I have been working with a hotel client who has been undergoing a change in ownership from one owner to another. Any kind of management buyout, transfer of ownership, or change of direction within an organization is guaranteed to create unease amongst the management and staff. Fear of the unknown is always daunting irrelevant of how vital our position might be or how many times we have been through similar situations.
Major change automatically, whether consciously or not, takes an individual out of their comfort zone and into the potential sphere of the unknown, with the ultimate impact of slowing down work ethic and productivity through comments such as “The new owners may not like it this way – lets wait.” “The new owners will probably change this so no point in starting.” “Why start something now when a new General Manager is coming in soon and he will for sure want something different?” And so on. Sounds familiar? This slowing down has its effect on the business through less productivity, less desire to sort out customer problems and more “private chats” in the corridor. The overall effect usually sees a drop in staff morale
My client supported the idea of a one day ‘Change Management” programme with elements of effective communication, as the foundation to sharing information – concerns, worries, problems etc The main goals of the workshops were to:
- Realize the new owners expect a change in service offered to guests
- Feel excited and empowered to make those changes
- Be motivated to want to stay with the new owner
These goals, whilst appearing unambitious revealed an enormous amount of information about how personnel were feeling, giving them an opportunity to share in a non-threatening environment. Additionally, providing an understanding of where the real problems lay – lack of uniform, poor canteen food, unfair scheduling, the difference between how casual labour are treated against full time staff, lack of and poor communication throughout the operation, lack of working equipment, thus driving the need to hide their own equipment to avoid being embarrassed when serving the guest, to identify a few.
What was the impact of all these points on the overall morale of the personnel and therefore the direct correlation in how they were communicating with and serving guests and clients? Knowing you are starting the day looking worn out, with only eight hours between finishing one shift and starting the next. A uniform that is no longer smart and fresh looking because you only have one, and on this particular day, had no time to wash and dry it before the new shift. These examples have great impact on internal confidence and morale even before considering the lack of operating equipment needed to serve all customers in the manner that is expected and other issues such as scheduling, communication and taking responsibility.
As managers and leaders, how can we ask “more” of team members under these circumstances? Clearly, we cannot. Addressing these issues and many more has provided a foundation to build trust and from this to start to excite and inspire individuals to believe in what they are doing and to work together to achieve levels of excellence expected from each and everyone in the team.