By Shilpa Mathai
The region’s first employee commitment study uncovers a low level of satisfaction in the hospitality industry.
|~|human-assets200.jpg|~|Lost? Employees need to know how they are being judged.|~|It is not unlikely that you have just read another article about the next unbelievable resort being developed in the region. We seem to have a plethora of them at the moment. If it’s not the world’s tallest, then it is the first to be built underwater. If the location isn’t the novelty, then it will offer unrivalled standards of luxury and opulence. Yet there is one thing that most of these projects seem to be forgetting: the lowly employee.
A study recently conducted by Dubai based consulting house The Core Group, identified that Employee Commitment across the region is significantly lower than the worldwide average. Alarmingly for the industry, it was lower still in the Travel and Leisure sector.
To do this, The Core Group uses a research tool called TRI*M from worldwide research company TNS. TRI*M produces a one number Index score designed to show the combination of employee satisfaction and how motivating they find the current work environment. The worldwide average is 59. Across all industries the region only managed a total of 57. But in the Travel and Leisure sector the score was only 52. When you look at certain industries, a score of this level is not too damaging. But what we have found through our customer research is that the most important aspect that relates to a person’s stay in a hotel or a resort has very little to do with the infrastructure or facilities.
When you are paying top dollar, these are a given. What really makes a difference is the service and attitude of the staff. With scores as low as these we really have to ask ourselves whether the team can maintain a high level of service when they are not particularly satisfied with the way they are being treated and do not really believe in what the organisation is trying to achieve.
There are six questions that are needed to generate the TRI*M Employee Commitment Index score: what is your overall level of satisfaction in working at X? How likely would you be to recommend to a friend or family member that they come to work at X? If you were to leave, how likely would you be to reconsider coming back at some stage? How motivated do you consider your direct colleagues to be? How strongly do you associate with the vision and values of the organisation? How strong a competitive advantage do you believe you have over the other choices a customer can make?
In addition to the index score, the system produces a breakdown of the type of employees you have based on the current attitudes.
If we have employees that are both satisfied and motivated, they are classified as Drivers. They are the movers and the shakers in the organisation. Those that are to some degree satisfied but do not bond strongly with what the organisation stands for are classed as Residents. They see it as a job and are very much renting space. If a better offer was to come along and the money was right, they would probably go as they do not feel any particular affiliation with what the company is trying to achieve.
There is a third group that are not particularly satisfied but for some reason believe strongly in what they (or the organisation) is doing. These are classed as Critics as they are always pushing for change and trying to create a more satisfying environment.
The final group score low on both counts. They are not satisfied in the way they are being treated and they do not feel motivated or strongly associated with the goals/vision of the senior management team. As these employees have already distanced themselves from the organisation they are classed as Detached.
In many cases they can be very dangerous as they tend to eat away at the organisation from within destroying morale and creating dissent and controversy.With over 14 years of data collection across the globe, the world wide averages for employee typologies are: Drivers 21%; Residents 30%; Critics 12%; Detached 37%.What we found in the Middle East was somewhat different.
Normally, we would expect to see one in five employees both satisfied and motivated by the environment they find themselves in (Drivers). In this region, it is 1 in 15. Just think about that for a moment. For every 15 people you come into contact with today in your organisation, only one of them is both satisfied and motivated in their job.
We are on a par for the number of employees that are somewhat satisfied, but not really motivat||**|||~||~||~|ed or engaged in the company (Residents). The regional average is 27% as opposed to an international average of 30%. The number of people in the region that are motivated and committed to what they do, but are not satisfied with the way they are treated, at 23% is almost double what we expect to see in other parts of the world (Critics). And the final grouping, those that are neither motivated or satisfied (Detached), are six points higher at a regional level than we would expect to see internationally at 43%.
If we add the numbers of Residents and Drivers together we see that only 34% of employees across the region are satisfied with their work environment. Therefore two out of three of your colleagues are not satisfied at work. This compares to an average of 51% internationally. Surely this is a major concern for senior management across the region. If we group the Residents and Detached personnel together we have a massive 70% of employees who do not feel motivated or engaged in what the organisation is trying to achieve.
So what are the issues that are causing this low level of employee commitment? In addition to the index questions, the survey then asked about various aspects of employment. But this must be done in a way that helps us to determine what is really important to employees rather than what they feel are the key drivers. So in the second part of the questionnaire we asked respondents to rate both how important an issue is to them along with how satisfied they are with their treatment on that issue.
The system then calculates three things:How important the employee thinks the issue isHow satisfied they are with that issueHow that compares with their overall satisfaction (and therefore is the issue really as important to them as they think)
The TRI*M system then produces a hierarchy of issues from most to least important based on this analysis. Firstly and most importantly are the aspects of the working environment we call Motivators. These are issues that employers tell us are important to them and statistically they are seen to be strongly driving overall satisfaction and motivation. Next come the Hidden Opportunities, with a low level of stated importance and limited relevance to Employee Commitment. After that are the Hygienics, which have a high level of stated importance, but limited relevance to Employee Commitment. After that, there are the Potential Savers, which have a low level of stated importance and low relevance to Employee Commitment.
It should be noted that in our experience, a score of 3 (satisfied on the scale) for a particular attribute does not mean that an employee is actually satisfied. We find scores of 4.2 and above show that an individual is truly satisfied with any given issue.
How much impact that the satisfaction on a particular attribute has on overall employee commitment is also dependent on whether the attribute is a Motivator, Hidden Opportunity, Hygienic or Potential Saver (see blow.) The average score for satisfaction on all attributes in the Travel and Leisure sector is 3.28 out of 5.
MotivatorsThe number one motivator for employees across the region is: ‘Having the chance to use your abilities in your job.’ It would appear that the conventional thinking on human nature (such as Hertzberg and Maslow) is the same in the Middle East. People want to feel that they are making good use of their abilities. As far as their satisfaction on the issue, employees rated it 3.47 out of 5. We would expect to see a score of 3.5 plus to indicate satisfaction in this area.
The second most important motivator is: ‘Your manager evaluates your performance openly and fairly.’ It would seem that we all want to get an accurate assessment of how well we are performing and what we need to do to improve. This may come as a bit of a shock to those that seem to feel that people in the Gulf are only interested in money and do not care what they have to do to get it. The satisfaction rating with this issue was only 3.3 out of 5 which would indicate that there is still some work to do in helping our managers become proficient at this.
The third real motivator is: ‘Your manager recognises good performance with genuine appreciation.’ With a satisfaction rating of 3.2 out of 5 it is clear that most people feel that the usual management style in the region is ‘if I am doing OK then I am left alone, but heaven help me if I make a mistake!’
We know that this is a flawed management model and that people need to be encouraged and nurtured in order to flourish and develop. There is nothing so demoralising over time, than consistently having your faults pointed out rather than what you are good at (think about your marriage – the longer it goes on the less likely we are to comment on the good stuff and the more likely it is that we will criticise what we don’t like). Organisations in the region must really examine their management philosophy and determine how they wish to treat employees in order to encourage peak performance.
The number four motivator is: ‘Promotions are awarded based on ability and performance.’ Obviously this is very closely related to the previous two points. And again the satisfaction score with this issue is 3.2 out of 5. This would lead us to believe that it is a major factor that is influencing the low overall satisfaction rating in the region. If performance is not being evaluated fairly (at least in the eyes of the employee) then how can promotions possibly be related to results and ability?
Hidden OpportunitiesNext come the Hidden Opportunities. The one that is having the highest impact on overall satisfaction is: ‘My manager offers a constructive and supportive approach to any problems I experience.’ We all want to know that if something goes wrong, we will get the back up and support we need from our manager. With a score of 3.31 for satisfaction on this issue, it would seem that we are not getting it. We need to work much harder on letting people know that we are all part of the same team and fighting the same battles and that my manager is approachable and supportive rather than someone to be avoided and feared.
The next Hidden opportunity relates to – you guessed it: ‘You receive a fair compensation for the work that you do.’ We all know that the majority of us work for money. But it is not the primary motivator. Many people feel that in this part of the world most employees are ‘economic refugees’ only here to earn our gold coins. Apparently not. We value the other motivators already mentioned more than the cash. Obviously there will be exceptions, but in general, money is not the key issue. But we don’t think we get enough.
The satisfaction rating for this issue was a measly 3.16 out of 5. However, It is no secret that people do not generally enter this profession for the money and that would seem to bourn out by the survey. What people do seem to be less happy about is any discrepancy in pay based on nationality rather than performance.
The Hidden Opportunity that comes next in the pecking order is: ‘My manager sets annual targets with me.’ With a satisfaction score of 3.23 out of 5 it is still seems that most managers (if they set goals at all) set them for people rather than with people. This results in a lack of ownership and buy in. When the going gets tough, people distance themselves from the goal with comments such as ‘well if he had bothered to ask me I could have told him that this wouldn’t work.’
Every effort must be made to look at the goal setting process within organisations and make it as collective a process as possible.
The final Hidden Opportunity is: ‘You have a well defined career path.’ It is no great surprise that employees want to know where they are going. We should know that if we do a good job, this is the likely progression that we will have through the organisation. It is obvious with a score of 2.83 out of 5 that for most of us, this is not the case. Employers in the region need to move away from their short term thinking and let employees know that they will invest in their future as long as the employee makes a similar commitment to the company.
HygienicsThe third group of attributes in terms of importance are they Hygienics. Remember, the presence of a good score for a Hygienic does not guarantee Motivation and Commitment – they are expected. A poor score does however guarantee dissatisfaction.
The most important Hygienic is: ‘There is a good team spirit in your department/team.’ It would seem that we are more likely to want to go to work if we get on well with our immediate colleagues. This is absolutely vital in an industry where the final product to the customer is dependent on good and timely input from various courses in the organisation. With a score 3.19 out 5 there is definitely scope to improve morale and motivation by creating a better environment.||**|||~||~||~|The second most important Hygienic is: ‘The chance to achieve something worthwhile.’ We are put on this planet for a relatively short time and it seems that most people want to feel that their contribution to the working world has made a difference (again another blow for the ‘people are lazy and with no ambition’ school of management). With a satisfaction score of 3.52 out of five this is one of the higher scoring attributes in the survey so it would seem in travel and leisure we can quite easily see that what we do has some inherent value.
The third Hygienic is: ‘You clearly understand what you are being measured on.’ It seems that we really want to know what it is we are meant to achieve. You should always ask the question ‘how will my boss determine if I have had a good year?’ If you cannot answer that question clearly and easily, then you are heading down a slippery slope. With a satisfaction rating of 3.42 out of 5 this is one of the better scoring attributes in the industry.
The next Hygienic in the pecking order is: ‘You are sufficiently empowered to complete your duties.’ This is a kick in the teeth for those managers that feel all employees are lazy and shy away from responsibility. Employees in the region are saying that this aspect is very important to their overall motivation. With a satisfaction score of 3.2 out of 5 we can see than many in the industry are somewhat frustrated that we are often being given responsibility without the necessary authority to make it happen. This particular attribute can have grave consequences for our customers if the employees in question are not able to resolve issues on the spot.
Next comes: ‘Everyone is treated equally regardless of nationality, gender or religion.’ It would seem that we expect an egalitarian society but with a score of 3.2 from 5 it is evident that we don’t have one. We all know that the Middle East is a very racially aware society but the workers have spoken; they don’t want to see differences in treatment based on skin colour or your gender. What is fair for one needs to be fair for all.
The next Hygienic is: ‘You are able to grow through training and development.’ It would seem that we expect our employers to help us to grow as individuals. However, with a satisfaction rating of 2.95 it is evident that we don’t feel that it is happening. Remember, a good satisfaction score for a Hygienic does not guarantee strong employee commitment but a low score guarantees low commitment. Therefore employers in the region would be well advised to look at how much training and development they offer their staff.
There are three more issues that fall into the Hygienics category. The first is: ‘Being able to maintain a balance between your job and your private life.’ It looks as if we are saying that we don’t mind working hard, but employers need to bear in mind that we have a life outside of the work environment. Anyone who enters into this profession knows that very often your work is your private life. Therefore a score of 3.42 out of 5 show a moderate level of satisfaction on this issue.
The penultimate Hygienic is: ‘You are kept informed of all issues relating to your job.’ We need to know what is going on – but it is expected. Companies that go over the top on their communication with staff may just be wasting money. It will not result in any long term commitment unless the other more important issues are addressed. With a satisfaction score of 3.31 employees are not overly impressed with this aspect of management but from the point of view of managing your resources, it may not be worth significantly improving this.
The final Hygienic is: ‘All departments work well together and treat each other as customers.’ We have already seen that a good relationship with your direct team mates is important to you, now it appears that this extends to the rest of the organisation. This is vital to an industry that should be based on teamwork and customer service. However, with a score of 2.9 there is definitely some scope to improve the way that departments and divisions interface.
Potential SaversFinally we move into the area of Potential Savers – those issues that employees tell us are not really important and the maths tends to show that they are right. There are only two of these from the 19 aspects of employment we discussed.
The first is: ‘You work for a well known organisation with a good reputation.’ Although the satisfaction score for this was the highest in the survey (4.22 out of 5) it would seem that it is the least important of all the issues we asked about. What this means is that if an employee has the chance of working for a well known company that does some of the higher ranked issues poorly, or an unknown company that was much better at addressing their higher order needs, they would choose the latter. Therefore fame and reputation are not as important as the reality of how an employee will be treated when they are working with you.
The final attribute is: ‘Good physical working conditions.’ All the money that employers spend on providing good working conditions does not seem to be driving the relationship very strongly. However the satisfaction score is among one of the higher ones at 3.48. At this stage we would not advise that people start to downgrade the working conditions. But the next time you have to make a choice over investing in refurbishing the office or sending someone on a training course, investing in a proper performance review system or developing a supportive management environment, unless the building is in a very poor condition, perhaps then you can leave the working conditions until last.
ConclusionSo what can we take from all this? It seems that we need to work much harder on measuring employee performance and making sure that promotions are awarded to the most able. Management needs to revisit the levels of empowerment to ensure that people feel they are able to perform their duties effectively. There is much to do to encourage all those responsible for satisfying the external customer to take the same approach when dealing with each other.
Alongside of this we need to make sure that people are not just receiving operational training, but that we are offering them training that really helps them to mature as individuals and become a more rounded employee. At the same time, we must look to show the individual where he or she may progress should they perform to the required level. When we have done all of this, we need to ensure that we are paying people a fair wage.
Talk to your teams. Find out what they really think about their job and work to fix some of the issues that are causing them concern. But if it is so simple, why do we get scores are low as this in the region? We find there are two ways to conduct these kinds of surveys. There is the company that is genuinely concerned with trying to understand what the employees feel and will genuinely try to implement solutions to any issues raised.
Then there are the organisations that feel that they have to do this, either because they are being pressured by head office, or as they feel it is another box they have to tick. What they often fail to do is act upon the findings, assuming that they have structured the programme in the correct way to begin with. We have often gone into organisations that claim to have employee motivation scores going through the roof only to have been told that the survey was not anonymous or that your manager warned you not to give bad scores. Or worse, still everyone knows that it is a cosmetic exercise and no one will do anything about the findings anyway, we just have to tick the box.
At the end of the day, what does it all mean? Firstly, as the region continues to develop and grow, visitors are going to place less and less emphasis on the physical aspects of your hotel or resort or airline. Plus, you will never hold a leadership position on that basis for long as the next big thing is only around the corner.
Those that will continue to hold a dominant position in the market will do so on a service platform. If this is your goal, then you better make sure that you get regular feedback from the staff in the most professional and constructive way.
Ignore your staff at your peril. When all is said and done, they are all you have.||**||