How to duplicate success

How to duplicate success

In my last blog (LINK) I told you about the tremendous success experienced by a hotel I was overseeing with the introduction of an employee talent contest. The program ran for two years, and we concluded it on a “high note” — literally. As we, the management team, approached the end of the program, the quandary facing us was what to do next to match the employee participation and enthusiasm the talent show had generated. There was no doubt that we needed to keep the employee momentum going … but how?

Instead of focusing on a program that required a stage performance, I wanted to explore other types of talent. After pondering ideas ranging from a craft fair to photography, I came up with the idea of an art contest. The management team was skeptical that the concept would be widely well received after the enormous hoopla of the “American Idol”-style talent show, but I was convinced that it was time to get a bit more ethereal and cultural. The participants in the talent show were clearly a vivacious group, as it takes real nerve to perform before your peers. I now wanted to introduce an employee program that would capture those employees whose interests were in the arts.

We publicized the contest, and as with the talent show, the rules of conduct were the same. To keep the art contest legitimate, all work had to be done on the premises by the employees themselves, so we set up a studio in an unused function room. The employees cleaned it up on their own time, and the hotel contributed portable easels, canvasses and basic painting materials. The studio was open certain times of the day between shifts, and we limited the number of participants so that everyone had a designated station in the studio. Without an audience to judge the contest, we asked each department to nominate a representative to form a judging panel.

We were thrilled with the employee response and participation as well as the quality of talent that was displayed. The judging committee took its job very seriously, and once the first set of prizes were awarded, I felt the need to keep going. I wanted to more broadly acknowledge the program participants by displaying the art for all to appreciate. The solution came by sprucing up a busy back-of-the-house corridor and designating it as the “Employee Wall of Fame.” The art was hung for everyone to admire and remained there until the hotel closed for renovation as a proud representation of management’s interest and commitment to the employees and the talent they displayed both on and off the job.

The results of these out-of-the-box employee programs were dramatic and serve as a reminder, I think, that sometimes we get stuck in taking the easy way out by replicating traditional management concepts. Not only is it fun to go out on the ledge, but the rewards can be astonishing. This particular hotel went from being an unhappy, distrustful workplace to an energized and communicative environment. We didn’t solve all our ills, but we were able to talk about them in a tone of mutual respect.