In hospitality, your people are NOT your most important assets.
In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins writes that “People are not your most important asset. The right people are.”
Stephen Covey, the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, claims that success in any job is 20% knowledge and 80% interpersonal skills. Ultimately, success in hospitality is all about interpersonal skills.
There are a lot of people wanting to enter the hospitality business. And for an industry set to take advantage of travel and tourism that will be generated by Gen X and baby boomers, that is good news. Unfortunately, while there are people who want to work in hospitality, there are many who simply are not the right people. As a resort general manager who personally interviewed every candidate finalist and as a former college instructor interacting with students and displaced workers from other industries, I feel that many people lack the necessary interpersonal skills because they have grown up or interacted with others in a generation far different from our own.
I am convinced that people can only deliver an experience that they themselves have experienced. In order to succeed in retail, they would have had to personally experience and learn from great examples of others exhibiting stellar interpersonal skills in their day-to-day interactions with travelers and guests.
But those opportunities to learn firsthand from face-to-face interactions have all changed in less than a generation. Not too long ago there was no direct deposit or internet banking. If we wanted to deposit our paycheck, we would have to go weekly to the bank. After a while, the teller got to know who we were, where we worked, what we did there, and regularly asked how work and our company were doing. Remember when gas station attendants checked your oil and tire pressure, cleaned your windshield, and asked you if there was anything else they could do for you for a little over a dollar per gallon? How bad has customer service gotten when we never see an attendant and actually pump our own gas for more than four dollars per gallon?
The average Facebook user today has 338 friends. When a person posts on his or her page, they don’t have a loss of self-esteem when only 50 “like” the post. The other 288 have ignored them and they are OK with that! Today, we have cell phones. But what are many doing with their cell phones? I’m so old I remember someone actually laughing out loud on my phone. Texting is really one-way communication. You don’t hear voice tone or inflection or a pause. In real life, there is no “delete” or “backspace”.
Where is the reinforcement of interpersonal skills in those experiences?
So, the experiences for many people are not full of good examples of emotional intelligence, body language, or verbal communication that only face-to-face interactions can teach. I believe that translates into the real world that is OK to ignore the guest and your co-workers. You don’t have to greet your co-workers every morning or every traveler who walks through the door. Having not experienced often enough good examples of communication, collaboration, or relationship-building skills, how will those people entering hospitality, the people you entrust to travelers and guests, be successful? And if you allow yourself to accept that level of performance as adequate, how will your businesses succeed?
The answer is that you, as manager, are responsible for the education of those who do not have those skills. For you to succeed in this very competitive travel and tourism marketplace, you will need the right people. You will need people who know how to consistently welcome your guests with eye contact and a smile, inform each traveler openly, transparently and interactively, listen and respond empathetically, and bid them a sincere fond farewell. So, you will need to ask the proper interview questions with the specific intent of finding out if the candidates have the necessary skills of expressing sincerity, empathy, and trust. And you will be the one who will have to educate the people you select to deliver that experience for your travelers and guests. Interpersonal skills training cannot simply end after the first-week orientation. It must be consistent and continual. Only then will you build the interpersonal skills of your staff to drive their success and yours.
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