Bad Workmen or Poor Tools?
By Caroline Cooper
The saying goes "a bad workman always blames his tools". But is it always the workmen that are at fault?
Today I had a delivery, and the poor driver was getting extremely frustrated with his hand held scanner. He had to reset it twice before it showed the delivery for me to sign. Now how much of this was down to operator error I can't say, but one thing was for sure, he was not happy about it. Neither was I for that matter, as I was left standing on the doorstep for 10 minutes while this was going on, when frankly I had better things to do!
But it made me reflect on how well we provide the right resources and tools for our staff to do their jobs, and then give them the necessary training to fully utilize them. Failure to do so is frustrating for the employee, and inevitably has a knock on effect on the customer experience, as was evident today.
The most obvious is the provision of the right equipment. This might be as simple as the right accessories for your vacuum cleaners, right the way through to your heavy kitchen or laundry equipment. Equipment that is unreliable or fails to do the job for which it was designed can be a huge source of frustration for staff.
Consult with those who will use the equipment before making investments.
Skimping on inferior quality equipment might help the initial cash flow, but in the end seldom pays off. However, ask whether or not you need the ‘all-singing all-dancing’ model, or just the basic. Why pay for extra features if they are seldom, if ever, needed?
Have a system in place for maintenance, whether this is done in house or with a contractor. And have a reporting process if there are problems; maybe when the equipment doesn't appear to be functioning on all four cylinders, or gets damaged. Failure to report and deal with problems promptly not only leads to staff frustrations, and later accusations of who's fault it is, but could cost you dearly in the long run if it causes long-term damage.
Then ensure your team get the full training they need to get best use out of the equipment. Talk to your suppliers to support with this training. And ensure they understand the maintenance required and can spot quickly when there are faults that need reporting. Remember too the equipment that your customers will be using - irons in rooms, LCD projectors in meeting rooms, gym equipment. It's easy for these to get overlooked.
Products and consumables
In the kitchen is obvious to have the right products, as the end result is so evident if the correct ingredients have not been sourced. But this extends to all areas of the hotel - the appropriate cleaning products for the job, the correct grade of printer ink and paper, the quality of toiletries- each will have an impact on the finished result and how easy they are to use or work with, and whether they deliver what is required to the right standard. Simple little things can have a huge impact on the amount of effort needed from your team and on the quality of the end result.
Not having enough time to do the job to standard can be very sole destroying for people, particularly when they want to do a good job, but they just don’t have the time to do that effectively. Spend time with your staff to assess how long a task should take. And if it is taking longer than it should, assess what is causing the extra time. It may be down to the equipment, products or systems causing a bottleneck, or again it may be down to lack of training on the best approach to complete the task.
If you give a member of staff additional responsibilities or duties, be realistic; unless you are increasing their hours something else will need to give to make way for this. Spend some time now identifying how that time can be made up. If you're not careful they could end up cutting corners on the most critical tasks rather than cutting out low priority ones.
What happens when a member of staff leaves, or goes on holiday? What impact does that have on the rest of the team? The effects may be felt in other departments too, if they are dependant on this person for information or ordering, for example.
Are there skills shortages in certain areas, which only affect you once in a while (e.g. certain types of events, or when people are on holiday) but when they do, they put pressure on the whole team?
The more flexibility you have in your team the better. This does not mean you make everyone a jack of all trades, but ensure there is always more than just one person who is able to perform each task, so there is an element of cover, and the whole place does not fall apart, just because one person is off sick.
Having systems and procedures is usually a good thing. Having systems in place for when things go wrong is key if staff are to take responsibility for putting things right without having to come running to you all the time e.g. dealing with customer complaints, wrong deliveries, faulty equipment.
Give people training in the systems. If they don’t know what the system is, or, just as importantly understand why you have it, they wont follow it. And I include in here IT systems. How often have you seen someone doing something longhand because they don’t know how to do it on a computer system in which you've invested?
Ensure that everyone works by the same set of 'rules' or systems; there is nothing more frustrating than seeing someone else do something that you are 'not allowed to do'. But, don’t be so bound by red tape that people can't use their initiative and take control of situations when needed.
It's important to review your systems from time to time. Are they achieving what they set out to do, or are they leading to frustration and bottlenecks? Talk to the people who actually use the systems to check this, as often you may not be aware of any issues. Staff will normally come up with the best way to resolve it, if you allow them.
So next time we feel like blaming the workman, just reflect for a moment. - Is it the workman that's at fault, or is it down to a lack of the right resources - equipment, products, time, people or systems? Or do you have the right resources and the right people, but failed to provide the right training to get the best from each other?
Caroline Cooper is a business coach with over 25 years in business and management development. She is the founder of Zeal Coaching, specialising in working with hospitality businesses, and is author of the 'Hotel Success Handbook.'
Getting the most from your team is the theme of Caroline's new online leadership coaching program being launched in September.