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.
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.
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…
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.).
Perhaps, our discussion on PPC should begin with trying to define the concept of organizational culture. Heck, we could use this for all of my classes as well, because inherent within each course should be an understanding of organizations, culture, leadership and so forth.
After reading and researching about PPC in preparation for my interview for the Chair position, I found common threads of thought in one big giant quilt. It’s complicated and intricate. One step at a time.
With every body of knowledge, there is a history. A host of people contributing to a greater whole. No one has the cornerstone on that history. Each company, industry, person has an experience, and what emerges from that history are common practices and theories. The line of thought, if you research your own companies as I have asked, may have shades of PPC within it already. If you want to be an effective leader, you need to research other companies within and outwit your own career aspirations. You need to study people and processes. Become a avid reader!
Over the course of history, organizations have viewed work in various forms. I’m not going to rehash that history, but know that owners, leaders, supervisors, companies, etc, have all viewed organizational culture from different vantage points. Different points of reality. Good and bad.
A company can be broken down into two aspects. Tangible and intangible. Products and people.
Organizational culture is about studying the dynamics of the people within an organization. How they get things down. How they deliver on promises. How they work together to achieve objectives for a broader goal.
How do organizations value their people and those that complete tasks. What is rewards? How do people value each other and the job they do. Value takes on a whole new meaning.
Lui and Cervenka in Kersten and La Venture (2015, p. vii)1 lend credit to the argument that all people, employees, and associates have an ‘intrinsic value’. Simply put, what Bob Cervenka, as reported in Kersten and Laventure, stipulated that success hinges on the people of any organization. It’s true. Walt Disney knew back in 1950s that his vision of an amusement park wouldn’t be a success without the ‘cast’ members doing their part to create the illusion. He wouldn’t be able to develop cutting edge rides without pushing the imagineers to do their best. Even when such processes hadn’t been invented (think animatronics). Yet, Epcot in Disney World, the last project that Walt helped to design, almost didn’t get built because of Disney’s untimely death. He had a certain vision and shared most of that vision with his employees. It wasn’t enough just to share that information.
Lui and Cervenka stress that information is a key variable that must be shared. Thus, the root of success is about communication. But is that the complete picture?
Information has two sides. Tangible and intangible. Seen and not. Information is one of the drivers of the tourism industry, besides money and promises. At any time during the process, the dynamic function that is tourism, information can be accessed and used by any and all stakeholders. It is something that is always being created, and utilized to create or do something. Communication is a constant action, but not always part of the process. Yes, information can be assumed. Misdirection can occur.
Yet, what about innovation and creativity. It isn’t just about information sharing, well-being, and communication (p. viii). Disney had a creative mindset. He fostered creativity and innovation. Innovation is dynamic. Organizations must be adaptable to internal and external stimuli. Organizations are organic, active entities, constantly churning and thinking. If they don’t, they will stagnate. If they do not step out of that stagnation moment, reinvent, rejuvenate in some form, they will die within the product life cycle.
Disney did have one flaw. The total communication of his ideas. Much was left unsaid at the end. His unique energy died with him. Many have said he was the driving force behind the concepts, the force to get projects down. He saw beyond the walls, beyond the confines of a theme park and married a host of threads together. Not many can do what he did. Steve Jobs couldn’t. Bill Gates can’t.
Once Disney was gone, uncertainty set in and the value of the Disney brand suffered. Disney created a competitive advantage above other similar products because of his unique, innovative methods of park management. The energy fizzled out for a time being, and they realized that they couldn’t really execute Epcot as Walt desired. They had to go back to the drawing board because of the dynamic nature of creation. Therefore, there has to be some legacy of that vision. Yet, a mainstay for Disney as well as other companies has been well established core values. A mission and vision to set a foundation.
So, it is not just an investment in a product but the people behind that product. It is an investment of time in developing relationships with all stakeholders as well as their creative abilities (yes, even customers). Everyone can contribute. Just look at the Ritz Carlton brand. They empower their employees to make decision that will affect customer service by giving them a monetary stipend to handle guest complaints. Managers and other senior leaders hope it never gets to that complaint level with the idea of training ‘ladies and gentlemen’ to serve ‘ladies and gentlemen’. I argue then that I want all of my employees to take an active part in helping my customers and all my stakeholders craft their experience. So a host of variables must be articulated and identified in order to have well function culture.
The aforementioned authors discuss trust. Any relationship is built on trust. In tourism, we call these “moments of truth”. And not just from a customer standpoint. Moments of truth are built on promises, articulated and not. We are making a ‘contract’ with our stakeholders. We promise to give them something for a return on that promise. More than just information. More than just money in a paycheck. We are establish physical, psychological and social dynamic exchange. Competition to hire and retain talent has been the bane of most industries, especially in tourism. Bloome, Van Rheede and Tromp (2013) highlight the hardships within the hospitality sector of the tourism industry in the retention of ideal employees. Psychological contracts are just as important as other forms. Expectations before, during and after hiring have to be addressed 2. How do we set a value on our employees? How do we know how much their worth? Lui and Cervenka hint at this established with compensation. Yet, they fail to recognize the factor that value happens well before hiring that employee that Bloome, Van Rheede and Tromp conclude. Companies need to take an active participation in the education of potential employees. The people process culture is an extension beyond the confines of a firm, but to the society in which it operates. Not after the fact, before. Proactive, not reactive. Not result focus entirely, but before that point.
Do not limit the power of benefit. So, this may be an argument for the power of potentiality. How do we put a value on potential?
Too long we have looked for a means to an end. We are waiting for something to happen. We have to look before that point. We have to recognize the action-reaction-result loop. That for every action there is a reaction that leads to a result. Those actions happen at any time. A proactive stance in business in all of its processes may or may not aid you in developing a strong, organic structure.
So we must understand all of our stakeholders at any time in the given dynamic world that is our organization.
Culture is yet to be defined and that is for next time.
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.).
2. Blomme, R., Van Rheede, A., & Tromp, D. (2009). The hospitality industry: an attractive employer? An exploration of students’ and industry workers’ perceptions of hospitality as a career field. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Education, 21(2), 6-14. doi:10.1080/10963758.2009.10696939
Negotiation or the act of negotiation is an art form. Some would argue that life is nothing but black and white. I would then ask that person, when was the last time you noticed the range of colors around you.
Spring break is upon us, and the week will be spending time catching up and reading several new books on event management that just crossed my desk, trying to organize the event management curriculum. After break, we start in on the financial side of international meeting planning and then, negotiation.
Negotiation starts with research. You need to know the person, the company, or the destination that you are dealing with. You can’t go blindly into the negotiation room without understanding all the nuances and laws. You can’t design an event without knowing all of the stakeholders and their needs, their wants. Or you need to have the right team behind you to accomplish the goal.
Know yourself and your limitations. You can’t be an expert at everything.
Construct an extensive profile of your stakeholders, the country in which you will operate in order to ask the right questions.
Do not think that what you did in your home country in terms of negotiation will work in other countries. Keep an open mind, and do your research into the cultural norms of your host country.
Test those people you hire to aid you in the process. Don’t blindly trust any liaison and think that they are the right person for the job. Do background checks. Ask for past clients to gain testimonials.
Especially overseas. The legal maze is just as complicated, if not more so than at home. Again, know thy self and your limitations.
So I am considering bringing ethics into the debate as well as cultural intelligence.
There are ten ethical considerations in hospitality/tourism managers (from Jaszay and Dunk (2006) Ethical Decision Making in the Hospitality Industry, p2-3):
Honesty: Hospitality managers are honest and truthful. They do not mislead or deceive others by misrepresentations.
Integrity: Hospitality managers demonstrate the courage of their convictions by doing what they know is right even when there is pressure to do otherwise
Trustworthiness: Hospitality managers are trustworthy and candid in applying information and in correcting misapprehensions of fact. They do not create justifications for escaping their promises and commitments.
Loyalty: Hospitality managers demonstrate loyalty to their companies in devotion to duty, and loyalty to colleagues by friendship in adversity. They avoid conflicts of interest; don not use or disclose confidential information; and should they accept other employment they respect the proprietary information of their former employer.
Fairness: Hospitality managers are fair and equitable in all dealings; they do not arbitrarily abuse power; nor take undue advantage of another’s mistakes or difficulties. They treat all individuals with equality, with tolerance and acceptance of diversity, and with an open mind.
Concern and respect for others: Hospitality managers are concerned, respectful, compassionate, and kind. They are sensitive to the personal concerns of their colleagues and live the Golden Rule. They respect the rights and interests of all those who have a stake in their decisions.
Commitment to Excellence: Hospitality managers pursue excellence in performing their duties and are willing to put more into their job than they can get out of it.
Leadership: Hospitality managers are conscious of the responsibility and opportunities of their position of leadership. They realize that the best way to instill ethical principles and ethical awareness in their organizations is by example. They walk their talk!
Reputation and Morale: Hospitality managers seek to protect and build the company’s reputation and the morale of its employees by engaging in conduct that builds respect. They also take whatever actions are necessary to correct or prevent inappropriate conduct of others.
Accountability: Hospitality managers are personally accountable for the
ethical quality of their decisions, as well as those of their subordinates.
The question is how these 10 principles can be a launching pad for successful negotiations. Students need a foundation on which to start. Therefore, they will need an extensive understanding of their own self, and where they stand within these boundaries to effectively work with others. If there is commitment to these principles, then those students can progress successfully through the negotiation process.
Our department has designed five core values that complement and mirror these ten principles (Dictionary.com)
Respect: a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.
Diversity: the state of having people who are different races or who have different cultures in a group or organization
Servant Leadership: Caring for people
Integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness
Innovate: the act or process of introducing new ideas, devices, or methods
The last innovate extends those initial principles. That we must go further and farther in our efforts to understand. To gain a greater awareness about the whole process, and not just one aspect, one point. To gain a greater awareness of the world in which we operate in. You can’t develop a plan of action; be aware of potential problems without opening yourself up to learn, to broaden current skill set. To ask the right questions. Don’t make assumptions, especially when working in an international arena. You’ll fall short.
In my convention and meeting planning class, I have them do a lengthy scenario based project. They are broken into teams, and given a type of meeting or event. Over the course of the 16 weeks, they are given information, and curve balls to develop the scenario. The purpose of the project is to develop their research, analytical, and problem-solving skills. It’s 500 points and I’ve had success with the project in the past as well as seen some students not take it seriously. Former students have commented on the project and agreed that it was a worthwhile exercise. Jenna Blandi-Jurgil was one of my first students in my meeting planning course that I created at Eastern Illinois University. It was one of the first renditions of the project that has since seen several adjustments. When asked about the project this past week, when she spoke to my current students, she had this to say:
“Everything I did in that notebook, I do now in my real job as an event planner.” ~Jenna Blandi-Jurgil
Today, I had one of the group leaders in asking questions. She was the only representative from their group for the meeting, and I had an opportunity to talk about their project and what she needs to do as their leader. Over the course of the conversation, I reminded her about the purpose, and talked about the ‘curve balls’ I gave them. I revisited the process of event planning and roles, responsibilities of an event planner. Event planning is all about project management from the inception of idea, through the planning and execution of the event or meeting, and finally the post event or meeting stages. That planning remains a central element of the whole process.
Jenna reinforced several key points that I constantly articulate in class. That if you are prepared, that your planning is thorough, the attendees won’t ‘see’ the interworking of a meeting or the flaws. They won’t see any problems. They can enjoy their experience and network without interference.
I love using examples when I try to explain concepts. The concept I wanted to talk about because I was aware of some potential difficulty with the group that would need to be addressed was leadership. I try to use simple visuals that would aid them. I asked the person if they played any sports. They told me that they played basketball and volleyball. Bingo. I could talk about volleyball.
I played volleyball since I was about four years old because my Mom was a former coach and referee. She actively took me to games and included me in practices. My earliest memory is of attending a game at my father’s place of work, his high school, and watching the game, chasing after the volleyballs, and listening to my Mom. My next memory is of the volleyball players that she coached coming to my hospital room and visiting when I had my adenoids removed. They brought me orange cream Popsicle to ease my sore throat. There was a camaraderie about them that I didn’t understand at an early age, but would later on. Something vital for success.
I really started playing seriously in seventh grade. I played through high school always earning a spot on the team and playing every match. I played club ball at Penn State (yes I tried out for the team, but I decided not to continue. That it wasn’t what I wanted.) I played Division I in Scotland, but hardly saw playing time due to certain politics and favoritism on the team. I can’t blame them, those ladies had been playing a long time. I was a backup but still gave it my heart. That is another point I stress with any project. Give 115% and you will succeed.
I was a back line specialist and setter. I was in part the quarterback and leader on the court, but also a team member to others that would lead. I wasn’t the captain, but still had a leadership role. There has to be a certain cohesion between group members. There has to be a dialogue on and off the court. There has to be an ease of conversation in order to achieve a goal.
In high school, we made it to regionals. Unfortunately, I had injured my ankle and wasn’t able to play. It was my senior year and played two sports. Regionals fell during softball season and I was their primary catcher. During a game, I suffered a high ankle sprain that ended the season for both volleyball and softball. But I still went to the regional game, and watched us make it through to the final match against our rival. I supported them from the bench, even begging the coach to tape up my ankle and let me play. Memories still linger of that year, and I recall the first match of the season against that same rival, and utilized it for explaining leadership.
We are all part of team, don’t get me wrong. But in such sports, there is more to consider. That year we were hitting on all cylinders, making a connection that could see us go all the way to State if injuries hadn’t plagued us near the end. We had this groove, this underlying current that others could recognize.
Yet, I’m drifting away from my story. Okay, first match. Now living in a small town, you know everyone, and more than likely play sports with and against friends from rival schools. I did. I had a friend on our rival volleyball team and decided to focus in on her. I was at service and she was straight down the line from me, with a rather tall hitter in front of her. I had pretty good accuracy and knew I could place it at her, or on the line. I waited, watching the other team and how they were lining up. Watching, observing, examining the other team and your alignment is key to knowing where to place that first shot. The front line of our opponent had set up to switch hitters, leaving my friend open for attack. That means all of their hitters were congregated in the center to switch as the ball sailed over the net. So first service, up and with some power, down the line at my friend. My friend’s receiving of the ball was off, and it sailed into the stands to her left. One point to us.
I went back to service and set up again. Again our opponents lined up to switch hitters, leaving my friend vulnerable. Second service like the first with even more power. Let me put it to you this way, and gloating somewhat, but I am aware of what my strength was back then. My service style was unpredictable. Hard and fast, or with a soft touch that had people scrambling to get to it. Yet, I could place it with some deftness at any point. If I could have utilized a jump serve, and with that accuracy–oh, boy…they would have been even more difficult. Second service went over the net and right at my friend. This time, with a slight curve to my palm, I was able to put a curve on it, and she misjudged the line. As it dropped rapidly, it curved to the left hard, drawing her off her position as well as the girl next to her. She had remained flat on her feet and stumbled into the other player. The ball ricocheted off her uneven arms, and sailed right into the third person on the back line, bouncing off her thigh onto the floor.
New tactics were called in by our rival coaches and I watched as they made adjustments. My own team knew me as I knew them. All along we made subtle adjustments to what I was doing. They knew what I was up to, my plan of attack. They knew I would hammer away at one member of the opposing team to get them to shift, to change tactics. My teammates knew to watch carefully and be prepared, especially our 6’4″ left hitter. Our opponents stopped shifting players as I served.
Yet, I wasn’t done even with them changing tactics. I had the confidence to continue my onslaught. A third time saw the ball skim the back line as an ace. And then it happened, then I saw what I had been hoping for. My friend’s teammates started shifting dramatically to help her. Well dramatically may be overstating the fact, but there was a clear adjustment to aid her. The front line pulled back to the attack line, abandoning the attempt to shift hitters. They returned to the classic formation, but with a left leaning. Moving to shield my friend for another attack. Beautiful holes opened up, ready to be exploited.
I remember relaxing before stepping to the line. I remember taking a deep breath, concentrating on what I wanted to do. I took my time, and focused. This time with the softest touch, enough to get the ball over the net, I dunked it between the net and their attack line, to the farthest right corner. I’m sure a collective gasp went up from the opposing teams spectators in the stands as the ball just dropped short, and their girls quickly scrambled to try to get the ball, to keep it in play, but their efforts weren’t enough. Imagine six players surging forward towards the ball, hungry to get at it, to try to save it, keep it in play, at least to get it back over the net, and failing. Crash, bam, nada. One more point.
We lost that match after a furious battle. Our only loss for the year. But those moments still resonate with me and helps me to explain leadership.
A leader knows when to direct, when to stand back and trust the people they work with. Knows when to take the lead and put their foot down to see things accomplished. Preparation is key not only with you and your team, but also knowing the field of play in which you operate. If you don’t, you are bound to fail. I knew my team. I knew when to take the lead, and direct. I knew when to pull back and trust the process. I knew when to be a team player, and let others take the reins. I didn’t chastise, but encouraged. I built confidence, not erode it away. I asked the right questions when they needed to be asked as my teammates did the same. There was a level of communication that successful teams possess that helps them reap rewards. Wasn’t always perfect, but no team is. Expectations were realistic, and goals, objectives obtainable.
And then knowing the field of play in which you operate. There was some dysfunction on my team, and I won’t go into the politics of it. We had an uphill battle throughout the year, and yet, we understood our ultimate goal and objectives. We were on the same page and adaptable to the current climate of play. We also knew how important it was to know our opponents. Their strengths, weakness, opportunity and threats. We knew, even with odds stacked against us, we had a chance. And we went for it, with the thought that nothing was or is impossible.
I knew those players. I knew one really well. I wasn’t intimidated by their presence, their past accomplishments (they were the best team in the state for a host of years and still are) or their ‘rhetoric’ on the court, and by their parents on the sidelines. I heard them, I listened, and I understood. I knew their goals and objectives, and what they wanted. But I had a job to accomplish and would adapt to their desires. I knew myself and remained true to my convictions. I read the signs they were projecting and exploited their egos. Some would argue, since with that loss, I was the one with the ego. Perhaps. But I knew I had to ask the questions that needed to be asked. Those questions were in my service and how I played, how I directed the team, and what I did on the court. And how I utilized the strengths and weakness of the other team, manipulating them against them. We beat them the second time around hands down, and earned a spot at regionals.
As Joe Paterno, who I admire, and not just because I’m a Penn State alum, but more, stated:
“The will to win is important, but the will to prepare is vital.”
Sometimes the best strategy for a leader is to do nothing at all. Continue with your goal and objectives, and let the opponent fail at their own weaknesses. This is readily apparent on the field of sports. Trust yourself. Trust the process. You focus on the fundamentals, give 115% heart in their execution, and more than likely will triumph in the end. You may not succeed at first, and I know, I have been in that position many times and must remember that a dose of failure is also a dose of success. You learn about yourself and others. You learn what you need to do for the next opportunity both as a leader and team member.
And so I asked my student, what did you take away from this story. After teasing them with several questions, because it was probably too early on a Friday morning for the both of us, they came to the point I was trying to make. Preparation. Know yourself, know what you are capable of as well as your team members. Make lists and other aids to help you accomplish your goal. Know the field of play in which you operate, not just the class, and what the professor wants you to deliver, but also, be cognizant of your functionality as a team–your team, your playing field. If you are going to lead, set the standard by which you will operate, and stick to those goals. Be adaptable to the external forces swirling around you, and listen to those voices, observe how things shift, and change with the external forces acting against your desires and all those that are on that field of play. Try to understand everyone’s internal conflict and make strategies that are both achievable and obtainable for everyone. It is about moving forward with realistic success.
And remember how to act on that field. How your actions reverberate around each player. Act with a sense of morality and civility. Don’t just assume, but articulate. Walk the walk, and talk the talk. Respect isn’t blindly given, it is earned and can be easily squandered away. Which led in part to a talk about core values.
Sometimes I wonder at the evolution of tourism industry. What it will look like in 2020, 2050. I can noodle around Google, and garner snippets of trends, and ideas, but that is just the tangible that will change. Back in 2000, 2020 seemed like so far in the distance, that it was too hard to extrapolate the nuances. I can, to a point, articulate the technology changes I want, but really get to the heart of how life changes, hard.
We can crunch numbers. We can put words to paper, and try to envision our lifestyles, but really in the end, it is about today. This moment in time, this moment of truth that counts. Marriott has argued for decades now that if we take care of today, the people, tomorrow will take care of itself. (Okay I’m paraphrasing, but let me take some license.)
It is good to plan. It is good to strategize, but if we lose sight of what is important at this moment, we lose how many opportunities? We lose the potential for that future. Don’t we lose the moment of truth in every experience happening at this instant?
I could sit in front of my computer for several hours, and view videos on the new productivity technology that will aid our lives. I could sit and read about the applications being developed. Most of it is coming true, like that in Microsoft’s Vision 2020 video that was published back in 2010.
But we forget the human element in that technology. That that technology is only as good as the person using it. That our ability to deliver on the expectations of our customers depends on our common sense more than the gadget we have in our hands. What we do matters. So any vision for the future must entail that aspect. It is certainly argued in these videos, and we can chart and map out the flow of work, the contact points in the moment of truth, but in the end, the difference is the human element that exerts force on those steps. The core value of tourism is the people that deliver on expectations, and desires. That they more than meet, exceed the moment of truth.
As students and professional in tourism and hospitality, in every facet of our industry, we will be able to interact with a host of people from all parts of the world. As I stipulate in class, we must remember that anyone can walk through that door. They will speak a variety of languages, walk different pathways than your own, and have different customs, different points of reality, points of view. This thought hints at the notion of Cultural Intelligence.
Tourism is a global industry. Success hinges on acquiring and developing a cultural intelligence. It is more than just a strategy, but a way of life. Those that succeed will be cognizant of the need for cultural intelligence. And this isn’t just cultural competency. Cultural competency is part of cultural intelligence. To best illustrate, and set the foundation for understand here is a video…
Cultural intelligence percolates through the multilayers of the three legs of business effectiveness and efficiency: Operational, Organizational and Financial.
So I have been noodling around YouTube, Google and other materials to find out more about service. There are a host of resources out there, both factual, and opinionated. So I went to the source for an example of exemplary service. There is perhaps one name, that has stood the test of time for consistently delivering on their promise of quality guest service. And that is Ritz Carlton. Yet, do their promotional videos get at the heart of what service really means? For instance, here is their latest video upload to YouTube:
Of course any promotional material will be from the point of view of the customer, but here are host of promises from business to consumer. As I have stated in class, there are three drivers influencing our industry, money or financial, information, and promises. Service is a promise. Service is a human element; a coordinated effort between all team members to deliver on a promise.
Okay, but what about the definition:
According to Brymer and Johanson (2014, glossary), Service is:
A type of product that is intangible, goods that are inseparable from the provider, variable in quality, and perishability. The reason why private clubs exist; members receive high-end, personalized service at their club.
The authors go on further to define Service Experience:
Sum total of the experience that the customer has with the service provider on a given occasion.
So, we can draw several inferences from these two concepts. One, that service is an intangible element, varies in delivery, and is perishable. That would mean that is has links to the human element of our industry, that it may or may not be consistent, and that it may or may not last. Yet, perishability, in terms of service, needs a little more thought. How do we draw turnover into this concept? If service is perishable, part of the human element, could that not mean that we have a tenacious grasp on retaining valuable employees, that understand service, and its effect to the bottom line (profitability), and loyalty? That employees, if not seen as a valuable asset to our company, could easily jump ship and migrate to another company that values their efforts. Therefore, how we plan, how we coordinate, how we train, the matrix of our corporate culture, envisioned in our mission and vision statements, should relate back to that core concept of service.
The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.
We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.
The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
That is a solid promise to guests, that must be communicated down through the layers of an organization. Every day this must be reinforced, and understood. It’s not just about the job, it’s an ideal, an attitude, that must percolate consistently through every employee’s mind. This also extends the argument to empowering the employees with clearly defined promises.
Yet, what is that empowerment to the Ritz employee? We must visit their motto.
At The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C., “We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen.” This motto exemplifies the anticipatory service provided by all staff members.
Here the culture is proactive, already a thought in their mind, even before a guest decides to stay with them. They understand the moment of truth, that at any contact point, they can and will make a difference. The Ritz further articulates this into the Three Steps of Service:
A warm and sincere greeting. Use the guest’s name.
Anticipation and fulfillment of each guest’s needs.
Fond farewell. Give a warm good-bye and use the guest’s name.
Again, these steps illustrate the need to understand your guest, before, during and after their stay. We need to understand their decision-making process, their needs, their wants, even if they don’t understand quite what they want themselves. It is about relationship building, CRM (Customer Relationship Management); about asking the right questions in order to understand, to progress from a limited awareness to a greater awareness. To be cognizant of our world around us. If someone family suddenly pops into your establishment without a reservation, and Mom is holding a three-year old, and Dad is trying to coral and maintain order with the other two youngsters, you know to ask a few questions to make their stay more comfortable. Look at the people, look at what is going on, note the time, note the weather, even if you are sold out. Service is about going that extra mile for your guest.
These steps can be further broken down into objectives or values:
I build strong relationships and create Ritz-Carlton guests for life.
I am always responsive to the expressed and unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.
I am empowered to create unique, memorable and personal experiences for our guests.
I understand my role in achieving the Key Success Factors, embracing Community Footprints and creating The Ritz-Carlton Mystique.
I continuously seek opportunities to innovate and improve The Ritz-Carlton experience.
I own and immediately resolve guest problems.
I create a work environment of teamwork and lateral service so that the needs of our guests and each other are met.
I have the opportunity to continuously learn and grow.
I am involved in the planning of the work that affects me.
I am proud of my professional appearance, language and behavior.
I protect the privacy and security of our guests, my fellow employees and the company’s confidential information and assets.
I am responsible for uncompromising levels of cleanliness and creating a safe and accident-free environment.
What these are,are goals and objectives, in developing a corporate culture. Something that is deeply rooted in the psyche of every employee. Not only for the guest, but also, in how all employees are treated. And thus a promise is made between the company and their employees:
At The Ritz-Carlton, our Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests.
By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, we nurture and maximize talent to the benefit of each individual and the company.
The Ritz-Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened.
So, what have we learned. Service is about promises, about experience for both the employee and the guest. And that leads to the final definition offered by Brymer and Johanson (2014, Glossary):
Service product: Entire bundle of tangibles and intangibles in a transaction that has a significant service component.