By Hoda Nassef
Entering any 5-Stars Hotel, a Guest can just feel and see the glamour, the friendly atmosphere, the pleasant and smoothly paced service, and the good quality. That is all the Guest is meant to see! Actually, behind the scenes is a task force of grueling hard work, sometimes exceeding a 12-hours a day working schedule per person, with the sole objective of keeping each hotel Guest satisfied, if not hilariously happy!
Each hotel is a small community in itself, with its various departments, managers, supervisors, assistants (the ‘Senior Staff’), and the remaining vast majority are the subordinates, or the ‘Junior Staff’.
The Junior Staff who compile the majority of the manpower take the bulk of the heavy workload. Yet, without good Managers or Supervisors, their skills would never be developed to full capacity, which ultimately reflects the hotel’s revenue, results, and reputation. Good Managers or Supervisors will also give the Junior Staff a chance to develop, and increase their chances for promotions or career growth.
Comparing the hotels’ life-style as the ‘Little Communities’ just as we have the ‘Big Communities’ – (your city, or mine) – there are likewise noticeably big gaps in the difference of salaries and benefits between the Senior Staff and the Junior Staff. Therefore, to compensate somewhat and give a stronger motivation to the Junior Staff, nearly each hotel or beach resort in Egypt has an “Employee of the Month” going on. This has become an increasingly important issue for the Hospitality (Tourism & Hotel Industry); it helps develop each hotel, as well as each individual.
There are about six to twelve “Department Heads” in each hotel, who, as the layman knows, are the managers of specific departments. Most 5-Stars international chain hotels in Egypt abide by the international standards of Department Heads. However, many of the ‘private’ 5 and 4-Stars hotels have their own arithmetic: some, saving on manpower (and more salaries) by assigning a Department Head two or even three jobs in one, whereas some others dispense totally with certain job descriptions, depending on the hotel’s past hospitality experience, present requirements, daily functions, and room numbers.
To have an “Employee of the Month”, each Department Head should be totally attuned to and aware of the staff he/she supervises. The Department Head often supervises 20 to 200 employees, give or take a few, and sometimes even up to 400 – taking into consideration that about one-third are on leave, while the other two-thirds work on rotating shifts. Not only do the Department Heads have to be extremely efficient in their own diverse fields, but also very good leaders and organizers.
“Performance Evaluation” or “Appraisals” are not always carried out in all the hotels, as expected. These assessments, by the way, would help facilitate the selections of Employees of the Month in a more professional manner.
Each Department Head has to choose its Employee of the Month from his/her department. The ‘unwritten law’ agreed upon within all the hotels for selection is the following: the Candidate should have a good record to begin with, specifically no “misconducts” (i.e. penalties or bad behaviour). The Candidate should be punctual, have no unofficial leaves, or leaves without prior permission. He/she should be resourceful, cheerful, pleasant and polite; gets along well with everyone, supervisors and colleagues alike. The Candidate should also be hard working, and accomplishes all given assignments throughout the month.
After each Department Head selects his/her choice of the month, a Meeting is held and chaired by the hotel’s General Manager. Usually the selected Candidates are nominated in either of both ways:
1) By ‘scores’, i.e. by each Department Head allotting grades or scores – say, from 1 to 5 – to each potential Employee of the Month. In some cases the General Manager requests that the Department Heads omit scoring their own candidates in order to implement real democratic votes without favouritism or bias. For example, if there are ten Department Heads participating in the votes, you get scores for nine candidates instead of ten. That is, each Department Head has on his sheet scores of 9 candidates, but collectively there will be ten Candidates. The Candidate with the highest scores wins the title. Sometimes the Department Heads do not recognize or remember the Candidates from the other departments. Therefore, it is suggested that the Personnel Manager prepares in advance one-sheet C.V.s or appraisals of all the ten Candidates, with their personal photos affixed to them.
Or, by the simpler way of:
2) ‘Open Discussion’; each Department Head reviews openly his selected Candidate, with his/her reasons for the selection, then all the Department Heads vote. If two Candidates draw a tie, the General Manager finalizes the debate.
A date is then arranged for the “Employee of the Month” celebration, with the intention of encompassing most of the employees who are free to attend. Certificates are “home made”, usually by the General Manager’s Executive Secretary.
During the same celebration, some hotels include a “Cleanest Room”, or “Best Room” award, in order to encourage young bachelors to keep their Staff Housing rooms spotless and tidy.
Since all hotels are too busy to interrupt their schedules more than once a month, added to the above, birthdays of all born during the celebrated month are listed then announced.
The “Employee of the Month” is kept confidential until the day of the ceremony, when it is then announced by the General Manager and/or the Personnel Manager, or jointly. The other names are also announced as “runners up”, and they also receive minor bonuses. Then, after the speeches, the Certificates, bonuses, birthday cake candles blown out and symbolic gifts are distributed, with the usual photographs and/or video filming going on, the Entertainment begins.
Why bother? Why all the fuss, you may wonder. Mainly, (let’s face it!) to compensate for their bad work wages, to ignite healthy competitive motivation amongst the Junior Staff, to encourage continuous good work performance, and to enhance a feeling of wellbeing and harmony between Senior and Junior Staff. Besides, you wouldn’t want an angry person spitting in your soup behind your back … would you? Just kidding. (I hope!)
As for the entertainment, refreshments or snacks are served while the hotel uses its local band (often accompanied by its local singers and dancers.) Sometimes outside performers are hired for these events. Occasionally, innovative department employees improvise instead by making their own shows, accompanied by the hotel’s band or DJ.
As soon as possible, following the Ceremony, lists of nominees and birthdays, photocopies of certificates, and photos, are pinned to the glassed-in Staff Billboards for all to see, until they are replaced the following month by the next celebration.
During the Holy Month of Ramadan, some hotels prefer to have a sumptuous Iftar, instead of the routine celebration. In one case, the G.M. and all the Department Heads stood at the chaffing dishes and personally served all their Junior Staff, which was a wonderful idea, and a truly congenial and ‘brotherly’ sight to see. This actually improved the wellbeing and atmosphere of the Junior Staff with their Senior Staff, and promptly motivated them for higher productivity. It’s no coincidence that the hotel had the highest revenues of the year, the following month.
Area/Regional General Managers and Chairmen of the Board often attend these ceremonies. Afterwards, publications of these events are sometimes seen in our local newspapers. This serves two purposes: first, to boost the morale of the Employees, and second, as an indirect propaganda for the hotel’s name and the Managers concerned.
In almost all the hotels, there are “Guest Comments” (or, Guest Questionnaires) placed in each Guest Room or Suite, with the idea of finding out what they liked, or didn’t like about the hotel, and how or where to improve. Some hotels have Guest Comments boxes, with lock and key, placed in the Lobby or Reception Area. However, the boxes are rarely used, since often the Questionnaires are not always put in conspicuous places for the Guest to see, nor is the Guest made aware of how and where to dispatch it before his/her departure. By the way, good comments from a Guest about a “guest-contact” employee should be noted, especially if it is repeated throughout the month on separate occasions from different Guests. This will enhance the employee’s chance for acquiring the “Employee of the Month” title.
Few hotels also have a “Suggestion Box”, solely for the employee’s use. About five or six years ago, a well known chain hotel here (with its headquarters in the U.S.A.) had a marvelous incentive ‘gimmick’, using the slogan: “Better Ways, Newer Ways”. If an Employee could come up with ten feasible new ideas (which is no easy task) that would be actually implemented or soon reinforced, he/she would receive a certificate, along with a big bonus. The new ideas had to be really innovative, and NEW, and had to deal with means and ways on how to satisfy and please the Guest. It also dealt with the hotel’s general improvement, whether on the premises or in administration, increasing revenues, cost saving, environmental amelioration, beautifying anything, recycling, and so on. That same year the hotel was named as the best hotel not only in Egypt, but abroad as well, and rated the highest occupancy and revenues ever.
As mentioned above, some hotels choose to combine all the twelve months of the year and nominate an additional Candidate as “Employee of the Year”, (e.g. as implemented in the Cairo Marriott hotel, and the Helnan hotel in Sharm El-Sheikh) . This Employee may likely have been chosen previously as “Employee of the Month” during that same year. Naturally, an “Employee of the Year” is offered a big certificate, and an even bigger financial bonus!
It is noteworthy to mention that mainly 5-Stars beach resorts and hotels (being in remote areas for the employees) celebrate the event, as compared to many city hotels, which do not. For example, the Nile Hilton and the Cairo Marriott hotels suffice by handing out bonuses, without the celebrations. The Marriott even gives out 30 bonuses per month (subdividing the departments into ’sections’) as well as a year-end “Employee of the Year” certificate and bonus. On the other hand, other hotels have two employees of the month; one, from the Guest-Contact employees, and one from the ‘non’ Guest-Contacts, such as at Le Meridien in Cairo, and the Swissotel in Heliopolis. Sofitel, in Maadi, does not celebrate, but selects only one employee of the month, who gets a certificate & bonus, a VIP treatment, photos with the G.M., and publication in the local newspapers.
Department Heads, Supervisors, Assistants and Executives are not supposed to be nominated as Employee of the Month. However, on rare occasions, a “Man (or Woman) of the Year” is chosen from this Senior Staff by the Chairman or the Area General Manager. These Employees of the Year have to have proven records of unprecedented outstanding performance and achievements.
To make a long story short, if the Employee is happy, the Guest automatically will also be happy, and vice versa!