It's not always easy to have everyone in the team firing on all cylinders all of the time, and with the high-pressure environment of the hospitality industry, it’s even more vital that hoteliers have everyone working with one another to create the perfect guest experience. While that sounds easy enough to accomplish we know that sometimes the T, E and A are missing from TEAMwork and it's just Mmmm work, while on other days it may seem that it's only the TEA at work.
How can you motivate staff to work to their full potential, get them guest-oriented and make sure that everyone is striving to provide the best guest experience? One of the best ways do to that is to make sure everyone is working towards a common goal.
What is morale?
"Employee morale is the spirit of a person or group as exhibited by confidence, cheerfulness, discipline, and willingness to perform assigned tasks."
- Roberts Wesleyan University
From this definition, it’s clear that having positive morale among your hotel’s employees is of utmost importance. The hospitality industry is generally one that is most susceptible to employee burnout, low morale and high staff turnover. If your staff are unhappy or unmotivated, there’s a chance this negativity will be felt by guests who are in contact with your hotel's staff at every point along their guest journey.
The costs of low morale
Besides the obvious frustrations and grievances that come with low employee morale, there is often a price tag attached to this phenomenon. While we may think that an employee slump or an underwhelming organisation culture is more of a nuisance than an outright issue, it's actually a quantifiable problem. Research done by The Gallup Organization indicates that poor employee morale has cost the global economy US$7.8 trillion in lost productivity in 2022 due to the accompanying effects of low morale, such as unexplained absenteeism, sickness, and low productivity which often arises when employees do not feel motivated at work. Unfortunately, it also seems that low morale can be contagious, many workplaces find that one ‘bad apple’ can lead to greater disengagement amongst employees.
While this figure is across the board and not isolated to the hospitality industry, we know from experience that staff morale issues are intensified in the high-pressure, guest-facing world. Some statistics from the US Bureau of Labor indicate that the hospitality industry has significantly higher staff turnover than other industries. This means that managers in this unique industry need to work on morale actively and aggressively.
What can managers do to boost morale?
There are a few options that managers can implement to boost employee morale and enhance teamwork intra- and inter-departmentally.
1. Give and Receive Feedback
Creating a culture of open and honest communication can help improve employees' overall job satisfaction. Research shows that employees want to hear both the positive and negative when it comes to feedback, in fact, an article in Harvard Business Review comes up with the surprising results that a greater percentage of employees (57%) actually prefer receiving constructive criticism above hearing about positive praise. In the same study, 72% of employees believed that constructive criticism would improve their work performance. This number shot up to 92% when the question included that the negative feedback be delivered in an appropriate manner.
In addition to giving feedback, it is important to engage in two-way communication with your staff and create regular opportunities for staff to give their own feedback. Often, listening to the employees who deal directly with your guests will provide invaluable information for management, who may be more distant from the guests. This can also foster a collaborative culture which promotes teamwork within the company.
But how do managers get the information they need to give constructive feedback on employee performance? From the hotel’s guests of course! You can’t be everywhere at once, and your guests experience your staff in a way you never can. Use your guests’ feedback to identify areas of weakness, or staff and departments which are excelling. Giving you all of the information you would need to generate both positive praise and constructive criticism for employees.
2. Create a system of positive reinforcement
Creating a system in which employees are shown appreciation can do wonders for overall morale and productivity. Recognition and appreciation can be offered in various ways, through incentive programs, either with monetary or benefit rewards or “employee of the month” type recognition programs. Even just creating a culture of positive praise – a well-timed “good job” – can do wonders for individual staff members' self-esteem. A study published in the Journal of Leadership Studies found that “employee recognition should be given more attention by leaders as they attempt to meet the retention and productivity challenges facing today's organizations.”
Quantifiable guest feedback data such as NPSs and employee-specific questions can provide the metrics which underpin a successful staff incentive programme. In addition to that, managers can assess all mentions of employees and give individual, team and department recognition where it is due.
3. Create SMART Goals for your team
An interesting study from Gallup revealed that around 50% of employees do not feel that they fully understand what their manager expects of them at work. The research findings specifically state that it is management's responsibility to ensure that employees feel confident in their understanding of what management expects of them. A lack of understanding or confusion about expectations can lead to poor work performance, a feeling of dissatisfaction with work and overall negative morale.
Setting goals has a two-fold benefit, not only does it minimise poor morale but having a common goal to work towards can actually improve work performance, enhance teamwork and foster a more positive and productive organisational culture. Goal setting theory, established by Locke and Latham has been praised as one of the most influential theories of motivation. Setting a goal can ensure that everyone is directing their efforts, in a pre-determined manner, towards something that will benefit the hotel.
So what sorts of goals and targets can managers use to motivate their team?
Setting SMART goals which are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based is a good place to start for any team. These goals need to be quantifiable or measurable in order for employees to fully understand how their efforts contribute to the attainment of the goals, which then motivates their behaviour. Having a goal like winning an awards programme (such as the GuestRevu GREAT Awards) can be a fun and exciting goal to motivate any team. Often, when staff are performing the same basic tasks over and over again they begin to lose attention to detail, having something unique to work towards can inspire better performance and more creativity.
4. Invest in your employees' growth
Investing in your employees is of utmost importance when running an effective team. The benefits are two-fold: Firstly, growing and developing your employee's skills benefits day-to-day operations and performance in the hotel and allows each individual to become a more valuable asset to the company. According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), companies that offer comprehensive training programs have 218% higher income per employee than companies without formalised training. In addition to that, it helps employees feel valued and cared for which in turn boosts morale and again productivity. Thus, investing in your employees' growth creates an upward spiral in your hotel’s organisational culture as well as offering you a positive return on investment.
To decide which employees need skills development and which skills to enhance, managers could look at aggregated data from guest feedback over an extended period of time to identify which departments within the hotel need to improve their performance. In addition to the areas where skills may be lacking it is also prudent to highlight from guest feedback data where the hotel is excelling. Focusing on already strong areas within the team could mean that further enhancement of those areas, departments, individuals or locations can become the hotel's biggest asset and unique selling point which can be leveraged to increase bookings over competitors.
5. Implement a health and wellness programme
Implementing a health and wellness programme at your hotel can have life-changing benefits for your team, in addition to improving work performance and productivity, and decreasing absenteeism. It is important to remember that work and home life are not mutually exclusive and often areas of stress or strain in one can impact the other. Therefore it is important to address the factors of overall well-being to ensure that employees are happy and thriving.
For individual staff, creating an environment which educates and supports employees in their health and well-being can mean a decline in the number of people suffering from lifestyle diseases. Historically, health and wellness programs were thought of as a nice-to-have, an optional extra just to boost morale, but science is showing that having healthy, capable and happy employees is a benefit to your business and to the employees themselves.
“The mental health and wellbeing of employees is critical for maintaining sustainable levels of employee engagement, resilience in the face of organisational change, motivation and innovation. Through an integrated employee wellness approach, employers can benefit through the positive impact on productivity and business performance,” says Dr Leanne Mandim, Head of Employee Health and Wellness Solutions for Life Employee Health Solutions in their blog on corporate wellness.
Open and honest communication with employees will allow management to assess which areas need attention and which areas employees already feel satisfied or fulfilled.
Benefits of positive morale
Research by Oxford University's Saïd Business School, in collaboration with British multinational telecoms firm BT, has found a conclusive link between happiness and productivity. Employees who are happier and have higher levels of motivation or who feel actively engaged in their work are more likely to be committed to working at their best.
Another study published in Sage Journal noted that “Morale is associated with greater work effort, but the relationship between work effort and productivity becomes stronger at higher levels of morale. Thus, part of the influence of morale on productivity is a matter of increasing the effectiveness of workers’ efforts.”
Therefore, it is clear that management has a responsibility to create, foster and maintain a healthy, balanced workplace where employees feel heard, respected and recognised. Improving the morale of the staff compliment benefits all involved – including and especially your guests. While the hospitality industry comes with its own unique challenges and culture, it also comes with staff who are acutely aware of personal connection and relationship building. Therefore while this industry may be the most in need of employee morale enhancement, it is also one of the most equipped to facilitate it.