Employee disconnect and customer service

It is axiomatic that engaged employees tend to be truly involved in all aspects of an enterprise's success. Yet enabling that engagement seems to be an elusive goal for most US businesses according to Gallup's   2013 State of the American Workplace Report

Gallup surveyed thousands of American workers, managers and companies and found that 52% of all full-time workers in the US are not
involved in, enthusiastic about or committed to their work. Another 18%
are “actively disengaged, meaning they’ve gone beyond just checking out
mentally and could even be undermining colleagues’ accomplishments.

If the report makes for depressing reading it is particularly so because it costs over $450m in lost productivity alone. Gallup's report does not bring up the opportunity cost, which beyond lost productivity, results in customers swinging to alternatives rather than continue with sub-par customer service.

Disengagement also has firm geographic origins per Gallup with little lauded Louisiana occupying pole position for engaged employees while Minnesotans inhabit the very bottom slot. The research based management consultants do not essay an opinion why that may be the case merely querying blandly that "why engagement is higher in certain states than others is not entirely clear".

What is discernable is that of the top ten states only the District of Columbia and Hawaii are not right-to-work states while all ten at the bottom share DC and Hawaii's position on the right-to-work. The sequitur from that seems apparent.  Curiously a list of top ten engaged cities features based on a recent survey by Quantum has all but one on the East coast; the exception being Sacramento, CA.

The report does have definitive pointers on one of the biggest predictors for a passionate workforce:   a company and team's size.
According to the Gallup poll, workers at firms with 10 or fewer
employees, or those on teams with five to nine workers, reported higher
engagement levels than those in larger groups.

The implications of such a high level of disengagement for the service industry and  hotels in particular are self-evident. While few if any hotels can get by with work forces of around 10 employees there are ways of bringing about  greater engagement with concomitantly higher customer service and profitablity.  Using a Maslow like hierachical approach to prioritizing those initiatives based on employee "needs" is probably a good way to go about it. At the top ought to be employee "self-development" with attendant opportunities to "participate" via feedback as well as to learn new skills while developing existing ones.  Given its ability to foster "bonhomie", setting up teams to bring about a more collaborative effort fosters should follow closely. 

Perhaps the definitive silver bullet for a high level of employee engagement is growth.  Companies that expand tend to have a more positive work environment engendered by greater opportunities and mobility for employees. That predictably results in a virtuous circle as companies with engaged
employees tend to perform better financially resulting in more (engaged) employees.

Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.