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Five Tips to Increase Employee Motivation

With front-line employees weathering the COVID storm and flurry of travelers in its aftermath, keeping these team members satisfied should be a top company priority. For the one year stretching June 2021 – May 2022, STR reported the Average Daily Rate for branded hotels increased 34.8%, yet JD Power noted an 8-point guest satisfaction decline in overall satisfaction. Interestingly this 8-point decline was not tied to employee service, which remained a guest highlight, but rather to cost, fees, and overall value. Compounded with travel rebounding to pre-pandemic levels is the slow return of employees to the leisure and hospitality segment. These are reasons enough to keep employees engaged in this environment.

Mary D'Argenis-Fernandez, Founder & President of MDA Hospitality Solutions

Here are five tips to increase employee motivation:

1. Recognition

An easy way to motivate employees is through recognition. Of all the forms of recognition experienced in my career, two stand out as being the most meaningful. These forms of recognition were nearly cost-free with a priceless impact.

The first are the basics we learn from childhood, simple manners; saying thank you, please, and acknowledging others. I can't count the number of times former associates would mention how much a short conversation, recognition of family, and their work meant. Stopping to recognize others meaningfully demonstrates you personally care.

The second is recognition cards which celebrate a specific behavioral action. When I worked for the Walt Disney Company, we had Guest Service Fanatic Cards. On one side was the Cast Member's name and a place to note the behavior celebrated. The other side was my favorite character, Tinkerbell. Cast Members were to place these cards in a central bin for an option to win a prize each month. Yet many Cast Members chose to keep these cards rather than submit them. The personalized messages meant more than the company gift.

I recall one server keeping a stash in her order pad. When I asked why she kept so many on her person, she replied they made her feel good. Recently, another Cast Member I worked with 15+ years ago posted how his mother found these Guest Fanatic cards in his room. He took a picture of them and posted it on Facebook, noting how much they meant to him.

Recognizing someone for their contributions demonstrates how they add value. It acknowledges what they did was noticed, and we cared. Most importantly, these are the actions we'd like to see again. As a company, it promotes the environment you want and would like others to experience.

2. Training

When new employees are hired, we are eager for them to start working. Training becomes the barricade between having someone on a shift and taking time to learn the role. It is assumed that if someone is hired, they must know how to do the job, so what is the importance of a few training days? Yet training is what defines a company and sets it apart. It is the opportunity to express your culture and values.

Take, for instance, servers in a restaurant. Service is service, isn't it? So why would we need much time spent training in this area? While the reasons as endless, let's start with the menu. Every restaurant has unique selections. Countless hours are spent curating the options, sourcing vendors, partnering with local farms, and supporting causes the company believes. If this information is not carefully shared with the team, the time leadership took developing menus and partnerships is essentially lost. That grass-fed burger on locally sourced artisan bread with organic heirloom tomatoes from a family-run organic farm becomes "just a burger." While businesses will still reap the benefits of the sale, guests will not hear the story and can't make the connection to the community. Servers are the public relations messengers. Training takes time and connects people to the value of their work. It lets employees know the role they are performing has meaning, and we care about the message they are sending. When we express the value of the work being performed, employees are driven to achieve more.

3. Work-Life Balance

While working is important, employees do have lives outside of work. The pandemic caused the entire world to be placed in a forced time-out without knowing when it would end. Most had a chance to slow down and think about life. Now that work has resumed, past practices are not cutting it for most. The hospitality industry especially has an opportunity to rethink some old traditions. Posting a schedule, for example, should be done with enough time to allow employees to make plans. Understanding employees must arrange their lives, which can't be done over a weekend, is critical. These small actions reduce undue stress and separate good from great companies when it comes to employee satisfaction. If there is one area I would love our industry to consider, it's the number of hours employees’ work. While some may embrace it, others may run in the opposite direction of our line of work.

4. Out of the Box Thinking

If the pandemic taught us anything, it once again asked us as an industry to think differently. In the pre-pandemic era, virtual calls were non-existent and if they did exist, turning on the camera was unheard of. Now, more employees want this flexibility. While remote and virtual work are making headlines, companies can make their own headlines by getting ahead of the curve in other meaningful areas. Many hospitality workers must return to the workplace as they cannot work remotely. Yet these employees have desires that could use attention, too.

Increasing their motivation comes from listening. Ask what employees need and find ways to solve it. An example could be as simple as sharing the benefits to which they are already entitled. Employees may not know their benefits beyond health insurance, such as the Employee Assistance Program, 401k, and tuition reimbursement. Educating on these topics, which are already company policy, simply takes time to share.

5. Time

As mentioned, I was fortunate to be a leader with the Walt Disney Company early in my leadership career. I learned the importance of team dynamics and how differences benefitted the whole. Meyers-Briggs, DiSC, and other behavioral assessments allow us to learn about ourselves and how we impact others. What I found fascinating is that sometimes we, as leaders, move fast and expect others to keep up with us. The beauty of time can be a great lesson. When we give it to others, it allows them to think through the change. As leaders, we can motivate our employees by listening, allowing time to process information, and offering an opportunity for feedback. A lesson I learned years ago was to share change with at least two weeks' notice before the change takes effect. I also learned that poor planning on one’s behalf does not make an emergency on another. Employees are telling us, as an industry, that their time matters, and we need to better plan.

These motivational tips are essentially free of cost: Time Management, the Golden Rule, Listening, and People First.

Mary D’Argenis-Fernandez founded MDA Hospitality Solutions in 2015. MDA Hospitality trains employees who work in service industries. Clients include Fortune 100 ranked companies and range from internationally renowned hotel and restaurant brands to luxury residential communities and national grocers.

The objective is for employees to deliver exceptional experiences and service to their guests. They do this by becoming more efficient in their jobs and streamlining how they work day-to-day. Newly armed with these skills translates to happier guests and employees. Customer satisfaction ratings go up, along with employee confidence. For the company itself, it means a better bottom line. Who doesn’t want an increase in profits?

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