This guest post is by Arte Nathan, a veteran HR professional with more than 25 years experience working in the hospitality industry.
I’ve spent nearly 30 years practicing human resources, most of it as chief human resources officer for Golden Nugget and its successor companies, Mirage Resorts and Wynn Resorts. For me it was always about the people and getting them all going in the same direction. And even though I am now teaching and consulting, I still get asked what it was like to manage the more than 100,000 people I hired at such places as the Mirage, Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas. These are my stories.
The first question I’m always asked is “How did you teach all those people to smile?”
It was actually easier than you might imagine because I was mostly dealing with employees who had great attitudes and personalities. That’s because I knew those were the qualities we wanted and made sure every assessment was focused on finding those two key characteristics in every applicant. Many have heard me talk about the “handshake” test — that’s where you just walk up, smile and introduce yourself to someone and watch how they respond: If they react to the unexpected greeting with an enthusiastic smile and greeting back then it’s fair to assume that’s their natural style.
In the service industry, most employees spend the majority of their time responding and reacting to things said, done and requested unexpectedly by people they don’t know. Thus, responding enthusiastically, affirmatively and with a smile to an interviewer that an applicant doesn’t know is a key indication of how they’ll most likely act as an employee when faced with a similar experience with a guest. This simple test, which is hard to fake (not unlike a blush), screens for the things that we can’t teach — that smile and attitude has to come with someone to the interview and the job.
Did it work? During the 20-plus years that this simple test was conducted, the companies I worked with had less than 5% turnover in the first 90 days of employment (even in mass openings in which 10,000 employees started at the same time), and an average annualized turnover of 12%.
Can your organization achieve similar results? The answer is “yes” if you (1) know what you’re looking for and (2) design a simple test that screens prospective employees for the one or two immutable skills or traits found among your best employees.
But here’s the key:
- You must be disciplined in your screening.
- Take the time to explain to your hiring managers what you’re looking for and how to spot it.
- Tell your employees after they get hired what you were looking for and found in them. Remind them that you know they have these natural traits and that there’s now no reason that they shouldn’t be exhibiting them all the time.
- Give lots of continuous feedback to your employees about these traits and their performance. Compliment them when they repeat them and correct them when they don’t.
If you do these things, then everyone will know the value and importance of smiles and good attitude. In fact, there’s nothing more important today — in this world of mass-marketed commodities, the real differentiator is service. It’s what creates the experience that drives the guest’s overall satisfaction.
So, the moral of the story is a classic one: Hire for attitude, train for skills.