There are three principal areas where empowered employees can contribute significantly to improved club operations.
- Resolving member issues.
- Helping improve work processes as part of Continual Process Improvement.
- Taking on certain delegated management functions.
Resolving Member Issues
Employees who deal most directly with members on a day-to-day basis are in the best position to solve service issues and resolve member complaints in a timely fashion or before they escalate into larger issues.Â Unfortunately, in some clubs front line employees are seen as the first line of defense in saying â€œnoâ€ to members.Â Only when the member gets sufficiently angry and demands to see the manager, can the problem be solved.Â Yet this approach sends two very wrong messages â€“ one to the member that says we donâ€™t trust you and we donâ€™t mind wasting more of your time as you explain the problem again to a manager; and the other to employees that says that we wonâ€™t let you say â€œyes,â€ but we, the managers, often will, thereby contradicting you and making you look bad.
Since the bottom line in all our dealings with members is to say â€œyes,â€ there is no reason to put either the member or the employee in the situation described above.Â A far better solution is to provide useful guidance to employees and give them both the responsibility and the resources to solve service issues.Â A good start would be to allow employees to decide on their own how to resolve any issue by â€œspendingâ€ up to a certain amount to fix the problem â€“ either by â€œcompingâ€ a meal, sending a token of apology, or doing something special for the member.
Without a doubt the cost is insignificant compared to the loss of member goodwill and patronage and is a small price to pay if a lesson can be learned or a work process improved.
And herein is the important point, every time employees use their authority and spend money to solve a problem, they must fill out a Service Issue Resolution, CRI Form 180, explaining in detail what went wrong and what could be done differently in the future.
When employees gain more confidence in their abilities to resolve issues and as management continually improves work processes based upon reports of problems, a culture of quality service will gain momentum.Â Employees will feed off each otherâ€™s successes and take the initiative to solve a host of little service issues as they take more pride in their work and their contribution to the overall effort.
Helping Improve Work Processes
Part of your clubâ€™s culture should be to foster a process of Continual Improvement in all aspects of your operations.Â This means that you should review systems, standards, policies, procedures, programming, training, and work processes to continually improve the way you do business and provide service.Â While managers typically have broad industry experience and the big picture of what is necessary to succeed, it is the line employee who is most closely connected with the member and the details of service.Â Who, then, would be in a better position to recommend improved work processes than the person who works most closely with service and service delivery?
As we have often said before, in our business the devil is in the detail.Â When you make a commitment to involve your employees in designing and improving work processes, they become energized by the involvement and look for more and more ways to contribute.Â The more involved they become in contributing to the success of the organization, the more responsibility they will assume for ensuring that success.
Taking on Delegated Functions
As empowered employees take on more responsibility, managers can select individuals, who show both the motivation and aptitude, to take on some of the management functions of the organization.Â An excellent example is provided again by the Ritz-Carlton Company.Â They select and train certain individuals to conduct initial screening interviews with prospective employees.Â These empowered employees relish the task and see themselves as the gatekeepers in keeping the companyâ€™s hiring standards as high as possible.Â They get paid slightly more for their additional duty and derive prestige in being given this important task.
Necessities for Empowerment
Having reviewed the benefits of empowering employees, we again state what is necessary for a club to provide this empowerment.
First and foremost, strong leadership is an absolute necessity.Â Leaders must:
- Embrace the principles of Service-Based Leadership.
- Be open with their employees.
- Be trusting and trusted.
- Be secure in themselves, their position, and their knowledge; not threatened by knowledgeable employees or those who show initiative.
- Be willing to share praise and shoulder blame.
- Be good communicators.
- Intrinsically understand and value the important role of line employees in the organization.
- Place a positive emphasis on problem discovery and solution.
- Allow their employees to demonstrate initiative and innovation, while giving them the â€œfreedom to failâ€ without repercussions.
Secondly, the necessary disciplines and systems must be established to continually review work processes while involving employees.Â Itâ€™s also important that procedures be in place to keep the General Manager and other Department Heads fully informed of any resulting changes.
Next, the club must be committed to and deliver extensive, ongoing training to its employees.Â Untrained employees cause confusion and the resulting chaos will drive good employees away.
Employees must also be recognized for their accomplishments and contributions.Â This recognition will further cement the partnership.
There must be opportunities for employees to grow personally and professionally.Â When employees know that the club is also committed to their advancement, they will more willingly participate in making it successful.
Lastly, employees must respect their leaders and willingly follow them.Â They will only do this when they see their leadersâ€™ passion for excellence and personal commitment to success.Â There can be no substitute for this example.
Empowering employees is a requirement in any effort to provide remarkable service.Â Busy managers cannot do it all and need the help of their willing, committed, and empowered employees.Â While it takes time and effort to establish a culture of empowerment at a club, the resulting improvement in operations, efficiency, and service levels make it well worth the effort.
Excerpted from Employee Empowerment.
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This weekly blog comments on and discusses the club industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers â€” 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 club managers throughout the country and around the world.
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