Etiquette & Engagement: Receptive

Imagine if every person acted like a lady or gentleman…..

Etiquette Tip: Ladies and Gentlemen are receptive when listening to others.

Good ideas can come from unexpected sources. You may have colleagues who seem too new to the business to offer any meaningful acumen or colleagues who have decades of experience but are not actively engaged. However, when you create a culture that fosters innovation and improvement, employees are more likely to share business-changing insights. A culture of innovation cultivates fresh ideas from your staff by demonstrating to employees that their perceptions are valued and wanted. In other words—employees will be listened to when they contribute their thought leadership to your organization. At The Ritz-Carlton, our strategic planning process is one example of our collaborative approach to business. All of our employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—participate in the strategic planning process and provide feedback that shapes the direction and strategic vision of our organization. Receptive leaders and co-workers—who are willing to hear others’ ideas—not only stimulate organizational development, but also increase employee engagement.

The motto of The Ritz-Carlton is “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto sets a tone of goodwill and grace for all.

Significant Stat: Engaging the B2B Customer

Only 29% of your B2B customers are engaged, with the remaining 71% either indifferent or actively disengaged. (source)

Advice from Jeff Hargett, Senior Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

“Companies aren’t growing—so they are acquiring their competitors.” So says Jim Clifton, Chairman and CEO of Gallup since 1988. On a regular basis, we see yet another acquisition or merger in the news. When one organization acquires another, one question that is asked: “Which ‘culture’ do we follow?” The logical answer would be, the company initiating the acquisition.  However, the acquired institution surely has devoted customers who have sworn allegiance over the years to the organization that now has become part of the competition’s portfolio.  Mr. Clifton’s article, gives us some insight to the work that needs to be done with the “new” customer base coming onboard with the acquisition.

In order to determine how best to welcome the B2B customer into the new fold, it is important to practice that age-old tradition of “listening to your customers.” This is a foundational aspect of service delivery at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Feedback is a gift, and in this situation it can provide excellent insight into the needs of our B2B customers. I find it interesting that the data in this study mirrors the research found in the 2015 State of the American Workplace study showing that 70% of U.S. workers are not engaged at work. Should a disengaged employee interact with a disengaged customer, the odds of success are diminished significantly—perhaps to the level of a confirmed loss of business. If we can reduce the level of disengaged employees, we can potentially increase the number of engaged customers—an excellent equation for any successful business

Significant Stat: Bad Reputation

A bad reputation costs a company at least 10% more per hire (source)

Advice from Jeff Hargett, Senior Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

Where do you find the “right” people? If I’ve heard that question once, I’ve heard it a thousand times. A large part, if not the majority, of a company’s success in sustainable service excellence comes from “the people.” If the culture (synonymous with the reputation) of a company is seen as negative and nonsupportive of its employees or disengaged, then fewer and fewer people will want to work there, causing the company to spend more to attract potential staff, even just the “warm body” variety. When a culture of excellence is evident and promoted, the fountain of potential superstar employees flows to you rather than you having to fund job fair after job fair just to meet your minimum FTE requirements. One of the best recruiting tools and cost-cutting measures is an army of fully engaged employees!  

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.

Significant Stat: Living Out Your Values

“About four in 10 (41%) workers, for example, strongly agree with the statement: ‘I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand(s) different from our competitors.’” (source)

Advice from Alexandra Valentin, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

Simply having a mission or vision statement does not mean it is embraced by your employees. Your mission, vision and values need to be visible and enlivened. Leaders should exemplify the values of your organization for your staff. In addition to modeling expectations, your organization should provide standards and a way to measure the degree to which they are being met and exceeded. Leaders must hold employees accountable and not let up on maintaining the standards — regardless of any other internal or external factors. Living out your values every day is what then sets your brand apart from your competitors. The Ritz-Carlton is dedicated to raising the bar on service, and our service of culture is enlivened and reinforced daily through systems such as line-up, onboarding and First Class cards. Acknowledging employees for living your standards is critical to reinforcing expectations and ensuring your employees are fulfilling those expectations each day. 

Our Enrichment Courses immerse clients in The Ritz-Carlton ambience while offering philosophical and tactical service excellence knowledge. Please visit our Course Calendar to learn more about our upcoming courses and to register. 

Culture and Onboarding

“Culture drives everything that happens in an organization each day,” according to the book The Culture Engine. Everything. Each day. That’s how important culture is to your organization, and this is why immersing new employees into your culture is of paramount importance. Immerse may seem like a strong word, but think of it like visiting a new country. You need to know as soon as possible whether you drive on the left or the right, whether or not you can drink the water and whether shaking someone’s hand is courteous or offensive. Likewise, new employees should learn about your organization’s customs as soon as possible– culture and onboarding have a symbiotic relationship. They need to understand your organization’s values and goals, general rules of operation and common language and behaviors. Adapting to an organization’s culture does not take place overnight. At The Ritz-Carlton, we understand that new employees go through three phases before they completely embrace the culture.

Phase One – See It

One of the ways your new hires will begin to learn about your culture is from observing their physical surroundings. What people wear to work, how colleagues set up and decorate their offices and whether your company’s vision, mission and values are visible will tell new employees a few things about your organization. At The Ritz-Carlton, the Credo and The Employee Promise are displayed in common areas and in each office. In addition, all employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—have a pyramid on their desk that shows the annual goals, vision, mission, motto and other key cornerstones.

New staff members can also be introduced to your culture by reading a company brochure or new hire manual. They may also hear about company culture from managers or co-workers. New hires at The Ritz-Carlton spend the majority of their two-day onboarding learning about our company’s culture. The new staff is introduced to the culture through videos, presentations by managers and group discussions. All new hires are required to memorize and recite the Credo before completing orientation.

Phase Two – Believe It

After your new employees learn about your culture they may still be skeptical about its relevance. Your new hires may be jaded by past experiences where organizations have claimed something is important, but there is no follow-through. For example, colleges often tell incoming students that refrigerators are not allowed in dorm rooms, and yet, many students have mini-fridges. Rules that aren’t enforced have no meaning. Your new employees need to know that your organizational values are not just posters on a wall or words in a welcome booklet. As new hires experience your culture and see that it is truly lived within your organization, they will begin to trust and accept your culture.

At The Ritz-Carlton, the culture is enlivened at Daily Line-Up. Every day the Daily Line-Up focuses on one aspect of our Gold Standards, and new employees hear how their managers and co-workers are applying the culture. Often the person leading Line-Up shares a personal example of how he or she has demonstrated or witnessed this Gold Standard being expressed. Hearing how colleagues are living the culture not only indicates its validity, but also inspires new hires to do likewise.

Phase Three – Live It

After your employees see the culture and witness how it is embraced, they will begin to live the culture as well. It’s important for your organization that all employees are adopting your culture. Going back to the book The Culture Engine, the author points out that “Defining values and behaviors and then holding everyone in the company or team accountable for living them creates continuity and sanity. Every player knows what’s expected of him or her.” When all of your employees are living your culture, your organization is more unified and therefore, capable of achieving more.

Phase Out – Leave it

Employees that choose not to embrace your culture, most likely, won’t last long at your organization. Hopefully, new hires will recognize that they are not a right fit and will move along on their own accord. If not, your organization may face the task of encouraging people to find other employment. Some organizations even offer new hires “pay to quit” programs in order to incentivize employees who are not a right cultural fit to leave the organization. Offering a “payout” like that may seem extreme, but when employees are happy, engaged and committed to their work and the organization, isn’t it better for all? Employees who embrace your culture will contribute to an atmosphere of teamwork, collaboration and greater success. 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.

Significant Stat: Building Rapport

The first 90 days of one’s employment are pivotal to building rapport with the company, management and coworkers. (source)

Advice from John Cashion, Corporate Director, Culture Transformation at The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

In the first three months, new employees will learn all about an organization’s culture, build relationships with co-workers and begin to earn the trust of leaders. The first 90 days is a critical time because new hires will be forming their first impressions about their place of work and the people, and likewise, colleagues and managers will be forming first impressions of the new employee. Dr. Jack Schafer, a retired FBI special agent and behavioral analyst, notes that “once a first impression is formed, people are less likely to change their mind. This is based on the psychological principle of consistency: When people articulate an idea, they are less likely to change their minds because they would first have to admit that they were initially wrong. Maintaining an erroneous notion, such as a first impression, actually causes less anxiety than admitting an error and adopting another position.” If new hires have a favorable impression of their co-workers, managers and work environment, they will begin to settle in and show their commitment to the organization. At The Ritz-Carton, new employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—begin by going through a two-day onboarding process where they learn about the culture of The Ritz-Carlton. New staff members are then assigned learning coaches who train and mentor them. Starting on day one, new Ladies and Gentlemen must work on building rapport with everyone because delivering world-class service is a team effort.

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.

DOs and DON’Ts of Communicating with Employees

One of the biggest challenges managers face is communicating effectively with employees. Your employees most likely have different communication styles. One employee may be more assertive, another employee may be more emotional and another employee may be very quiet. Knowing how to interact and connect with each employee can take intuition, experience and practice, but there are some basic guidelines that typically work well for all employees.

DO praise often and make it meaningful

Your employees are working hard, and yes, they are being paid for their work. However, you should still take the time to recognize and praise your team for their efforts. According to research by Gallup, recognition and praise at work has many benefits including increased individual productivity, improved safety records, better employee retention and more motivated employees. Your employees will appreciate it even more if your compliments are specific and meaningful. “Good job” is not memorable feedback and is quickly forgotten. At The Ritz-Carlton, our employees—known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—write out “First Class” cards when they want to recognize colleagues and staff.

DON’T criticize in public

When an employee makes a mistake, you may want to correct the employee right away—even when colleagues and customers are in the room. Yet, when you criticize an employee in public, you potentially shame them. Being reprimanded in front of colleagues is embarrassing and awkward for all. In addition, when you admonish an employee in public, you damage team dynamics and erode trust. The employees who aren’t being reprimanded realize that they could be next, and consequently, your team will be less open and more guarded.

DO make communication a conversation—not a monologue

When you are speaking with employees, you shouldn’t just be talking at them. You want to give your employees a chance to communicate as well. You have to remember to be quiet and listen—and also to pay attention to their body language and tone. Bob Kharazmi, Global Officer, Worldwide Operations at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C. shared the following in an interview: “When people come to me with issues, I try to really truly understand by using good listening skills. I don’t jump in and ask questions too early. Once they are finished talking, if I’m not totally clear, then I will ask questions. After I completely understand the issue, I ask them what they think the best solution is—and only after listening to their solution will I provide my advice.”

DON’T avoid difficult communications

The authors of Crucial Conversations note: “We’ve become masters at avoiding tough conversations. Coworkers send e-mail to each other when they should walk down the hall and talk turkey. Bosses leave voicemail in lieu of meeting with their direct reports….We use all kinds of tactics to dodge touchy issues.” When you send an e-mail or leave a voicemail, you’re not only hiding behind technology, you’re not giving your employees a chance to have a conversation with you—to respond, to react, to ask questions and clarify. You’re also creating suspicion by hiding. Employees may wonder, “What else am I not being told?” Important communications should take place face-to-face and sending a follow-up e-mail will help ensure that everyone heard the same message.

DO communicate frequently

You may sit down with employees for performance reviews once or twice a year, but that doesn’t mean you should store up all your feedback for those meetings. It’s important to communicate any challenges in a timely fashion. If you wait three months to tell an employee about a mistake, the employee may not remember the incident, or worse—he or she has spent the last three months repeating this error. You should also try to communicate news about your department or your organization before your employees hear it from other sources. Frequent, honest and transparent communication puts a stop to the rumor mill.

DON’T put employees on the defensive

You want to talk to employees about their mistakes, without making them feel condemned. The words you choose will either make employees feel safe or defensive. This is particularly true when you’re talking to an employee about a problem. It’s important to focus on problem resolution rather than assigning blame. The Ritz-Carlton has a process known as MR. BIV (Mistakes, Rework, Breakdowns, Inefficiencies and Variations). Through this process, The Ritz-Carlton impersonalizes problems and shifts the focus from blame to solutions.

The Ripple Effect

Managers tend to play a large role in an organization’s success. They help move projects forward and ensure their team is operating efficiently. Communicating thoughtfully with employees may feel like one more thing on a manager’s ever-growing task list. It may even feel like a luxury item—since things will get done even if you are not kind. However, when you express kindness, consideration and gratitude to your employees, they will learn from your example—and then they will extend kindness, consideration and gratitude to each other and to your customers. If the benefits of effective employee communication are greater employee engagement and improved customer experience, isn’t effective employee communication worth prioritizing? 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.

Seven Ways to Engage Employees in Change Management

Culture change expert Dr. John Kotter stated in an interview that “70% of all organizational change efforts fail, and one reason for this is executives simply don’t get enough buy-in, from enough people, for their initiatives and ideas.” Securing buy-in from most of your employees will require extra effort. However, you increase the odds of your success if you take the time to engage employees in your change management plans.

Convincing Your Employees

If your organization decides to move forward with culture change or other change initiatives, you will have employees who will welcome the shift, but you also will have to win over these types of employees:

  • the tenured employees who have seen change initiatives fail in the past
  • the negative employees who tend to forecast doom and gloom even when the sun is shining
  • the “I told you so” employees who feel they are smarter than the decision-makers
  • the “I hate change” employees who are more comfortable sticking with the status quo
  • the “does this mean more work?” employees who are already feeling overwhelmed
  • the “last-minute” employees who don’t want to jump on the train until it’s leaving the station

Embracing everyone in your organization won’t be easy, but here are seven strategies that can help your staff feel more secure throughout this time of transition.

1) Solicit Buy-In Prior to Launch

At The Ritz-Carlton, one of our Service Values is: “I’m involved in the planning of the work that affects me.” This means that major decisions should not be made in private, executive meetings and then simply announced to employees. As you begin making plans, consider holding focus groups or taking surveys and soliciting employee opinion.

An organization had to make a decision that they knew many employees wouldn’t like. They decided to hold focus groups with key stakeholders—even though management felt this wouldn’t change the ultimate decision. The focus groups provided the opportunity for stakeholders to share concerns and for leaders to explain the reasons the change was needed. In the end, management made the unpopular choice. However, because they’d had a chance to give input prior to the decision, the key stakeholders were not only more receptive, but also helped minimize the concerns of their colleagues. In addition, management was able to address several of the concerns brought out in the focus groups, and this showed employees that leaders were listening. The decision—while still disappointing to many—was embraced without protest.

2) Communicate Consistently

It’s likely there will be some confusion during a change process. Employees may feel disoriented as your organization lets go of old processes and embraces new procedures. In order to help your staff feel more comfortable, make sure to communicate with them often.

Think of your organization as a sailboat, and you’re simply changing your course. When you turn your boat, the sails often luff or flap as they adjust to the shifting winds. As captain, you can keep your crew from panicking by reassuring them you’re headed in the right direction. Employees will feel safer knowing that someone is at the helm.

3) Lead by Example

It is vital that your senior leaders model any change initiatives for your employees. If your senior leaders do not “walk their talk,” employees will quickly stop trying as well. Your staff will think, “Why should I make these extra efforts if the people running the organization aren’t bothering?” Leaders who don’t back up their words with actions lose employee trust. A change initiative requires a team effort, and management should be fostering trust and leading their teams. Senior leaders can introduce a change process, but it’s their active participation that demonstrates the organization’s commitment to change.

4) Reinforce and Remind

It’s natural to want to see immediate results, but it may take time for employees to catch-on to new methods. William Bridges notes in his seminal book, Managing Transitions, that employees will need to go through a psychological transition. He asserts that “when a change happens without people going through a transition, it is just a rearrangement of the chairs. It’s what people mean when they say, ‘Just because everything has changed, don’t think that anything is different around here.’” Your organization needs to give employees time to psychologically adjust and absorb the new processes—while also ensuring that employees don’t hold on to old methods too long. Meetings, training sessions and written standard operating procedures (SOPs) can help reinforce changes.

At The Ritz-Carlton, our culture is reinforced through a daily meeting called “Line-Up.” These meetings take place at the beginning of every shift at every Ritz-Carlton hotel around the world. Each day this line-up meeting focuses on one aspect of our Gold Standards and gives employees a chance to share how they have enlivened the culture.

5) Establish Accountability

If you do not enforce following new methods and procedures, your employees might be tempted to slip into old patterns. Accountability often can be established through metrics and reports, but leadership may also need to check in with employees more frequently when launching new initiatives. This can be handled through one-on-one meetings or through smaller team meetings. The advantage of team meetings is that there’s an element of collaboration—the idea that we are in this together. But there’s also an element of peer pressure—if everyone else is committed to change, then even your change resisters will feel pressure to conform to the crowd.

You have to be careful when establish accountability because you don’t want to create an environment where employees are being asked to police each other or where your staff feels like Big Brother is watching over them. On the other hand, remember that people are creatures of habit—habits make up 40% of our daily activities—and some monitoring may be necessary.

6) Invite Employee Feedback

As you’re going through your change process, make sure there’s a channel for employees to offer feedback. There are several ways this can be accomplished:

  • an employee suggestion box
  • employee surveys at key checkpoints
  • town meetings where employee feedback is encouraged, responded to and recorded
  • an open-door policy by senior leadership

When you give employees an outlet for their concerns, they have a proactive way to express themselves—rather than complaining, venting and grumbling behind closed doors. They’ll also feel that they have a voice and are a valued part of the change initiative.

7) Measure & Celebrate Progress

When you have a big goal ahead of you, it’s easy to feel like you’re not making enough progress or that you may never make it to the finish line. To prevent feelings of defeat, it’s important to measure your progress. Establish key metrics right from the start, and let your team know what the goals are. Consider creating signage or a digital dashboard that keeps your employees informed of progress. This kind of transparency will allow staff to see that their efforts toward change are making a difference. In addition, this focus on metrics will create a feeling of teamwork and will squelch rumors and speculation on your organization’s chances for success.

It’s also important to celebrate incremental successes along the way. Small celebrations will renew your staff and reward them for their efforts. For example, if part of your goal is to raise your HCAHP (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) or Net Promoter Score, why not have mini-celebrations as your score begins to improve? Think of these smaller celebrations as a cup of cold water along your marathon route.

Emphasize the Positive

Tackling a change initiative can be daunting, but try to focus on the end results. You can even try to make the process fun by giving it a theme. At The Ritz-Carlton, when the sales team participates in an annual thank-a-thon, the event includes costumes, treats and motivational videos. Just because a project is hard work—doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable. Keeping your teams focused on the benefits and outcomes will help everyone think beyond the day-to-day challenges and remember the purpose of committing to change. 

Join us for a one-day symposium, “Your Journey to Service Excellence.” The day includes a keynote speaker, a Q&A session with The Ritz-Carlton executive panel, an optional networking reception and presentations about legendary service, employee engagement and developing a customer-centric culture.

Quick Survey: Organizational Culture

According to yesterday’s Significant Stat, 87% of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges. How is culture enlivened at your organization? Tell us in our organizational culture survey.

Significant Stat: Culture and Engagement

87% of organizations cite culture and engagement as one of their top challenges, and 50% call the problem “very important.” (source)

Advice from Diana Oreck, Former Vice President of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center:

If you really want your organizational culture to be embraced consistently, the following should be non-negotiable: Every employee in your organization, regardless of role, should be able to articulate the culture. A well-articulated culture establishes a framework and foundation for expectations, accountability and engagement. At The Ritz-Carlton, the Gold Standards encompass the values and philosophy by which we operate. All of our employees—also known as our Ladies and Gentlemen—review the Gold Standards at Daily Line-Up and apply them throughout the day. When your culture is enlivened daily, this ensures everyone is marching in the same direction toward success. 

Join us for a one-day symposium, “Your Journey to Service Excellence.” The day includes a keynote speaker, a Q&A session with The Ritz-Carlton executive panel, an optional networking reception and presentations about legendary service, employee engagement and developing a customer-centric culture.