Archive for July, 2014

New Hire Orientations – Getting Them Off on the Right Foot

Monday, 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

Monday, 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.

The 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

Monday, 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!