they come to the club.

We make sure that this group training program is interactive and engaging for the employees who participate in it, and it has led to significant contributions to our programs for members.  We have also found that this type of training encourages a spirit of team-building that is critical to our organization’s success.  Too many properties have disconnects among their employee groups, because they just don’t have enough chances to get to know or work with each other.  When you work out on the golf course, it is difficult to get to know the cook in the kitchen.  But with this type of group training program, we are also building effective interrelationships among our various employee groups.  It’s true: Working together works!

You should also encourage your employees to take full advantage of the amazing array of valuable free or low-cost training resources that are now available to them on the Internet or through local or national organizations.  And, if your club or resort hasn’t yet considered “Webinars” (Web-based training programs), you’re missing out on an approach that can be very cost-effective for supervisors, as well as more time-effective for entry-level management employees.

Rather than discourage or restrict computer use among your staff during “work hours,” in fact, you will find that one of the most productive aspects of your training regimen these days can be to encourage everyone to take a specified amount of time each day or week to research specific topics that you’ve assigned to them, and then report back to your group on what they’ve found.

Article written by: Don E. Vance, CCM, CPC, Chief Operating Officer/General Manager, Hound Ears Club

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Structure for “the Groove” and Avoid “the Rut”

August 4th, 2014

Every new General Manager has tackled the challenges of their position with vision, vigor, and enthusiasm to address the expressed concerns of the board or owners and the perceived needs of customers/guests/members.  It’s something we’ve all experienced – analyzing the operation, discovering the problems, formulating a plan of action, winning the support of employees for the new agenda, and executing to completion.

mgmt-team-21While there are few things as satisfying as overcoming obstacles to improve a hospitality operation, the larger challenge that never goes away is how to keep the spirit of renewal alive over time.  This is so because it seems that despite whatever progress is made, things still fall apart, old habits die hard and new initiatives, no matter how exciting, grow stale and uninspiring in short order.  It is just too easy for your “in-the-groove” operation to backslide into that same ol’, same ol’ rut.

So what is the conscientious manager to do to break through the seemingly endless cycle of groove and rut?  The simple answer is to instill a strong sense of constant renewal in the enterprise’s culture.  While this is easily said, the reality of making it happen is far more complex and challenging, requiring a significant degree of organizational structure and focus.  Here are some things to consider:

  • Make ongoing renewal a priority in departmental expectations and departmental plans, ensuring that department heads spell out goals and specific steps to keep each operation’s events and activities fresh and compelling.  Tools:  Annual club planning, individual work plans, measureable accountabilities, and accountability for performance.
  • Focus on the fundamentals of service and service delivery with ongoing reminders to managers and employees alike.  As Mac Anderson says, “The three keys to inspiring . . . service – Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce.”  Tools:  On the Go Training, Daily Huddles, Notable Quotables
  • In each department encourage employee feedback on what works and what doesn’t.  As prominent technology and entrepreneur blogger Bill Robinson says, “To be able to regularly solicit, capture and execute upon the strong ideas of those on the front lines who really know what the customers want will be the panacea for the 21st century business world.”  Act on the information your employees bring you to continually improve all aspects of the operation – organization, planning, execution, training, service, and service delivery.  Tools:  Continual Process Improvement
  • Using the principles of Service-Based Leadership, work continually toward the power of employee empowerment.  An entire staff that understands what must be done, how to do it, and acts without fear of making mistakes and repercussions will bring far more to bear on success and renewal than the efforts of a handful of managers and supervisors.  Tools:  Leadership on the Line, The Power of Employee Empowerment
  • Use every opportunity of interaction with employees to reinforce organizational values and the culture of service.  Whether it’s pre-shift meetings, the habit of daily huddles, or casual conversations and direction throughout the workday, managers must constantly “spread the gospel” by word AND deed.  While the message is important, there is no substitute for example – not only in how leaders interact with customers/guests/members, but more importantly how they interact with their employees.  There is no substitute for the example of leadership.  “A leader leads by example, whether he intends to or not.”  Tools:  The Bully Pulpit, Daily Huddles, Notable Quotables, Service-Based Leadership
  • Seek the feedback of your customers/guests/members.  Ultimately it’s their perception of your operation that guarantees success.  Feedback comes in many forms – formal surveys, departmental comment cards, personal interactions, AND benchmarking customer spending habits within each department.  All of these will clearly point to customer boredom or dissatisfaction with your operation.  Tools:  Surveys, scored and benchmarked comment cards, daily interactions, monitoring and analyzing spending habits.
  • Take time for analysis, exploration, and reflection.  Most managers stay busy all the time.  Many simply react to daily and weekly crises.  Some only give infrequent and passing thought to the strategic direction of their operations as if everything runs well enough on auto-pilot.  Without blocks of time set aside on a regular basis to consider their operations and the ongoing or dominant issues that impact their business; to analyze the ebb and flow of their business; to read, research, and reflect on operational ideas and best practices; and to work continually to improve all aspects of what they do, the enterprise will reflect in systemic ways their disinterest and neglect.  Ongoing reflection, analysis, and engagement are essential.  Tools:  Benchmarking and review; structured set-aside time; professional reading lists; ongoing review of trade journals and other publications; adequate time off property for perspective; relationships developed with other managers to discuss, compare, and brainstorm issues and solutions.
  • Make wow factors a significant part of your team’s effort.  It stimulates the creative juices, breaks the tedium of habit, and can be fun for your staff while thrilling to your customers.  Tools:  Wow Factors – read What Have You Done for Me Lately?
  • Make time for constant renewal – Arrange and organize your operation to handle the fundamentals routinely.  The less effort you and your staff have to spend to execute the basics, the more time and focus you’ll have to conceive and execute the extraordinary.  Follow the Pareto Principle to organize your operation so that 80% (the fundamentals) happens routinely, allowing you and your staff to focus on the critical 20% of customer service and satisfaction.  Tools:  read The Quest for Remarkable Service

Bottom Line:  Get your operation “in the groove” with organization and structure.  Then focus on ongoing renewal with continual process improvement and wow factors to avoid being “in the rut” of stale, uninspired programming, service, and service delivery.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

New Hire Orientations – Getting Them Off on the Right Foot

July 28th, 2014

Hospitality operations in general and managers specifically go to a lot of trouble to find new employees – but not just any employee.  By using the principles and techniques of Disciplined Hiring, they make the effort to not only get the right people on the bus, but to get the right people in the right seats on the bus.  In making this effort they should have only one goal in mind and that is to find and hire people who will make a positive and continuing contribution to the success of the organization.

Keeping in mind that first impressions are powerful determinants in establishing any person’s attitudes about, and commitment to, a new job, it is imperative that the organization make an effort to welcome and impress the new hire.  But the consequences of not providing a warm, welcoming, and informative onboarding process go far beyond first impressions.

Understand that your establishment’s reputation as an employer in the local labor market is directly related to the work experiences of your employees.  When they are not properly onboarded and trained, when they are not given the necessary tools and resources to do their jobs, when they are not properly led, when their leaders do not set a professional example, you can be assured that your operation will have high levels of turnover and people in the surrounding community will know just what kind of employer you are.  With this kind of reputation you will have a hard time attracting dedicated and competent employees – the ones that every employer wants to hire – and you condemn yourself to unending personnel problems, lack of employee commitment, and famously poor service levels.

On the other hand, when you treat your employees with dignity and respect, when you recognize that willing, committed, and empowered employees make all the difference in service to your customers/guests/members, you know that how employees are treated from day one will go a long way toward demonstrating the organization’s commitment to its staff, thereby ensuring their commitment to the organization.

So the first step in the process of gaining the commitment of employees is a well-thought out and consistently executed onboarding plan for new hires.  This initial orientation to the organization is usually given by the HR Manager or the person acting in that capacity.  Here are some of the basic things to include:

1.   An Introduction to Organizational Values and Culture of Service.  Organizational values are the foundation for how you conduct your business and interact with your customers.  Every employee must be well-versed in these values and they must be constantly reinforced throughout every employee’s tenure.

2.   Etiquette and Service Training.  A brief introduction will set the foundation for these important topics, though they must be taught and reinforced at regular intervals during employment.

3.   Review of Uniforms, Dress Code, and Grooming Standards.  Employees in a professional service organization must understand and consistently abide by these requirements.

4.   Performance Expectations and Reviews.  Employees must understand basic expectations for their performance, conduct, and demeanor, and it is only fair to let them know when and how they will be reviewed.

5.   Work Week, Pay Cycle, Timekeeping, and Overtime.  Employees need to understand these basic matters relating to their compensation.  Spelling them out in detailed way consistently for all employees will answer a lot of their questions.  They also need to know who to see if they have questions or problems relating to their hours and compensation.

6.   Employment Status, Benefit Eligibility, and Benefits Enrollment.  Benefits are usually determined based upon an employee’s employment status (Full Time, Part Time, and Seasonal).  Each employee must know his or her status, what benefits they might be eligible for, and when they can enroll for benefits.

7.   Receipt of Employee Handbook.  Every employee must be given an Employee Handbook that provides all the information they need to know about employment with your organization.  Such information must be fully integrated with the Personnel Standards, Policies, and Procedures.  It’s also a good idea to have them sign a receipt for the handbook that includes an acknowledgement statement that the material in the handbook is extremely important and must be read and understood by all employees.  The handbook receipt should be filed in the employee’s personnel file as proof that they received the handbook and were apprised of its importance and the need to read it.

8.   Employee Work Rules.  Every organization has its own work rules covering all sorts of topics from where to park, use of personal cells phones on the premises, calling off, work schedules, availability of lockers, entrances to use, employee meal policy, etc.  These rules are usually included in detail in the Employee Handbook, but it’s a good idea to go over them in a face to face meeting, giving them ample opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification.

9.   Safety, Accidents, and Emergencies.   It’s important to give employees a basic overview of safety policies, what to do in case of an accident or emergency, and the operation’s emergency and evacuation plans.  While these should be covered in more formal safety training in each department, having a basic understanding from the very beginning of employment is essential.

10. General Manager’s Welcome.  Employees should meet and hear from the General Manager at the beginning of their employment.  This is a great opportunity to hear about the organization’s mission and vision from the chief executive or operating officer.

11. Tour of Property and Introductions.  New employees should be given a tour of the property and be introduced to each department head.  Department heads can welcome the new hires and give a brief overview of the department’s function.

12. Review and Retention.  The person giving the New Hire Orientation may also want to give a brief test to reinforce key points and to determine individual retention of this important information.

At the conclusion of the orientation, the new hires should be directed or taken to their departmental manager and the HR Manager should document the orientation in each new hire’s personnel file by using an Orientation Checklist, HRI Form 105.  I also would strongly recommend that each department head conduct a similar departmental orientation covering essential information specific to that department.  Some of the same information should be reviewed in this second orientation to reinforce the message and ensure comprehension.  As with the enterprise Orientation, Department Heads should complete and forward a Departmental Orientation Checklist, HRI Form 106, to the HR office for inclusion in the new hire’s file.

While all of the above requires time and effort, the results of a well-planned and executed onboarding scheme and the appropriate enterprise and departmental orientations will start the new hire off on the right foot and will establish the organization’s professionalism – both of which will make a strong first impression on all new hires.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

Benchmarking Your Way to Improved Performance

July 14th, 2014

William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, one of the leading lights of 19th century science said, “If you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it.”  While he was speaking of scientific inquiry and measurement, the same statement could be made regarding any desire to improve your company’s operating efficiency.

If you cannot accurately measure your current operating performance, how would you know where to best apply your corrective efforts?  Or even if those efforts were working or not?  This, in a nutshell, expresses the necessity of detailed benchmarking of all aspects of hospitality operations.

Every business operation monitors its performance by accounting for its revenues and expenses, thereby determining its level of profitability.  In the broadest sense the monthly financial statements are the measure of how the business is doing, but you must understand that the financial statements are summary numbers derived from the interplay of a large number of operational variables.

So if you want to increase your profitability, the numbers from your financial statements only allow you to say, “We need to increase revenues” or “We need to reduce our expenses.”  Without further detail as to where the problems are, you’ll never know where best to apply your efforts to increase revenues or cut expenses.

budget-4The key underlying variable for revenues in any operation is the number of customers patronizing the establishment, or volume of business.  This measure will be different for different areas of the operation – diners for the food and beverage operations, rooms occupied for lodging establishments, golf rounds for golf operations, retail transactions for the pro shops or other retail outlets.  The second and no less important variable is how much each customer spends on average while utilizing these facilities – the average check per diner in the dining room, the average room rate in a hotel, the green or cart fees per round on the golf course, and the average sale in the retail outlets.

The basic benchmarks of volume and average spend are computed by every POS system, but the real benefit of monitoring these benchmarks is in tracking them by day of week, week to week, month to month, and year to year.  This tracking over time allows the operator to monitor daily, weekly, and seasonal trends which is important because every area of an operation has its own variations based on time of day, day of week, and season.

Here’s an example of how benchmarks can help:

When dining revenues are down it’s important to know what combination of volume and average spend is causing the shortfall because the solution to one or the other is very different.  If volume is down, you need to figure out a way to bring in more customers more often.  If average spend is down, you need to figure out why – are they spending less because of the general economy, is your menu pricing appropriate to their expectations, or do your employees need more training in suggesting and upselling?

Other benchmarks can shed more light on the problem.  Are lesser priced menu items selling better?  If so it might indicate price sensitivity.  Are the cover counts down on Wednesday night when you offer your seafood special?  If so, this might indicate that customers are growing tired of this longstanding menu, or maybe another restaurant is luring them away with their own special pricing and fare.

Another example:  What if revenues are steady, but net income is down?  By benchmarking what menu items are selling, you might notice that you are selling large quantities of a low margin item from your menu.  By carefully tracking your food costs, you might discover that a key ingredient in your best-selling menu item has risen dramatically in recent weeks.  By benchmarking your labor hours and comparing it to revenues or cover counts you might find that your net is shrinking due to low productivity or over-scheduling.

What these examples demonstrate is that the more information you have about the details of your operation, the better able you are to analyze operational weakness and implement corrective action.  This premise of benchmarking key operating statistics is basic to any business, but in order to be most effective benchmarking must be a routine process with data being compiled, monitored, formally reported, and acted upon.  Only then can you use this wealth of information to proactively address emerging issues.  Without a formal system of benchmarking you will forever be reacting to the bad news from last month.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

Never Complain

July 7th, 2014

John was the longstanding controller at an exclusive private club.  When the new General Manager made the rounds of department heads to assess the state of the operation, John had a long list of complaints about the other department heads and their failure to meet accounting deadlines for payroll, inventories, and accounts payable.  In particular he said that invoices were not coded correctly requiring an inordinate amount of his time to research and correct before he could pay them.  Lastly, he said that a number of department heads and supervisors seemed to have no understanding of basic accounting and financial management . . . and trying to get them to prepare proper budgets was a nightmare!

The new GM listened patiently to this litany of problems and then responded, “So what are you going to do about it?”

Taken aback by this response, John mumbled, “What do you mean?”

“You’re the controller – the club’s subject matter expert on all matters of financial accounting and management – so stop complaining and do something about it.  For starters, do you have written standards, policies, and procedures for accounting?”

“Uh . . . no.”

“Well then get busy writing them and don’t forget to include detailed instructions of how to properly code invoices and develop an expense dictionary.  And it wouldn’t hurt to start holding classes to teach the other managers how to do things and what your expectations and deadlines are.  You’ve got my complete support, so let’s get to it.  Just keep me informed of any issues and problems . . . and oh . . . make sure you invite me to all your classes.  I need to learn too.”

Accounting Manual1At first John was offended and irritated that the entire burden for straightening out this mess fell on him.  But the more he got into it, the more he realized that he could either complain or fix the problem.  So, over the course of the next six months John outlined and wrote a comprehensive series of accounting standards, policies, and procedures; met with department heads to better understand their concerns and issues; and taught a series of 15-minute classes on accounting at the weekly staff meeting.  Eventually, he incorporated all the class materials into a workbook entitled Basic Accounting and Financial Management for Managers, which was used to train new managers and supervisors.

By year’s end the majority of John’s issues were resolved and the entire accounting flow was smoother and more efficient.  During his performance review for John, the GM commended him for his initiative, hard work, and execution of the project.  Not only did John get a major pat on the back, but the GM gave him an unexpected and substantial bonus for the improvements in all areas of the club’s accounting function.

John’s lesson learned:  Never complain; always occupy yourself with solutions.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

 

Knowledge, Leadership, Discipline and Consistency

June 30th, 2014

I was asked the other day by a young hospitality manager what I thought were the key elements to building a successful club career.  With a little thought I responded, “Knowledge, leadership, discipline, and consistency.”  Here’s why:

woman-manager-3Knowledge.  First and foremost a manager must understand all aspects of the business.  This means understanding human resources, finance and accounting, legal and liability issues, risk management, lodging operations, food and beverage, golf operations, activities and aquatics, facility maintenance and housekeeping, and safety and security.  If you’re a golf professional or food and beverage manager and aspire to the position of general manager, you need to get out of your own area and learn as much as you can about the other areas of the operation.  To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, “The more that you learn, the farther you’ll go.”

Leadership.  A manager must become an effective leader by building strong relationships with all constituencies and determining how best to serve their needs.  A leader must have a vision and set a course of action, while demonstrating initiative and competence in all she does.  In whatever circumstances she finds himself, she should seek out responsibility and solve problems.  Recognizing that she cannot do it all, she needs to develop strong and consistent leadership in subordinate managers.

Discipline.  The hospitality profession is not rocket science, but it’s detailed and fast-paced.  Success comes from knowing what to do and having the discipline to do it every day.  Not only must the leader be disciplined, but he must demand the same of his subordinates and hold them accountable for their actions and performance.  Nothing worthwhile is easy.  Walmart achieved its retail dominance by fanatical dedication to basic disciplines.  A leader can achieve similar success by a singular “no excuses” approach to the basics of the business.

Consistency.  I never ceased to be amazed at the continual stream of “new” ideas that are put forward regularly as the means to improve businesses and organization.  As Ecclesiastes says, “there is nothing new under the sun.”  What passes for innovation is often old truth restated in a modern context or catchy phrase.  Owners and managers would be better served just to pick one approach and stick to it than to be constantly embracing the “latest and greatest” concept.  Legendary NFL coach Tom Landry said, “Setting the goal is not the main thing.  It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and sticking with that plan.”

By focusing on these fundamental areas any hospitality manager can best prepare himself for greater responsibility and career success.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!