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Ms. Connolly

Human Resources, Recruitment & Training

Ensuring Your Hire Won't Ruin Your Culture

By Zoe Connolly, Co-Founder & Managing Director, Hospitality Spotlight

Corporate culture is critical to ensuring that the experience guests actually receive is representative of the experience that hotel leadership hopes to portray. Culture can be affected in any number of ways, from management implementing employee appreciation programs to maintain top talent, through far less formal interactions like a couple of workers putting together a plan to ensure there's coffee to start a shift together. It can be augmented, strengthened, improved, measured, and yes; culture can be ruined.

In fact, ruining corporate culture at a property or across a region can happen far more quickly than one might expect, and all it takes is a single bad apple.

Astoundingly, recent data points to the idea that a single toxic employee can ruin an entire corporate culture. In fact, the average toxic employee can cost a company more than $12,000. This number does not include efficiencies that can be garnered by keeping the right team in place. And naturally, turnover rate increases when there is a toxic employee in the mix.

As a hiring manager, you've taken the time to review resumes, meet candidates, negotiate benefits and salary and finally on-boarded a new employee. This last piece of the equation, onboarding, offer leadership the ability to ensure that one potential bad apple doesn't ruin an entire batch.

The next few steps allow leadership to ensure that potentially great new talent doesn't ruin your culture:

  • Increase Leadership Engagement - As a management team, being both available and visible to your employees is a necessity. There is a well-intentioned, but ultimately misguided theory that having an open door policy is all that's required. These policies are great, but don't ensure that employees will come to talk. Leadership should ask questions and check in regularly, even when nothing is going on.
  • Take Stock with Those Involved in the Hiring Process - Management should connect with those employees that helped in the interview process and loved the candidate. While there is a risk of confirmation bias (that is, those who loved a candidate will seek to validate their initial feelings), it's important that advocates for a recent hire are given an opportunity to feel validated. This is a great way to make team members feel more invested in a new hire, and can help more readily integrate this employee into the team and environment. The opposite of this is also true. It's important for people who may feel as though their feelings were overruled in the hiring process be given an opportunity to be heard. So-called "bad apples" can be hired, as well as created. If you've got someone who's empowered with hiring responsibilities, it should mean you trust their judgement. Be certain they feel appreciated, even if you went against their recommendation.
  • Speak to the Skeptics Too - As mentioned, bad apples can be created when an employee doesn't feel heard. Going against a hiring recommendation happens regularly, but is a terrific way to inadvertently make an employee feel alienated. Leaders must meet with those employees that helped in the interview process and were skeptical about this new talent. Maybe they fought against the hire or they just didn't sign off. If they felt threatened or just dislike the person, they may still feel the same. Unless they've become friends or friendly, more than likely they still feel the same way. Make sure they aren't shutting this person out. If there's been a "check-in" talk and things stay the same randomly change schedules, groups or cubicles. There is a reason why teachers moved kids around back in elementary. The idea works. Make sure not to point anyone out.
  • Incorporate Team Building Events - Whether it is a catered working lunch or a grill set up outside the office for a BBQ, team building events let the employees know you care about them as individuals. In addition these events can encourage new hires or shy employees to become more involved in an organization's corporate culture.
  • Keep Your Ears Open - More often than not, people usually just want to feel heard. Be certain to greet both formal opportunities for feedback (such as 360 degree reviews) and informal chances for employees to make their opinion heard. Surveys where employees can offer a vote, small events and focus groups, and yes, team building events can enable a hotel's employees to feel as though their voice is being heard.
  • Reward Your People - As we've discussed in previous columns, various employee engagement programs can range dramatically in size, scope and cost. One simple approach to maintaining and improving corporate culture is creating an award system where employees can provide recognition for their peers and colleagues. For this to work, it's important to establish ground rules (this isn't a popularity contest) and ensure that praise is spread throughout an organization (the same person shouldn't be eligible to win more than a certain number of times per year). In an ideal situation, it's best that any award is something that the employee can share, so it can turn into a team building event. However, if you're looking to minimize costs, something as simple as a killer parking spot (and the bragging rights that go with it) can be effective.

In the early phases, of an employee relationship, the hope is that new hires will be trying to integrate into a company's culture. Generally speaking, there will be a grace period with new employees, in which they're actively trying to fit in. Depending on the culture, it can take a little longer than one might expect. Mega employer Walmart famously had an employee cheer before shifts… people have to go out of their comfort zones in order to get comfortable enough to support 'rah-rah' type things like this (poor introverts). If your culture has quirks, be sure to offer new employees some latitude as they find their way.

The tips above can help to expedite the transition, and will ultimately lead to happier, more consistent corporate culture. But what happens when an employee, whether new to the company or further along in their tenure, starts to show signs of becoming a rotten apple? Sticking with plant analogies, it's critical to act quickly to nip things in the bud. This can be through an informal discussion, or a more formal review.

There are three things leadership must do when they realize one of their employees has started to become toxic.

  • Have the Tough Conversation - No one likes to hear that the work they're doing isn't appreciated. It's especially tough when the discussion is about less concrete issues like corporate culture. An employee may feel like their duties are being performed adequately, so their attitude shouldn't matter. As all of us in the hospitality field know… our guests would disagree. Oftentimes, when a good employee turns bad, it can be for reasons outside of the workplace, or because they feel slighted in the office. If it is something personal, try to be understanding, but encourage them to leave it outside the office. If it's because they were passed over for a promotion, be sure to explain why the decision was made, and put together a plan so they're first to be considered the next time a role opens up.
  • Assess the Damage - If someone has an attitude problem, but is consistently performing their duties well, it can be difficult to understand the impact they're having on their team members. An employee who has a sick mother at home, yet still manages to be on time and performing, may be given a little latitude. In fact, other team members may appreciate the effort. However, if their attitude is making it harder for other employees to feel good about their roles ,it can be a different situation altogether. Dealing with toxic employees needs to be managed on a case-by-case basis. For larger properties, managers should ask for assistance from corporate HR.
  • Set Limits - As a manager, you'll know when it is time to remove an employee from a situation. Be certain that limits are established, and communicated, to the toxic employee. And if that person goes beyond what's established, don't hesitate to terminate the relationship. One bad employee can cripple a corporate culture.

As a leader within your organization you've thought out every last detail about your team and you've worked hard to get your team to where it is today. Maintaining your work and staying connected is extremely important. Whether you work virtually or at a Brick and Mortar, we spend quite a bit of time with the team. Like any other relationship it takes a bit of work. Connecting and being there for your team can create lasting relationships. The culture you build and maintain is always front and center.

Zoe Connolly is the co-founder and managing director for Hospitality Spotlight, a full service executive search firm for the hospitality and travel industries. For more than a decade, she’s pioneered innovative and proactive recruiting efforts, connecting the best talent with the best companies, across all levels of organizations. Currently, through working with clients like Starwood, Viceroy and Pacifica Hotels, Hospitality Spotlight has emerged as one of the go-to firms for senior level talent in the hotel and travel technology space. A refreshing combination of an expansive network and brutal honesty continues to push Ms. Connolly and her clients, both companies and candidates into a bright spotlight. Ms. Connolly can be contacted at 858-230-8501 or zoe@hospitalityspotlight.com Please visit www.hospitalityspotlight.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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