Applying the core principles of project management to your hiring and training practices is one of the best ways to both attract and retain qualified hospitality staff with a positive attitude. “Plan and execute,” the mantra of accomplished project managers, refers to the second and third phases of traditional, or phase-based project management, which are all about strategy.
Here are some tips to help you create an effective strategy for hiring the best professionals for your establishment.
- Set clear and precise hiring and retention goals. How many people do you need to build your dream team, and how are their duties divided? Will your team members acquire new skills and responsibilities throughout their tenure at your establishment, or are their roles fixed from the start? Remember, while setting goals, that the hospitality maxim of “hire the smile and train the skills” is only as useful as you make it; and that means defining in words, what a positive employee attitude looks like in practice.
Bear in mind that it probably won’t look the same for every employee, especially those with very different skills and responsibilities. So don’t just list general personal attributes; place your ideal hires in challenging, position-specific situations and describe their speech and actions.
- Get organized. Take inventory of the resources at your disposal, including available project-management tools, hiring budget, and time-frame. Schedule plenty of wiggle room for unexpected obstacles: a surplus of qualified applicants, budgetary changes, employee illness, hard-to-reach applicant references, etc. Then, start planning your interview process.
Be sure to include at least three or four behavior-based questions, such as “Tell me about a time when a stressful situation got the best of you at work,” or “What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made as a server/front-desk manager/chef/concierge/etc.? How did you remedy the situation?”
- Use role play. Any major change to your interview process merits a practice session with a team member or fellow hospitality manager, particularly when first adding tough questions, such as those above, to the roster. As your establishment’s representative and manager, you are firmly in charge of the interview dynamic, and deploying forced questions will get you forced answers.
You may also want to role-play with applicants when posing your challenge questions. Pay attention to the entire person as he or she responds; body language, tone of voice and facial expression are all powerful indicators of attitude.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Your supervisor, current team members, and even professional competitors can help you refine and revise your hiring process if you keep an open mind and seek out their expertise, experiences and feedback. Meet regularly with front- and back-of-house staff and establish interdepartmental communications protocol, whether via email, project-management tools, or shift-change documentation. Recognize strong employee performances in front of other staff members, and thank employees frequently for their service and loyalty.
- Initiate new and existing employee training. In any high turnover industry, consistency in quality and kind of services rendered, particularly when integrating new hires, is best established by ongoing employee training sessions and performance incentives. When crafting training sessions, seek your team members’ input. Ask them what “soft skills” comprise a positive attitude and how they recognize those skills in practice. Solicit feedback on the most challenging aspects of customer service in your establishment and consider formalizing, with recognition or award systems, employee best practices.
- Stay flexible. Seasoned project managers know better than to expect perfection of any person or process. Instead, they find humor and opportunities for personal growth in every possible outcome. If your first round of interviews or new hires is a flop, step back from the experience, make note of where things went wrong (mistakes are usually attributable to inadequate planning or preparation), and revise your strategy accordingly.
Finally, never forget that attitude flows downhill from the top. Staying open to acknowledging and learning from your mistakes will insure that your attitude remains positive and your employees will follow your lead.
This guest post is provided by Ren Lacerda who works with University Alliance on behalf of Michigan State University and University of Florida covering topics on Hospitality Management and Human Resource Management. You can follow Ren on Twitter @RenMarketing.