Company culture – aahhhhhhh!!!!!

What the heck is company culture?  SO MUCH has been written about it… so many people are talking about it… but what is it?  And more importantly, how do you get the culture you WANT in your company??

Our first order of business is to establish this fact: every business HAS a culture.  You already have an accepted way of doing things… it just may not be the way you WANT to do them.

So instead of trying to create a culture, you should probably be focused on changing the culture – which is ultimately more difficult, but not impossible.

If you went to the IAAPA Attractions Expo (#IAE16), you noticed a culture.  Remember that feeling when you walked into an education session or onto the trade show floor?  That palpable feeling of excitement, anticipation, and camaraderie, that you were sharing this experience with 30,000 of your closest friends?  That’s the “culture” of IAAPA, and it didn’t happen overnight.

And your current company culture didn’t just appear overnight, either. It has taken years of influence from you, previous leaders, and unofficial leaders (those without a title, but with plenty of influence). Notice I said influence, but didn’t assign a positive or negative spin to it.  The fact is that company culture is driven by both.

And here is the problem I have seen over the years… leaders start out with every intention of creating (or changing to) a positive culture, and they define the actions needed to get there.  Unfortunately, what they overlook is how to deal with the negative influences that creep up… the people who are not fully bought in… the curmudgeons who would rather see things stay the same (no matter how dysfunctional), and time.  The true time investment it will take to change the way people think, act, and perform their jobs.

Hopefully if you were at #IAE16, you took advantage of some of the educational sessions put on by the HR Committee.  Each of the sessions we planned had “culture” as our over-arching topic, then we divided it into subtopics, such as:

  • Recognition
  • Communication
  • Training
  • Leadership/Supervisory development
  • Recruiting/hiring
  • Onboarding
  • Front line staff development
  • Diversity
2016 Human Resources Symposium

2016 Human Resources Symposium at #IAE16

Even if you didn’t get to these sessions, the above topics can serve as a road map to changing your own culture.  Think it’s just about leadership?  Nope.  Gotta have the right people on board.  Think it’s just about proper training?  Nope.  Gotta have the right people processes in place.  It’s all connected.

It goes back to something you have probably heard me talk about before… the Employee Lifecycle.  Thinking about ALL of the factors that influence an employee’s experience (from recruiting to termination) is a necessary part of creating, defining, establishing and altering your company culture.

The Employee Lifecycle.  Don’t leave home without it.

So where does this leave us?  If you are trying to change your culture, know that it’s not going to be an overnight process.  Know that you are going to have stumbling blocks along the way (like people who don’t want to change).  Know that it will not come from a wall poster or new fancy set of values that you come up with but don’t uphold with your actions.  That’s the biggest culture killer of all… mixed messages when it comes to what you say you stand for.

Case in point – Over Thanksgiving, I was talking with my 26-year-old niece, Samantha, who works at a social media tech company in Austin, TX.  At one point, she said she really liked the company culture.  So I had to ask, what is it that you like?  She mentioned two main things:

  • The values of the company were widely accepted by the employees, and those who didn’t fit with the culture didn’t find themselves employed very long.  One example was that it’s an expectation to seek help when needed, to find ways to better yourself with the assistance of others on the team.  Those who felt they were the smartest people in the room, or that didn’t accept coaching or feedback, ultimately didn’t grow or build the right kind of relationships with those around them.  This is a case of the culture taking care of those who don’t fit the culture.
  • She knows what the values “look like” and how her daily actions uphold the company vision.  This is why fancy posters with verbose mission statements don’t work.  Without the right kind of reinforcement, people don’t even know what they mean, let alone know what they would have to DO to uphold or achieve the mission.  If an employee can’t see how their daily behaviors impact the bigger picture, they will never understand, nor buy into, the culture you are trying to create.  They just won’t.

Related: 3 Ways To Improve Company Culture

Here are my bottom line must-do’s when thinking about changing your culture.

  • Decide what culture you want
  • Figure out what it takes (behaviorally) to get there.  Do that. Everyday.
  • Pursue your cultural goal relentlessly – DO NOT LET UP!
    • Hire people that will support your culture
    • Fire people who won’t
  • If something doesn’t fit your culture, don’t do it – no matter how expedient it might be.  You will only be hurting yourself.

Ultimately your culture will be what you decide it should be minus what you allow that it shouldn’t be.

Thanks for reading!!

Matt

The Myth of Employee Burnout shows leaders how each facet of the Employee Lifecycle is critical to keeping employees engaged.  For a limited time, use coupon code IAE16 to take 10% off!  Click here to order now!

(Additional bulk discounts will automatically be applied at checkout)

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IAAPA Expo is around the corner!

You know that time of year when everyone comes together to share and celebrate?  No, not the holidays… it’s the IAAPA Attractions Expo! #IAE16 for short.

2015 IAAPA HR Committee

2015 IAAPA HR Committee

This year the theme is Every Experience Matters, and you owe it yourself to experience as much as possible!  The trade show, education, special events, did I mention education?

Here are some of the sessions I am looking forward to:

Are you noticing a trend?  Yeah, I’m all about the peoples.  Here are the sessions I’ll be involved with, either speaking or moderating:

The moral of the story is, if you can’t find HR tools and resources during the Expo, you aren’t really trying!

By the way, my session, HR Matters: Tools for Managing the Transition from Frontline Employee to Supervisor approaches this topic from an organizational standpoint.  The intended audience are those responsible for helping and guiding others through the transition.

As a little primer, here is what some of the attendees at the World Waterpark Association conference in October had to say about their biggest challenges with new Supervisors.  We’ll be addressing a number of these challenges in our session at IAAPA.

img_8275If you would like to meet up and chat at the Expo, let me know – I’ll be there all week! You know the Expo is a great time to start strategizing about next year, so let’s start talking about how to better train and coach your leaders in 2017!

Here are some things we can talk about:

Hope to see you all soon!

Thanks for reading!

Matt

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Something positive worth shouting from the rooftops

On October 4-5, I was scheduled to work with the leadership team at Zoo Miami. Unfortunately, this was also the time frame that Hurricane Matthew was ripping it’s way through the tropics with an eye on the eastern Florida coast.

Because hurricanes are hard to predict further that 12 hours out (despite being talked about around-the-clock), we weren’t sure when, or how significantly, the Miami area would be affected. We got through our Tuesday and Wednesday morning programs with no issues, but it was decided that we would postpone our Wednesday afternoon sessions so that employees could prepare the zoo, their homes, and their families, and I could try to get a flight out before the airlines felt the need to suspend operation.

This is where the story gets shout-worthy.

My flight was on Delta, and so I did the responsible thing of calling the reservation number while also checking flights online that I might be able to change to. Given the call volume, my wait was listed as over 2 hours. Crazy, but expected given the circumstances.

As I refreshed my searches, I saw flights disappearing. I clearly wasn’t the only one who wanted to get out of Dodge (or Miami) earlier than planned.

I didn’t want to wait for 2 more hours and risk losing any of these flights, so I went ahead and changed my reservation online. There was a fare difference that I would have to pay for and a reservation change fee. Okay, them’s the breaks of travel – it is what it is.

BUT – I got a flight that would get me out of the way of the storm, so I was happy.

The next day, as I was waiting in the Miami airport, I got an email from my wife that included an article about airlines waiving the reservation change fees because of the hurricane.

Hmmm… wonder if they would waive mine, even after the fact. So I called.

Still a one to two hour wait on the phone. By then I would be on the plane.

That’s when it hit me. In the contact section of the Fly Delta app, it also included their Twitter handle.

So I sent this tweet.

A few clarifying tweets later and I was asked for my reservation number in a Direct Message.

By the next morning, I had a Twitter message stating that they were refunding my reservation change fee. No other questions asked.

Sweet! That takes a little of the sting out of the extra expense.

Moreover, it provides us some lessons about service recovery.

  • Have multiple ways for your guests to contact you. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised that the wait to speak to an agent was as long as it was. These weren’t exactly normal travel conditions. Lucky for me they also had people monitoring Twitter (and I’m guessing other social channels). Oddly enough, it never even dawned on me to approach one of the Delta employees working the multiple gates in the H concourse of Miami International. Don’t know if they could have helped, but they were there. That’s at least three different ways to contact someone for resolution.
  • React quickly. Again, I don’t really blame Delta for the long phone waits. I do COMMEND them for the quick response via Twitter – not only to correspond with me, but also to actually issue the refund. All they asked for was my reservation code, and the next thing I know they are refunding my fee.   I didn’t have to fill anything out, go through an inquisition or prove my case. I would imagine the agent did their research without needing me… they looked up my reservation, saw that I was originally scheduled to leave at 9 am Thursday morning and did in fact change it the night before to leave 16 hours earlier. From my original tweet to the message coming through stating my refund was being processed, it was less than 10 hours. I had the refund for this BEFORE my original flight was supposed to take off. DANG!
  • Make it easy for your employees. I don’t know what the process was behind the scenes, but for my tweet to be received, researched and processed within such a short period of time, the process has to have some efficiency to it. Make it easy for your employees to take care of your guests, and they will. Make it complicated or convoluted and they will find every excuse to circumvent your service initiatives.

Want more customer service and service recovery resources?  Check out the LeaderTips: Guest Service ebook!

So, the outcome could be seen as me getting a refund and us learning some things about service recovery. But the story doesn’t end there.

When I got on the plane, I was sitting in seat 1C. I got to talking with the guy in 1D, and told him that I had just booked the flight the night before. He said, “that’s strange, that seat has been booked for weeks.”

How and why he knew that was puzzling, until he said…

“I’ve been in seat 1C on my last 83 flights in a row. I tried to get it on this one but it was taken when I booked the flight.”

Needless to say, we switched seats so he could make it 84 flights in a row.

He then said that he ALWAYS flies Delta. He said, “I know it’s a big company, but they always take care of me.”

So it’s a story about a refund, lessons on service recovery and LOYALTY. Taking care of people leads to loyalty.  I know I felt taken care of by the agents monitoring Twitter that night.

And THAT is worth shouting from the rooftops!

Thanks for reading!

Matt

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#3 Questions with Michael Windish

This guy has played drums with Chubby Checker.  He is a Brass Ring Award winning show producer.  And now, he is an honored guest on #3Questions.  Michael Windish shares his insights on business, music, project management, touring life and MUCH more!

Click below for video:

For more information on Windish Music, click here.

And if you still haven’t claimed your FREE leadership eBook from me, click here for an immediate download!

Thanks for watching and reading!!

Matt

Here are just a few ways that Matt Helps Leaders Lead:

And don’t forget:

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Do your leadership skills need a tune-up?

photo-640Everyone, meet Watson.  Watson, meet everyone.

Watson is what we affectionately call our Honda Element.  (Element… elementary… Watson).  It’s a great car that has served us well.  Recently we had to get the brakes redone and transmission flushed, but that’s all part of owning a piece of machinery like this.

It’s like my Dad would say… if you want something to last, you have to take care of it.  If we want Watson to be ready when we need him, we’ve got to take care of him.

See where this is going?  If we want our employees to last and be ready when we need them… I’ll let you finish that statement.

In all cases, this takes people who are qualified to perform the work. For Watson, that’s a mechanic.  For your employees, that’s YOU!

Do you FEEL qualified?  Most newly promoted leaders don’t, but they also don’t know what steps to take to remedy the situation. (Don’t feel bad, in many cases your manager doesn’t know how to fix it, either.)

Here are some things to think about (and talk to your manager about!):

  • Are you actually qualified?  Mechanics (the good ones) take classes and attend update and recurring trainings to keep their skills sharp.  What books, classes or seminars can you experience to hone your skills?  Is there someone you know that you can seek out as a mentor or coach?
  • Do you have the right tools?  A hammer won’t do you any good if you need a wrench.  What tools (skills, abilities) do you need in your tool box to effectively lead your teams?  (Look at the things you dislike to do the most – that’s a good starting point.)
  • How well do you use your time? When I first called the mechanic, they said they couldn’t get Watson in for another 3 days.  Do you have a good handle on how you spend your time, where it goes and how to maximize your efficiency within the time you have?
  • Are you a good problem solver?  When I first brought Watson in, I explained what the brakes were doing (according to me).  The mechanic then had to look at all of the surrounding factors and circumstances to determine the right solution. Are you able to identify the needs of your employees so you can provide them with what they need?  If not, what tools or skills do you need to be able to do that?

Leaders (the good ones) are constantly looking at ways to get better at their craft, and that means seeking out opportunities learn, grow, and be better at your job than you were yesterday. Some of your skills might be right where they need to be, others may need some attention, and that’s okay.

Cars keep changing, so mechanics have to continue learning just to keep up.  Your job as a leader ain’t that different.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author: Over the last few months, I’ve taken my desire to Help Leaders Lead to the next level.  Along with my book about employee engagement and burnout, I also now offer professional coaching services and self-directed leadership development courses.  Oh, and don’t forget the FREE eBook I’m giving away on my homepage!

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The two T’s… Trust and Teamwork

If you have been reading my blog for awhile (especially this post from 2012), or you have read The Myth of Employee Burnout, you may be familiar with a guy named Dallas Hobbs. I originally met Dallas when we both worked at Universal Orlando, and I am glad to say we have kept in touch in the years since we both left.

Dallas is now the Guest Services Manager at The Fountains Resort in Orlando.  We exchanged a few emails the other day, and he mentioned how he had taken over a team at the Fountains and was able to really turn them around.

But he didn’t tell me HOW!!!

So I asked.  Here is what he said. If you are leading a new team, or if you are struggling with team morale, take note.  Take lots of notes.

“The how was actually simpler than I thought it would be. One of the first things I did after being trained at their jobs and spending time on all 3 shifts with them, was to start 1-on-1’s. Dedicated time that each associate could spend with me, uninterrupted, each month. Very quickly I learned the problem was trust. Not that they thought the person next to them was a liar, but trusting that they were doing their job. Common phrases from my PBX operators would be, “Front desk is out there doing X instead of Y!” Or “PBX isn’t picking up because they are playing on their phones!” Even though they are all the same team, one department. They talked as if they didn’t know each other.

So several things had to happen. First everyone went though refresher training so they all knew that everyone knew what to do and how to do it. Then they all spent 2 days shadowing other departments learning what they go through (housekeeping, activities, F&B, engineering). Then the segmented schedule became one giant schedule. Regardless of position or shift, we were going to be one team, even if only on paper.

Very slowly I started rotating people into different positions. Though some were better or more comfortable in specific roles, I needed them to occasionally experience the rest of the department. This was the rough one because no one likes their schedule messed with or going outside their comfort zone. So of course I had a few ruffled feathers. Again the 1-on-1’s were key here. Positive and individualized encouragement helped those through the process. Change management 101. As well as opening the lines of communication. Simply encouraging each other to talk!
I also began hiring differently than my predecessor. Before they hired experience and resumes.  I hire people and personalities. Hiring people I know would get along with the people I already have and be a part of my team. Which meant passing over very qualified candidates.

However trust takes time. We’ve all lost trust in someone or something and only time will win that trust back. So I could not force it over night. Which was the hardest part. Sitting back and telling my superiors and HR that it’s working, just give it time. Looking back now it didn’t take too much time at all. In 2 months my scores did a 180 and have been climbing ever since. In our score system, we celebrate single digit increases because it takes a lot to move that needle. I had increases of 15% points over previous months. In fact my summer scores are the highest in the history of the resort. And they are the highest year to date. In the middle of the 100 days of summer, my team is crushing it. (By the way, I’ve not lost a single associate all summer. #BurnoutIsAMyth)

They are no longer focused solely on their individual jobs but are helping those next to them. And even doing more work to make the next shifts job easier. I have associates seeking out MORE work to do, on their own. Simply because the shift prior to them did the same.

Now there is more to it than just trust. Empowerment, empathy, etc. are all key elements to a great team, but the major issue at the start was simply trust.”

Dallas built trust through communication and stirring things up a bit.  Sometimes complacency, although comfortable, can be the biggest enemy of progress, productivity, and yes, trust.  Thanks for the insight, Dallas!!

If you have a story or experience that might help others and would be willing to share it, please email it to me here.

Thanks for reading!!

Matt

About the author – After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt now works with attractions large and small and leaders at all levels to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” was released in 2013 and has become a go-to resource among industry leaders.

NEW RELEASE!  88 of Matt’s favorite leadership blog posts, all in one convenient downloadable package!!

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“Come sweat with me”

When my friends and I on the #CNC16 trip visited Cedar Point a few weeks ago, we got up bright and early to experience the Sunrise Thrills VIP Tour.  Not only did we get to see the park from the top of Valravn, we also got incredible coaster-nerd access to Top Thrill Dragster, Millennium Force and Maverick.

IMG_7688

223 feet above Cedar Point!

IMG_7686If you are at all interested in a bird’s eye view of an amazing park, or just want to geek out on some incredible roller coasters, this tour is for you.  However, this post is not about the tour specifically.

It’s about sweat.

Our tour guides were two Guest Services associates who were also roommates.  One was a front line associate (Steve), the other was a Supervisor (Jeff).  We learned that after the tour concluded, Jeff was going to be working at the Iron Dragon roller coaster, helping guests fill out forms to be part of a Virtual Reality beta test.  Jeff shared with us that a lot of people want to do this, so it’s an intense, go-go-go, seemingly endless kind of process. Combine that with the expected heat, and Jeff wasn’t exactly looking forward to it.

Since many hands make lighter work, Jeff was trying to enlist Steve’s help.  His convincing argument was a statement I’ll never forget.

“Come sweat with me”, he said.

To me, this acknowledges that while the assignment might not be the most desirable, it’ll be a lot better doing it together than alone.  It also indicates that Jeff will be there WITH Steve, and he’s not just telling him to go do something without supporting him.

And while I don’t know the history between these two, I think it also indicated that Jeff would do the same for Steve if the situation were reversed.

At it’s core, these four words communicate the one thing employees need more than anything from their leaders… support.

Support comes in many forms… communication, listening, providing feedback/coaching, working alongside them, providing tools, creating opportunities to learn, and yes, sweating.

We all know that actions speak louder than words, so the act of going through the same hardship as an employee speaks volumes about your understanding of their struggles. (And no, they don’t care that you used to do their job back in the day.  They want to see you do it TODAY!) When they see that you ‘get it’, it’s much easier for them to trust you, believe in you and want to follow you.

If you haven’t been out to work with your staff in a little while, I encourage you to find the time to do so – even if you don’t HAVE to.  If your season is winding down, you know that you need the remaining employees to pour on the afterburners to finish out the season strong.

Your display of “sweat equity” could be just what’s needed to ignite the flame.

Like this post? Download 88 of Matt’s favorite leadership blog posts in one convenient eBook! More details (and a sample) can be found here!

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author – After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt now works with attractions large and small and leaders at all levels to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” was released in 2013 and has become a go-to resource among industry leaders.

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Those pesky employees

If I were to ask you, “What is the #1 challenge you face with employees?”, how many of you would list one or more of the things below?

FAA employee Challange poster1Well, that’s exactly what I did at my expo booth at the Florida Attractions Association conference in June.  I wanted to know what people were struggling with in terms of employee behavior and performance.  It was interesting because some people grabbed a marker right away and added their thoughts to the list, while others needed time to ponder the question for a bit.  Either way, it was fascinating to hear their perspectives.

Of course me being me, I had to ask where they thought these behaviors came from.  Some offered a quizzical look and said, “I just don’t know”.  Others sheepishly said, “well, if I’m being honest, it probably stems from something I did… or didn’t do.”

I would tend to agree that a lot of these can relate back to the environment created by the leader and the example they are setting.  That said, that might not be the entire story.

To dig a little deeper, we have to ask the question that we seem to get asked a lot… why?

  • Why won’t your employees do paperwork?
  • Why don’t your employees have passion for the job?
  • Why is product quality lacking?
  • You get the idea…

But you can’t stop there.  You may ask, “Why don’t employees do paperwork?”  There could literally be dozens of reasons:

  • They don’t know how.
  • They don’t have time.
  • They don’t understand its importance.
  • And so on…

From here, you then have to ask “WHY” again, and for each possible answer.

  • Why don’t they know how?
  • Why don’t they have time?
  • Why don’t they understand the importance?

Let’s tackle one of these… we’ve discovered that they actually DO know how, but say they don’t have time.  Okay.

  • Why don’t they have time? For grins and giggles, we’ll say this person is a tour guide at your facility.  They are currently scheduled for 6 hour shifts, with their first tour starting 30 minutes after they clock in, and their last tour usually ending 15 minutes before the end of their shift.  They do three 1.5 hour tours a day, which means they are on tour 4.5 hours out of their 6 hour shift.  They need time to rest in between, eat and prep for the next tour.  Traditionally, the paperwork has been done at the end of the shift.  Your tour guides are saying that 15 minutes (when they are tired from 3 tours) is not enough time to get the paperwork done.

If you then ask “why is that not enough time to get the paperwork done?”, that leads to… “how long does the paperwork really take?”  You realize that to be done correctly, to summarize and close out all three tours, it takes about 30 minutes.

So no, the 15 minutes at the end of the day are not enough.

So we go back to why…

  • Why is the paperwork done at the end of the shift?”  Because that’s when it’s always been done….  (hopefully you see the opportunity here!)
  • Why can’t the paperwork be done in chunks, closing out the tours as you go?  That way you are only taking 10 minutes at the end of each tour, and at the end of the shift they should have time to do the last one and get out on time.

So that’s one possible solution to one possible cause of the problem. You give that a try and see if it works.  Are your employees now doing their paperwork on a more regular basis?  If so, great! If not, back to the drawing board to try something else.

And if you do find that something you did (or didn’t do) caused these situations, take that as good news.  If you were part of the problem, you know where to look to find the solution.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author – After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt now works with attractions large and small and leaders at all levels to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” was released in 2013 and has become a go-to resource among industry leaders.

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Is investing really worth it?

When you invest in something (time, money, energy) you generally get better (or more predictable) results than if you don’t invest, or leave things to chance.

While there are many examples of this in life, here’s the situation that inspired this post.

When I travel, I normally get a rental car.  I like the convenience and flexibility it provides, but it’s not always practical. That was the case last week when I traveled to West Palm Beach for the Florida Attractions Association conference. (More insights from the conference to come).  During my 4 days at this particular conference, I didn’t need to go anywhere outside of the hotel, and therefore didn’t want to spend the money on valet parking since the car would just be sitting there for 4 days.  So, my transportation to and from the hotel would be the shuttle provided by the hotel.

After picking up my luggage at baggage claim, I went to the meeting spot where all hotel shuttles were to meet their passengers.  I saw shuttles from other hotels and car rental services go by, but not mine.  So I waited.

And waited.

While I thought I had read that the shuttle ran on a regular schedule, it occurred to me that maybe that wasn’t about THIS hotel shuttle.  Hmmm…. maybe I should go ahead and call?

So I called.  I spoke to Elvis (at the hotel, not THE Elvis).  He told me that the shuttle should be there in about 15 minutes, and to watch for a large, black van with the hotel’s name on the front.  I said, “thank you, Elvis.  Thank you very much.”

As I waited, this is when the concept of investment ran through my brain. Had I spent the money on a rental car or even a cab, I would likely be at the hotel by now.  Instead, I am at the mercy of someone else’s schedule.

Once the shuttle arrived, I was told we had to pick someone else up at the executive airport nearby.  After we got there, we found out that the person to be picked up was at the regular airport after all, so back there we go, all before heading to the hotel itself.

Before we go any further, this is not a complaint about the hotel shuttle service, or the fact that I had to wait.  The driver was actually very pleasant and the van was well appointed and clean.  This is actually just an observation of the results we get when we invest in something versus when we don’t.

It’s very much like that quote that makes the rounds every few years.  You know the one….

The CFO is implying that it would be a waste of time, money and resources to develop their people if they are just going to fly to coop.  And that may happen.  Another question to ask is, “what if, by developing people, you actually get them to stay?”

I think this investment argument works with employees, relationships, hobbies, projects, you name it.  The more you put in, the more you get out.

And how many of us struggle with and complain about the lack of consistency we see in the behavior of our employees?  Have we invested ENOUGH to get the kind of predictable excellence we are striving for?  Here’s what I mean:

Many companies put a lot of emphasis on training new hires.  Great – there is a lot they need to know.  But, how many of those companies INVEST in season-long learning strategies?  I don’t have any official data to share on that, but from the people I talk to, the number is quite low. Part of the problem is when we look at our seasonal staff as temporary.  Sure they will only be on payroll for a few months, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be trained and developed so they can help the company be successful for years to come.  The experience of being groomed for the next level could be the difference between someone coming back for another season or you having one more spot to fill.

Of course the other option is to do your training up front and hope for the best the rest of the season.  It’s your choice.

In all of this, there is a fundamental understanding that “investing” is different than “spending”.  Spending implies a commodity transaction with little or no long-term return on that spend.  Investing assumes there will be a calculated output in proportion to your input.  Both can refer to money, time, resources, etc.  If we look at the quote above, maybe the CFO is thinking that it’s a waste to spend the money developing people… there will be no appreciable return in his mind.  Maybe the problem is that he doesn’t really know what that return would actually look like.

For me, I’ve seen the results when we invest in our people.  They are more confident, engaged, motivated, and willing to help out when the chips are down.  And while it could take an investment of money to make this happen (in the form of additional development resources, not just a wage increase) it’s also our investment of time. Time to communicate, to coach, to listen, and to set the example of how you want your team to behave.

So if you would like more predictable excellence, investing in your team definitely IS worth it!

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author – After 20+ years in hospitality leadership and human resources, Matt Heller founded Performance Optimist Consulting in 2011 with one simple goal: Help Leaders Lead. Matt now works with attractions large and small and leaders at all levels to help them improve leadership competencies, customer service, employee motivation and teamwork. His book, “The Myth of Employee Burnout” was released in 2013 and has become a go-to resource among industry leaders.

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Everything is everything

If you follow me on Facebook, you know that my wife and I just came back from our first ever trip to Europe.  We took a pizza making class in Naples, a food tasting tour in Trastevere (Rome), and a cooking class in Lucca.  We also did the Painted Wall self guided walking tour in Cannes and rode a Ferris Wheel (big surprise) in Marseille, France.

You probably noticed that the majority of our activities centered around food!  While we of course wanted to try the local delicacies, we also wanted to get more of a glimpse of the local culture and people – and we got that.

What we also got, without even trying, was an education in engagement.  If my trip to Europe reinforced anything, it’s that EVERYTHING matters.

Was the food good in Italy?  No.  It was AMAZING!  But I would dare say that as good as it was in reality, it tasted EVEN BETTER considering the environment.  For example, during our cooking class in Lucca, we were not only learning from a world renowned chef, but we were also sharing the experience with people from the Netherlands, Scotland, England and Seattle – people we had just met that day.  Sitting around a huge table on a farm in rural Italy, eating a meal that you helped prepare, engrossed in engaging conversation… how could the food NOT taste good?

And that’s why I think people (including us) come back from vacation with stories of the best this or the best that.  The environment heightens the experience and makes everything better.

Since this is not a food or travel blog, this has to tie back to engagement soon, right?

Yes.

You have heard me say time and time again that engagement is about the environment that we create for our employees.  That while recognition is important, on it’s own it can’t fully engage someone in their work.  It’s about the hiring, training, discipline and yes, termination that will begin to create an engaging environment.  But you know what?  That’s not everything either.

It’s about the look of the room when new hires come in for orientation or to do their paperwork. It’s about how well the real world (their work location) matches up with what they are told in training or when they were recruited.  It’s about how much pride YOU take in the company and how you treat the guests that will carry over to your employees.

When we were on our food tour, our guide Francesco warmly greeted every shop owner we encountered.  He would say, look at this beautiful man or family or woman.  He didn’t mean beautiful in terms of looks, but beautiful in terms of the people they are.  When referred to that way, each an every person smiled and beamed and showed their true beauty.

How often do we introduce a new hire to their supervisor like that?  In my experience, it’s more like, “This is Sam, he’s your supervisor.  He’ll show you the ropes.”

Does that make you beam with pride?  Didn’t think so, but that’s part of the environment, too.

So here is your challenge – especially as some of you are beginning daily operation and ramping up for summer crowds… analyze EVERYTHING that could make an impression on your employees. Again, you have heard me talk about the importance of communication, recognition and listening.  Those are a great starting point.  But also look at the physical environment, how employees are moved through your processes (hiring, training, cross utilization).  What do your break areas look like?  Are you taking care of “behind the scenes” areas as much as guest facing areas?  Employees see those areas before and after their shift… so they are the first and last impression they have.

Do your employees go through a security check point?  How is that experience?  Is the person at that post starting the day off on a positive or negative note?

Do you have company logos, mantras and insignias posted around your offices and buildings to remind and inspire your staff?  How do they look?  Are they up to date or ripped and falling apart?

When an employee has to interact with someone from another department, how does that go?  What example are full time staff setting for front line staff when out in park?

And the list could literally go on and on… but for this post, we’ll stop here.

Part of this challenge is to put yourself in the shoes (and mindset) of your employees.  You may know why something is not working and may even know when it’s going to be fixed, but a new hire doesn’t know that, and will assume that that’s just the way it is and no one cares about it.

Fast forward two months from now, when all of these influences have piled up and created a lasting impression of you and the company.  One little thing might not be a big deal, but put it all together and it tells quite a story.

You are the author of that story and can determine how it ends.  That is, if you remember that EVERYTHING matters.

Thanks for reading!

Matt

About the author: While it was not Matt’s original intent, the theme of this post fits nicely with the theme of this years’ IAAPA Attractions Expo, which is Every Experience Matters.  Of course, that’s in November.  Next week is the Florida Attractions Association conference, where the theme is Mission: Possible – Creating The Adventure.  Our mission as leaders is to create a positive adventure for our teams, and if we focus on the right things, that mission is POSSIBLE!!

If you are coming to the FAA Conference, Matt will be speaking on “Investigating Workplace Conflict” on Tuesday, June 14 at 10:30 am.