The US$100-an-hour employee

The US$100-an-hour employee

Don’t let the title make you nervous. I recommend you just hire them and get someone else to pay for them. In fact, you might find that the US$100 an hour is what they are giving back to you.

Now that would be a nice scenario, right? Let’s explore how we can turn this “silly” notion into reality.

During my last assignment to reposition an underperforming hotel, I replaced the front desk clerk positions with Personal Hosts (more on how language affects performance and results coming up soon). I always like to create incentive programs that drive more dollars to the property and the associate — part of holistic leadership and a win-win commitment to things. So, aside from the usual upsells, loyalty reward program signups and sales referrals, we played a game that was consistent with our culture.  

Our culture was about people being amazing with people — always surpassing expectations in what people expect from a hotel interaction and “decommoditizing” the hotel experience for the consumer. The game was that the hosts make a palpable difference for each guest in the “care and feeding” of that guest. Now, even though we were effectively a non-tipping hotel in practice, the hosts were to imagine that each guest had a US$100 bill in their pocket that they were looking to give away. Who would that host need to be in order to be the one in receipt of that Ben Franklin? (Oh, and it had to be legal!). While it didn’t happen every day, it did happen frequently —maybe US$100, maybe US$50. The US$100 game may have been just that, but what came out of it were really spectacular interactions between staff and guests, new sales contracts, great blogging and more loyal fans. 

The second part of the game was how many hugs the associate received from guests. Virtual hugs counted as well. We counted virtual hugs as things such as how many guests wanted to see the GM (a.k.a. Chief Happiness Officer) to rave about the staff, if they were mentioned on TripAdvisor by name or if they referred business. This emotional connection turned out to be a key driver in the results of our top and bottom lines.

In my experience, time and time again, the cure for hotels underperforming in their market position is to create a culture designed around guest happiness. Of course, as with all holistic systems, guest happiness won’t be achieved without all systems aligned with the “H” factor. So, in that light, what does your “Happiness Project” look like?

  • What does recognition look like in your hotel? What I am not talking about is the monthly revolving recognition programs. What I am talking about is a robust daily recognition program that really inspires associates and reinforces culture and behavior.
  • Do you meet with every candidate your leadership team wishes to hire? They have already been interviewed and approved, but walking them into your office will send a message to them about how integral they are to your success and how special they must be.
  • Does your hiring practice address the “Happiness” factor, or does prior experience trump that?
  • Do you have a coaching culture in place so each associate has 10 minutes with their department leader twice a month to stimulate the culture and best actions? 
  • Is your morning flash report just numbers, or is it a community paper with contributions from staff and leadership with and a daily shout-out (recognition) reinforcing the contributions of individuals to the culture?
I had a boss once who never said thank you. I think this is a common phenomenon. We do this even with those we love. Sometimes, if we think about how much we value them, we assume they know. (They don’t! And even if they do, reinforcing it can only inspire them.) I think my boss thought I’d stop working if he said “thanks.” Not only was I going all out in my first role as a GM, but as a neophyte, I was hungry for positive feedback. A kind word would have had me fly to the moon for him. If I can get to the moon, I can get to #1 in market share.

Business seems to be equal parts what’s important and what’s urgent. As Stephen Covey said in “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” while some things that are urgent are also important, they capture our attention more often (emails coming in, telephones). Urgency has a quality of calling you away from what’s important. There is nothing more important than the quality and care of the people you hire and the culture you provide them. What might the results be given the proper care and feeding of your culture?

Answer: If you cultivate a culture around the contexts of happiness and extraordinary experiences and you nurture that, associates could give back to you a minimum of US$100 dollars an hour. When you have transformed your culture into a respite of happiness, your coffers swell as well.