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Trust, Values, and Brand Performance

With hospitality workplace attitudes low, employers need a plan to help staff emotionally reconnect to their jobs.

Thursday, August 11, 2011
Rick Garlick
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Hospitality leaders take notice! One may think that with the economic conditions improving, workplace engagement also would. Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact, management teams have their work cut out for them. According to a 2011 Maritz Poll on employee engagement, workplace attitudes remain at extreme low levels, particularly in the area of workplace trust. This mistrust is not only directed at senior leaders, but also at line managers and even co-workers.

This should not be a surprise to anyone who has followed workplace dynamics over the past decade, which included corporate scandals and negative perceptions of corporate excess. There are serious implications not just for employees, but for customers as well. Large numbers of U.S. workers have lost any sense of loyalty they had to their employers. Recognizing their vulnerability, employees realize no one is going to look out for their best interests other than themselves. The study found the following to be true of hospitality sector employees (e.g. hotels, restaurants, casinos, etc.):

● 10 percent of hospitality employees completely trust their employer to look out for their best interests; one-third (33 percent) do not trust their employers
● Eight percent completely trust their co-workers; while one in four (27 percent) do not trust their co-workers
● Eight percent strongly agree their senior leaders’ actions are completely consistent with their words; four out of 10 (39 percent) disagree
● 15 percent strongly agree their companies’ leaders are “completely ethical and honest,” while 22 percent disagree.

Even more importantly, only 12 percent strongly agree their own personal values are completely consistent with the values of the company for whom they work. Twice as many disagreed their values were aligned with their employers.

Study after study has shown the importance of feeling a personal connection to one’s work. Maritz studies also have shown that, especially for hospitality sector employees, gaining a feeling of “personal accomplishment” from one’s work is a key performance driver. It is a small leap to argue that those in the hospitality sector who neither trust their managers or co-workers, nor share their employers’ values, are unlikely to demonstrate the kind of energy necessary to create passion in guests. Furthermore, so much of hotel marketing efforts are centered on lifestyle branding in which the employees should ideally embody the personality and values around which the hotel is designed. If these employees feel no connection with their organization and its leaders, nor share their values, they are essentially punching a clock and putting in time, which benefits neither the employee, management, nor the customer.

Here are three tips hospitality management should consider in order to emotionally reconnect hotel employees to their jobs and drive engagement:

● Connect Employees’ Values with Company Values: Do you know what your employees value? Leaders should find ways to connect their team’s jobs to those values. For those employees who place a high value on their family, this can mean framing a hotel employee’s job as helping someone’s family member(s) find refreshment away from home. Alternatively, employees can be reminded that their hotel provides a valuable service in stimulating the local economy. In other words, get the focus on to a larger “mission” that makes the employee feel his or her work is important beyond just putting money in someone else’s pocket.

● Be Visible: If managers want to facilitate trust, they must be visible. One hotel executive recently told me he makes a point to make eye contact and say hello to every employee he sees. While this may not fit everyone’s personality, the key is to appear genuine and caring about your workforce. If you can’t take the time to even acknowledge your people, it communicates a significant trust barrier.

● Encourage Personal Connections: Perhaps the most surprising result of Maritz’ recent poll is how little people think of their co-workers. Collaboration and working together are keys to providing effective guest service. When people are simply looking out for themselves, they are far more likely to assume an attitude of “it’s not my job.” While workplace relationships can be sticky at times, no one would argue that people work better with people whom they like than with people whom they feel either indifference or actively dislike. Give people the chance to spend time getting to know one another through arranging outside activities.

Sharing common values is important for establishing trust. The data show that very few feel a sense of common purpose with their employer. However many times we can work toward outcomes, that for different reasons, all people find equally important. It is important to know what people value, communicate in a way that facilitates trust, and act consistently. By doing so, everyone benefits, particularly your guests.


Rick Garlick, Ph.D., is senior director of consulting and strategic implementation at Maritz Research.

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Rick Garlick
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Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division
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