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Achieving Peak Performance - A Guide For Hospitality Managers

By Gene Ference, HVS International

In an analysis of over 70,000 hospitality employee surveys conducted in 2003, HVS/The Ference Group & The Center For Survey Research uncovered four practice points that executives and managers should use in achieving peak performance.

The results are in! A lot of management discussions center around team building, motivating, leading and empowering staff. But what is not being talked about is what over 70,000 hospitality executives, managers, and line employees of up-scale five and six-star properties perceive to be the basics for successful management in a continuous improvement, team-based, service-culture.
Consider the following scenarios:

You are a senior manager or member of the executive team. You have the responsibility of developing a current basic guide for effective team-based management for your property.

You are a department manager. Current business conditions in hospitality are tighter than ever. You know you can make budgetary or financial targets by cost cutting in areas that directly affect employees, but you realize that employee performance and satisfaction will suffer.


You are a line employee. You and your colleagues know that guest satisfaction rests on your performance. Executives, senior managers and managers tell you this, but many times their support seems to be lacking.


These scenarios, and others like them, can be resolved with excellent results by using recent findings from HVS/The Ference Group & The Center For Survey Research. In 2003, we segmented over 70,000 employee surveys from a cross-section of hospitality venues, and developed the following guide for hospitality executives and managers to assist in achieving peak performance:

Back to Basics - A Guide For Hospitality Managers

Senior managers understand the front-line work environment.

Managers are objective and honest in providing feedback to and information about employees.

Perceived mid-manager job competence is high.

Performance feedback is continuous and frequent; special efforts made by employees are recognized.


Getting back to management basics can be straightforward. The practice points in our Guide For Hospitality Managers have been developed with 2003 data from a selection of our clients. Divisions and departments experiencing significant statistical improvements in their overall performance and employee satisfaction scored higher on the previous four practices compared to divisions and departments with zero to negative overall changes.

Practice #1:

Lead The Front Line Towards Service Excellence Everything the guest sees, feels, hears and experiences happens in the front line service areas. Service providers look to their senior managers and executives for direction on how to handle the critical customer contact moments occurring every day. They also look to management for clarifications on day-to-day quality performance. When leadership presence is absent, service providers have little insight into what makes up quality performance. The result is inconsistent service resulting in dissatisfied guests checking out. And, forget the loyalty ratings!

To avoid this, senior managers and executives need to have a clear understanding of the front-line work environment. This survey item consistently ranks highest for impacting overall performance and employee satisfaction. For one segment of our clients, independent luxury properties, this survey item had a strong positive effect on 31% of all other areas measured by the survey, with correlations ranging from 0.450 to 0.697. (The correlation coefficient, denoted as “r,” can range from -1 to +1 and describes the strength of relationship between variables; a score close to +1 indicates a strong positive relationship.) By paying close attention to the service level, senior managers and executives will have a solid grasp of how closely aligned performance is to strategic goals and department objectives. Seeking feedback from service providers in order to understand why some goals are being accomplished while others are not being achieved will demonstrate that senior managers and executives value input from all sources and are committed to a team environment.

Practice #2:

Keep Them Listening With Objectivity And Honesty When giving and seeking feedback, keep objectivity and honesty in mind as your point of reference. Sometimes the truth hurts, but with tact and professionalism, your team will value your observations and suggestions. The goal-feedback loop is critical to continuous improvement: it informs teams, departments, divisions and the entire organization regarding what to focus on and how best to achieve their goals. When managers are objective and honest in providing guidance and information, the loop is positive and employees at all levels are motivated to achieve targets. For example, survey data from our clients operating in the highly competitive Las Vegas market support a strong correlation between honest, objective feedback and management creating a good team effort (r = 0.645).

Practice #3:

Talk-The-Talk And Walk-The-Walk Pardon the cliché, but “You’ve got to be in it to win it.” For line employees, especially those with a lot of guest contact, managers who can role up their sleeves and jump right in when it’s crunch time or when an extra hand is needed, significantly boost morale and teamwork. Along the same line, employees whose managers are thought to be “in the loop” inspire confidence in their abilities and are seen as important to the company’s success. People like working for these kinds of managers. Our findings show that the most important factors that can make or break a department’s team environment is how well informed and knowledgeable managers are about department processes as well as company issues and events. Typically, this survey item has a strong relationship to over 27% of total survey items, with correlations generally ranging from 0.540 to 0.650. This does not mean that all managers must be picked from the department he or she will lead. Other things need to be considered. But without a doubt, it does mean the manager must become an expert on department processes as well as on information pertaining to its operation.

Practice #4:

Provide Feedback That Is Real And On Track The surveys developed at HVS/The Ference Group & The Center For Survey Research are designed to provide decision makers with meaningful information on a minimum of three levels: total organization, individual property, and department. Good performance in communication is indicative of a team’s capability to consistently identify and implement goals. When communication breaks down, relationships begin to disintegrate and guests experience inconsistent service. Feedback ensures healthy links between strategic plans, department objectives and the actual day-to-day service guests receive. Continuous and frequent feedback will keep your team’s performance aligned to standards for meeting guest expectations. Recognizing your people for their special efforts is a most effective way of encouraging and spreading the motivation to exceed guest expectations.

The energy to exceed guest expectations is the result of a team environment - one that is felt from the executive level to the service level. Using the four practice points from our Achieving Peak Performance - A Manager’s Guide will lead to improved leadership, communication and teamwork. When feedback is continuous and perceived to be honest and objective, performance and employee satisfaction will increase. In turn, your reward for providing consistent and quality guest services will be the guest loyalty experienced by your property for years to come.