Team Building for Ever-Changing Teams
October 10, 2018 | 1853 Views
Most people who have worked in the hospitality industry know the importance of strong teamwork in their operations. When a team doesn’t work well together during a shift, it seems like everything starts to increase: lines, wait times, stress levels, and tempers. If allowed to continue from day to day, a hotel or restaurant with poor teamwork can soon expect everything to start to decrease: guest satisfaction, return visits, employee tenure, and profits.
Fostering teamwork, however, isn’t always easy in our workplaces. Unlike an office setting where workers can take the afternoon off and participate in a company picnic, scavenger hunt, or escape room to boost morale and togetherness, 7-day-a-week hospitality companies can’t generally close and take everyone to an off-site event. And even if you could get some temporary help and get 100% of the staff away on a slow Monday evening in February, for example, what percentage of those folks would still be working on a busy Friday later that year in August? 50% of them? 25%? Between hiring new people for the tourist season and turnover after 6 months, as well as the varying schedules that our employees often work, the benefits of any one-time activity will probably dissipate very quickly.
Team building when you have ever-changing teams can be difficult, but it’s not impossible as long as you think less about event-based results and focus more on creating a culture of teamwork every day. Some steps that could help you move in that direction include:
- Define your company – What are your company’s mission, vision, and values? Do you have them written down anywhere? Do you know them (does anyone)? If not, defining these elements, and incorporating strong team ideals into them, will be the first step to creating the culture you desire in your organization. If you struggle to develop those principles on your own, I would suggest you check out the book, “The Ideal Team Player,” by Patrick Lencioni for some suggestions.
- Hiring – The people hired to work at your hotels and restaurants need to be the right fit for your company, and by that, I mean they need to agree with and support your company’s mission, vision, and values. Once you have them established, you should start integrating those beliefs into your recruiting ads and the interview questions asked by your hiring managers to ensure that your new hires will be a good match. Without this alignment, it becomes much more challenging for everyone to work together.
- Pleased to meet you –Your staff is going to be more likely to help one another out when they know each other better, and managers can facilitate these types of connections in two ways. First, by providing opportunities for employees to get to know one another, especially when first hired, such as scheduling meal breaks of the senior staff members at the same time as new hires so they can lunch together, or by not demanding that everyone “get back to work!” when two employees are not immediately engaged in a task and are chitchatting during a shift (that’s a tough one sometimes, but it can definitely add value in the long run). Managers can also help by leading by example and demonstrating the importance of making connections with co-workers. Examples might include sincerely greeting employees upon arrival, asking them about the lives outside of work (and remembering what’s important to them), or talking to them about their career goals.
- Clarify roles – As a part of your training program, manager should make sure that employees are 100% clear on the tasks they will be performing when manning each workstation. When duties aren’t defined from the get-go, it can lead to confusion during busy shifts (and confusion can lead to time-consuming questions) or duplication of work, both of which will put slow your efficiency and strain the teamwork you are trying to build.
- Transparent goals – What are your metrics of success in your operations? If you were to go around and ask the staff what marks they are trying to hit during the shift, would they know? The more that managers can share workplace goals so that everyone can be on the same page and moving in the same direction, the stronger your teams can be.
- Contests – Competitions between departments or locations can be a great way to build morale and get employees excited about working together. The most effective contests will 1) involve everyone on the team and not just certain individuals, 2) reward everyone on the winning team and not just certain individuals, and 3) be indexed so that slower locations have an equal footing to compete with busier locations. And if contests are not your bag or run counter to your company culture, consider instead a charity drive instead where your people can work together to support the communities in which you operate.
- Pre-shift meetings – Here’s where everything comes together. These brief (two minutes or less) but informative training sessions at the start of the shift are the manager’s opportunity to discuss current goals in an interactive setting, reiterate important duties, and motivate the team to do their best during that shift. They are the culmination of all the pre-work done in the previous six steps and the foundation for daily team-building in your hospitality organization. If you’re not conducting pre-shift meetings daily, check out CHART member Jim Sullivan’s book, “Multi-Unit Leadership: The 7 Stages of Building Profitable Stores Across Multiple Markets,” to learn how they can make a huge difference in your team’s performance.
There will be some obstacles along the way to strengthening your teams, of course. Sometimes it will be an employee who struggles to gel with his/her co-workers, and sometimes it will be other operational or situational challenges that need to be overcome. Whatever occurs, managers should not ignore them and “hope” things will improve. These issues need to be discussed and dealt with (or removed, in some cases) so that your team can thrive.