Too big for your britches…

Too big for your britches…
Empower your employees, don't rule over them
Empower your employees, don’t rule over them

Some companies are complex, highly diverse workplaces with a lot of people to manage.  A host of different departments to oversea a multitude of tasks.  You can’t negate the fact that companies and their departments, their divisions have territorial tendencies.

Cue Elf:  Buddy (Will Ferrell) in mail room.

Buddy (Will Ferrell) in the mail room.
Buddy (Will Ferrell) in the mail room.

That scene from Elf and others, hint at the reality that is our workforce and its continued hierarchical, top down approach.  Very rare is it a company that has a bottom up approach.  You can say it, you can articulate it, you can communicate that you do, but if it isn’t readily apparent, it is all just glossy shine on the outside and misery on the inside.  Case in point.  I won’t mention any names or companies.  A few years ago, I was with a host of friends enjoying a welcome respite from the day-to-day.  Eventually, our conversation turned to work.  This person was a bit down in the dumps, and I asked why?  They hadn’t received the commission they normally received during the holidays.  This was during the hard time of the 2006-2009 recession. I asked them to explain.  Apparently, during the previous get together by all staff for their annual party, the company had to downsize the festivities.  Usually, everyone got a bonus, even those non-sales jobs.  The previous year the company decided to discontinue these bonuses to all of their employees, except their sales staff.  Someone found out, and complained.  Long story short.  Someone felt cheated.   A person who didn’t work in sales and didn’t receive a commission went to the powers that be and called them on it.  Times were tough too and the company decided maybe it was better not to give anything out.  I asked a few probing questions of my friend.  Needless to say, we didn’t talk for a few weeks after it.

I’ve worked in an industry for regular hourly pay, salary, and salary and bonuses.  More than likely it was a turkey at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Sometimes a gift card.  Not much, but I was grateful.  It helped.  All the Christmas parties were the same.  A few had raffles of cool prizes.  But our management staff wanted any bonuses or extra pay to be equal for all.  We worked as a team in hotels.  Everyone is rewarded for their hard work.  It may not have been much, but it was something. Sometimes a word or your name on a plaque got us through the hard times.  So back to my friend.

I asked the person to put their feet in the shoes of the individual in that ‘mail room’.  They may not have the education you have or the experience or the job title, but they do the same hard work as everyone else.  Interruption by my friend, saying that their job wasn’t equal.  No, they aren’t equal, but they still do hard work.  Define work.  What is work?  What is their job duties?  Could you do their job?  Do you know how to do their job?  They do their job for minimum wage or just a bit above.  Shouldn’t they be rewarded for their devotion just as much as you.  They came back with the argument that their job captured revenues for the business that allowed those in the mail room to be paid so that they could put food on the table, pay their bills.  Yes, I agreed.  Yet, if they didn’t do their job or aid you in doing yours, you couldn’t close on a deal with the delivery of that parcel with important signed contracts.  You couldn’t do your job without the delivery of office supplies.  You couldn’t do your job without them running their butts around town, when you had to get a contract out yesterday.  You couldn’t do your job if they didn’t fulfill that order made.  The two jobs are linked.

They again argued about working hard and about revenues.  I asked, “Is it?  Are revenues the only important detail of a company?”

The look they gave me could cut glass in two.

I smiled.  “It isn’t always about the bottom line.  It isn’t always about making a profit.  Sure profits are important and we do need to pay bills, but we cannot get to that profit without thinking and addressing the process and people who get us to that profit.  If one cog in the wheel isn’t working up to its effective and efficient potential, the system slows down and could possibly stagnate.  It could cease to exist.  Your job is linked to the way that mail room, those people feel and work.  Think you are far superior to them, that your job is more important, then you’ve lost sight of the reason to be in business.”

“How is that?”  They snorted.

“This is about the relationships you make and continue.  This is about long-standing relationships today and tomorrow.”

“Sure my customers are important.”

“Then who are your customers?”

“Huh?”

“Who are your stakeholders?”

“My customers.”

Holding off the desire to face plant my cheeks in my palms, I continued.  “We could go on and on asking the same question.  You do not understand your customers, your stakeholders.  This is about relationships.  If we do not create, nurture and maintain those relationships, our business will stagnate and decline.  This is about all of your stakeholders.  One of your stakeholders is that person in the mail room.  They have a vested interest in the health of the firm.  Not just the sales person that makes sales calls.  Did you ever ask that person in the mail room how they feel?  Did you ever say hi, greet them on your way into work?  Say good-bye on your way out?  Did you ever stop and ask them about their families?”

They hesitated, and I had my answer.  No or very rarely.

“Did you ever think that they are just as grateful as you are for the job they have?  That they can work for a company that even considers giving them a party and a bonus.  Not every company so rewards their devoted employees.”

As the book stipulates:

I think that is something else with the people-process culture: . . . you get to know people. The people get to know each other” ( J. Cernohous, personal communication, July 25, 2014).
Kersten EdD SPHR, Jeanette; La Venture EdD, Kelly. The Human Factor to Profitability: Building a People-Centered Culture for Long-Term Success (Kindle Locations 658-659). River Grove Books. Kindle Edition.

And the discussion went on.  What am I saying?

Employees should be engaged in their workplace.  That they need to feel and be a part of that team.  Not stranded in some oasis, ignored.  Again, I argue for that point that all of us see and process information differently.  We all have a unique point of reality.  Sometimes the finer details are uncovered with fresh eyes.  Don’t discount the person on the front lines.  You need to consider their input.

 

 

More to attractions than meets the eye…

More to attractions than meets the eye…
Gettysburg Civil War Monument
Mom on her honeymoon at Gettysburg Civil War National Park

Attractions have a lot of complicated parts, both intangible and tangible. They have a wider impact that many realize.  A whole mess of questions in a complicated world.

Attractions evolve from the three environments:  socio-cultural, economic, and physical (natural and man-made).  They take many forms and trying to define them can be a delicate journey.  They are a composite of activities that the tourist can partake in and use. Attractions can ‘attract’ a host of visitors, but more than likely it is not homogeneous.  Something that can’t be generalized across all markets.  More than likely, a niche market will be their primary source of revenues.

Motivation is tricky to decipher and study.  The reasons drawing, pushing and pulling tourist to a site is as particular to one person as another.  Case in point my mother and our annual trips to historic sites.  Deep down I don’t think she liked visiting Williamsburg or Gettysburg or other historical site.  I don’t know.  She’s never been a fan of hot weather, preferring spring and fall for travel.  The beach to the oppressive heat and humidity of the countryside.  Maybe I don’t know what she likes.  And therein lies the conundrum of tourist researchers.  Do we know who our visitors are, and what they like?  Do we really know what attractions to build or create for tourists?

Mom at Atlantic City
Mom at Atlantic City

Attractions have many purposes.  They are a composite of a host of activities and services that cater to a varied population of tourists.  Take away any resource within that matrix of services and the system fragments.  That fragmentation can be induced by tourist as well as the industry itself.  Attractions are part of a greater value chain.

Take away one and suffering occurs.  Take away the primary reason for tourist to visit, and the whole system suffers.  The impacts are far-reaching.  The multiplier effect drops in function and revenues do not circulate through the many layers.

Once an attraction changes, matures, stagnates or declines, tourist motivations will shift and change.  They will choose something else.  And then the area in which it is embedded spirals downward and declines.  And unless this erosion is stopped, halted, the host community will continue to suffer.  There will be no reason to go to the area.  Thus, schools can’t be built or remodeled, hospitals will close, services will pull out of the area leaving a shell of a community.

I’ve seen it first hand.  My hometown in Pennsylvania suffers from the decline and closure of industry.  Relying on tourism for most of its dollars.

Johnstown, PA
View from the Incline Plane of Johnstown, PA

Johnstown, PA is an old town, settled in 1770.  The only reason people would have a reason to visit there now is because of a natural disaster back in 1889.  The Great Flood was the largest man-made disaster up until 9/11. The event killed 2200+ people and leveled the prosperous steel town.  Now, since steel has pulled out, the city is a shell of its former self.  Still a beautiful place to live, but survival hinges on the National Monument to the Flood as well as several key events throughout the year.

Thunder in the Valley is a motorcycle rally that happens every June.  Last year, 2016 was one of the best turnouts because of the beautiful weather and increase in services available.  As reported in the Tribune:

When the weather cooperates, the four-day event has drawn as many as 200,000 people to the area – and this weekend was likely no exception, said Lisa Rager, executive director of the Greater Johnstown/Cambria County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Motorcylces line Johnstown, PA streets during Thunder in the Valley
Motorcycles line Johnstown, PA streets during Thunder in the Valley

That is a lot of people traveling to a small town in southwestern Pennsylvania for three or more days.  To a town that has limited resources to host 200,000 people over three days.  Maybe it does.  Maybe I don’t know the exact carrying capacity of the area or the extent of services.  Yet, think of the revenues generated from a host of sources.  How many jobs are created just for that weekend?  How much revenue is generated from event sales?  And then that revenue is circulated through the community.

Budweiser Clydesdales
Budweiser Clydesdale at Thunder in the Valley

Therefore, attractions are classified as something that generates some form of revenue.  They sell an entrance fee or cluster a host of services around it to generate revenue.  Take it away and revenues are lost.  Some people do not understand that concept.  What the community loses.

And sometimes that happens when motivations shift over time and choice is directed elsewhere.

Sometimes we lose attractions through other means.  How will the Caribbean rebuild after the devastating hurricanes?  How much will the islands alone lose from the loss of cruise ship revenues?  A host of questions.

A loss of revenue for the catchment area means a loss of revenues to circulate through the system.  A loss of future development.  Attractions can be the reason some businesses are drawn to the area.  This past summer I was at home during the annual Thunder.  One of my favorite motorcycle companies had heard about Thunder and was making its first appearance.

Ducati Logo
Ducati Logo ©Ducati

Ducati had come to town.  I would have loved to have visited the Rally but personal plans got in the way.  Yet, with such a famous brand drawn to this event, others followed.  The weather dampened the festival for the first day, but more than made up for it the last two, giving Ducati and others the chance to showcase their products.  I’m sure Harley Davidson enjoyed the friendly competition.  Throughout the 19 years this event has been held in Johnstown, it has evolved to what it is today.  An attraction that is just not for bikers.  It caters to a host of different types of tourists.  And that is important if the event is to continue.

I try not to be political in class or here.  But I can’t go without addressing certain issues effecting tourism today.  The destruction of certain attractions must be discussed if we are having an honest conversation about tourism.  The recent destruction of Civil War Monuments and the potential for more changes in that landscape.  Try to see and envision all sides.  Try to understand the impacts of all points of reality.  The total effect this has on the host community.

Dad at the Alabamians Memorial at Gettysburg during honeymoon.
Dad at the Alabamians Memorial at Gettysburg during honeymoon.

Tourism has a history.  Tourism exist in time and space.  The reasons for attractions and construction of attractions is particular to each stakeholder given that time and space.  The reasons for travel have varied through the generations that have engaged in the activity.  It has its positive and negative connotations. Good and bad.  The tourism landscape has countless stories to tell to explain the history of civilization.  Tourism is an action and behavior.  Tourists engage with a variety of landscapes.  Host communities rely on tourists for revenues.  If the main reason for travel is gone, people will shift their actions and behaviors.  They will go elsewhere.

We are all stewards of this landscape.  This landscape needs all sides to understand the implications to all three environments and participants.  All voices must be heard and considered.

A host of questions must be asked before action is taken.  We must be sympathetic and empathetic to the multiplier effect.  And the multiplier effect is not just revenues any more.  It is more.  Again, I stress that all voices must be heard and considered.

More on defining Organizational Culture…(PPC and more)

More on defining Organizational Culture…(PPC and more)

We have a host of authors within our book by Kersten and La Venture  1 that exposes the various definitions of organizational culture. There is a theme that emerges based on shared core values, beliefs, and principles.  This hints at behavior and how that behavior is communicated to a greater audience (p. 2-3).  That behavior exists within and outwit the company.  It governs the day-to-day operations and the lives that work within that community.  Yes, a community.  Marriott views their associates as a greater family.

Core Values
Core Values of the School of Hospitality Leadership
Yet, as I decipher these words, I am left with one thought, one word.  Service.  Servant leadership is a common phrase we hear about the university, and incorporate it in our culture.

The definitions of organizational culture are incomplete without the inclusion of servant leadership or service.

You may be thinking:  But it is all apart of that definition, when you argue for that commonality of themes within organizational culture.

Yes, and no.

Service is inter-woven and stands alone.  Why?  Maybe it should be the overriding concept?  See still in a heated debate.

Maybe if we address behavior.  Behavior is action.  Behavior is developed with immersion with in a unique place.  That place has three environments–physical landscape (natural/man-made environment), economic and socio-cultural.  Everyone is a product of their own three environments.  A host of variables will define those environments and shape how your beliefs are formed from the roots of those variables.  Core values remain, but the breadth and depth of those values shifts and adapts, matures and grows over time.  Some of those core values will stick with you and others you will shed with maturity, personal growth and reflection.

Life happens.

You bring these dynamics into any company.

Each individual of a society makes up the culture.  I am getting away from service and need to bring it back.  We will get to culture shortly.

Warning, service has a broad definition.  For this argument, service is the want to do something for someone else.  Not just because we have to, but because we want to.  It is the right thing to do.  We have within our hearts the want to help.  And that does have its hang ups.  We are after all human and considerably flawed.

Some have this ability to help more than others.  They have this innate compassion to such a degree that it is second nature.  No questions are asked.  Deep down we all do, but we are stymied by our own fears.

That is why I want to call it a service heart.  Some would label it as the heart of service.  But several colleagues and I have been gnashing on changing that.  I’m sure that phrase has been around for a bit.  And anyone can develop a service heart.

We have come to that conclusion that that phrase incorporates those core values.  In tourism, we have a lot of choice in products.  Some similar, some different.  What creates competitive advantage now and in the future will be the service. The human element.  People will want to return because of the people helping them fulfill their expectations.  Because we want them to return ‘home’ to us again and again.  Thus, our behavior is paramount to fulfilling the expectations of our stakeholders.  All of them.

So, at the heart of organization is a culture.  We should hold commonality, without the lost of identity.  That is something that isn’t really articulated within our first readings.  Identity.  We each bring our own sense of self to the work environment.  I have posed this question before.  How do we retain our own sense of self in a workplace that may or may not have the same common values as our own.  Today, we are seeing disparity in our society.  Not all of us possess the same beliefs.  We have our own unique cultural attributes that we bring into a workplace.  How do we mesh this divergence?  Some are not always the same.  Should we or should we not ask people to change that culture to conform (shudder) to that workplace culture?  Do the mission and vision of a company posses the flexibility to handle various cultural nuances?

Acculturation exists in tourism.  Simply defined, it is the moment when two or more cultures meet and something happens.  You can either have assimilation of one culture with another.  Yes, there may or may not be dominance of one over another.  The second may be nothing happens.  Or friction.  There is too much difference that problems occur.  Could we now extend this concept into the workplace because of the diverse backgrounds of our employees.

So, maybe I should hint at diversity.  Diversity, in its simplest terms, is about the difference in a workplace.  It identifies that difference and should be embraced. We can all contribute to our workplace. Yet, the definition is limiting to us in trying to understand that difference and how to handle it.  It doesn’t get to the heart of everything.  It doesn’t offer strategies.  Laws aren’t strategies.  There is still some mysticism with diversity.  If we extend diversity and marry it with the concept of cultural intelligence, especially when working in a global world, we can develop strategies and broader, better behaviors to handle that diversity.  Remember these are my interpretations of my own readings and research.  Don’t take it as face value.  What kind of Socratic professor would I be, if I didn’t ask you to think for yourself.  Read, digest, understand and reflect.

Culture today is so much greater, broader in definition than what some might think.

This is when I tell you that I hate definitions.  I think they are limiting.  I don’t think they encompass the expanse of variety that exists.  Yes, we need a foundation on which to start.  But how many of us stop and do not explore the many layers, the breadth and depth of those definitions. Culture is one of those definitions.  That is why later on in the semester we will be examining Cultural Intelligence.

The discussion continues…

Footnotes

1. Kersten, J., La Venture, Kelly, Lui, Katherine E. Welch, & Cervenka, Debbie. (2015). The human factor to profitability : Building a people-centered culture for long-term success / Jeanette Kersten, EdD, SPHR, and Kelly La Venture, EdD ; with a foreword by Kat Lui, PhD, and Debbie Cervenka. (First ed.).

Guest Cycle in Tourism…

Guest Cycle in Tourism…
Guest Cycle in Tourism
Guest Cycle in Tourism

If any of you have visited here before, there are several post devoted to the guest cycle. Most of these post have to deal with a hotel or lodging environment, but I wanted to devote some time to what it means in tourism.

In tourism, the guest cycle is still cyclical in nature, in that it is dynamic and continues in perpetuity for as long as people have a want to travel.  The cycle is two-fold from a management or operations or strategy perspective and a guest or tourist, or end-user point of view.

There are three stages: Before, During and After.

In the Before stage, for the tourist, this is predominately focused on research and decision-making, the actions of making planning before execution of experience.  The tourist is researching when to go, hot to get there, where to go, who is going, how much to spend, and why.  Even making a decision not to go.  They are investigating all the elements of the destination mix or value chain, and ‘packaging’ them for use.  They are purchasing a product.

In contrast, for operations, planners, this before stage is when we are creating goals and objectives to attract tourist to our destination.  We too are researching motivations, reasons for travel, examining and evaluating the success of our destination, and strategizing how to remain competitive during the cycle.  This can go on throughout the three stages for we are constantly evaluating success for customer service delivery and execution. We are communicating to our potential and current guests what we have to offer.  We should be proactive during this stage.

In stage two or during their stay, tourist experience what they have designed.  This is the moment of truth.  Do we live up to what we have communicated?  Do we validate their expectations formed?  Do we deliver on tangibles and intangibles?  During this stage, they can still purchase more products, so communication is an ongoing action.  They may be writing positive and negative messages about their experience.

Aforementioned that this stage is highlighted by our “Moment of Truth”.  We have put our product and services out there, we’ve set a price, a value, through words, and images, through actions, and promises.  Have we lived up to those promises?  Usually during this time we are reactive, and may or may not be proactive.  We are reacting to what is happening within the experience, and hopefully, converting any negative experiences to positive ones.  We are recapturing potential loss that might occur with the unfulfilled aspect of promises.

In the third stage, or after, both sides are processing the event.  Guests are communicating and informing others about their experience.  They are analyzing and evaluating the experience, even writing testimonials to deliver to those interested utilizing word of mouth or electronic word of mouth.  They are demonstrating that they have done something, and that these actions may lead to future decision-making.

In contrast, operations or planner is analyzing, examining to inform, and strategize with stakeholders.  They are being reactive and proactive in this aspect in that they want to create a competitive advantage over others by more than addressing the negative messages.  The goal is to create product or destination that is constantly chosen over another, giving them the competitive advantage over another.

This leads to the concept of action-reaction-result loop.  This is a collective movement towards achieving goals and objectives.  This generations reflection, and helps the destination understand is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Action-Reaction-Result Loop
Action-Reaction-Result Loop

There is an action undertaken by the client or planner, for that action there is a reaction by the guest albeit make a decision to travel, and operations makes promises, and as a result, the client will purchase products and contracts are delivered by operations.  This then leads to more actions, clients will travel whereas operations deliver on said promises.  There is a reaction on both parts, positive or negative, and there for a result.  Have we validated our promises?  If not, the guest will react, which results in negative comments, and as operators we must address that result.  If we don’t address that result, this could lead to an action by the consumer to pick someone else next time.

Recall that tourism is dynamic, ever-changing, and evolving.  These actions, reactions and results are ongoing as is the guest cycle.  They are looped and people are constantly considering travel.  It is our purpose as operations to convert interest into use.  Have them pick us time and time again, creating loyalty, repeat customers.  If so our entity will continue, and we create not only value for the customer but also the firm.

Recall the mantra:

Recall you are selling the right product {to the right person} at the right time, for the right price, for the right place or location, having the right promotion, engaging the right people, utilizing efficient and effective processes, and using truthful physical evidence, that is stories and testimonials to engage with your customer…

Finding that right corner of the world…

Finding that right corner of the world…

Every day I’m asked by students about finding employment, the right job for them.  They slip into my office, some tentatively, others boldly, and with frustrated snarls and whispers, ask, “How do I find a job?”  Or they sigh deeply and say, “Help me find an internship?  I can’t find one.”

I get it, I’ve been there, I have a trunk load of tee shirts sitting at home.

Finding that right corner of the world, that right niche is hard.

Especially in today’s complicated world.

And that is when I tell them, hopefully, with a bucket load of optimism, persevere.  The right job, the right position is out there…and yes, there is always that lingering ‘but’, that momentary pause that tells them there’s a catch.  Sometimes you have to step outside the box, and your comfort zone, to find that niche.  To find that corner, and occupy.  I really think we need a one credit course on job hunting in today’s employment environment.

It’s brutal out there, and you have to take the punches in order to gain what you so desire.  That hasn’t changed since we could walk upright.  I then shift, and ask them what are they passionate about.  That is when I get the blank stares, the lack of emotional response, and emptiness.  My mind drifts too at this time period back to the days when I was first in grade school, and the teacher asked every one of us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I wonder what I answered, because I really can’t remember.  The earliest point that I do remember is a 4th grade essay, and I was into the National Park System, John Muir, and such.  I devoured a book on Muir that year, taking it out of the library several times.  I can still picture the library at Southmont to this day, and roaming the stacks of treasures.

So then I go into concentrations, and what they are taking.  I ask them why are they taking this area, and I get the usual replies.  Most days its I want to be an event planner.  I want to plan weddings, and then I hit them with the cold reality of day.  Competition is hard, and getting to that point, difficult.  But it is doable.  You just have to think outside the box.  And this is where I get frustrated, because I already know the answer more than half the time.  My next inevitable question is, “Have you done research on the career?  Where you can find jobs?”
Nothing, nada, zip.  Big fat zero.

I’ve data mined for information, and I realize then that students need a bit of boost, a shove to find resources.  And not only research about their career path, but about themselves.  They need to dig deep and find out that intrapreneur within themselves.  They need to dig deep, and soul search.  Set some goals and objectives and obtain them.

And remember nothing is set in stone.  There is always that ability, and opportunity to change.

I found a great video on Linkedin, a nice presentation on Intrapreneurship by Nancy Lyons of Clockwork.  Hopefully this might help them in that step…