Developing an Orientation Program - Hotel Front Office Management

The person who is hired to work in the front office is in a unique position. In no other department of the hotel is each employee expected to know the operations, personnel, and layout of the facilities in every other department. The front office employee is constantly bombarded with questions from guests and other employees concerning when a certain banquet or reception is being held, where key supervisors are, or how to find the lounge or pool area.

The orientation processintroduces new hires to the organization and work environment and is vital in providing employees with background information about the property. This program will help new hires to become aware of the activities, procedures, people, and layout of the hotel. This is a critical first step in training new employees.

Of the utmost importance is ensuring that orientation is thorough and well thought out. An employee who is given a brief introduction to the people who work the same shift, a quick tour of the location of the guest rooms, and information concerning the time clock can hardly be expected to be competent. By the time orientation is complete, new employees should be able to answer guests’ questions competently.

If they don’t have answers at their fingertips, they should know how to find the answers quickly. For example, if someone asks for the general manager by name and the new front desk clerk responds, “Who is that?” an inefficient and unprofessional image of the organization is conveyed. The new employee should know who that person is and how to reach him or her. Moreover, orientation should prepare all new hires to provide correct and complete information to guests, the general public, or other employees.

Orientation programs for front office employees differ from one establishment to another. However, the following general outline can be used to develop a program for any establishment. This outline incorporates factors common to all properties, such as economic position of the establishment in the community, overview of the hotel, the employee handbook, the policy and procedure manual, and an introduction to the front office environment.

Economic Position of the Property in the Community

A new employee will benefit from knowing how a hotel fits into the economic scheme of the community and the region. He or she may be very impressed to learn, for example, that a particular hotel is responsible for 10 percent of the employment in the area. Information concerning the value of the tax dollars generated by employees, significance of the tourism market, number of conventions and subsequent guests who rely on the services of the operation, significant growth accomplishments, and other economic contributions will not only reassure new employees that they have chosen the right employer but also instill a sense of pride in the organization.

These and other economic indicators will help the new hire think of the employer as a well - respected member of the business community. Larger organizations can prepare a slide or multimedia presentation to demonstrate their commitment to the business area.

Overview of the Lodging Establishment

An overview of the lodging establishment will include the number of rooms (accompanied by a detailed printed handout concerning the layout of the rooms), a list of services offered in the establishment, an organization chart of the people in the various departments, and of course, a tour of the property.

The guest rooms are a very important part of the day - to - day activity of the front office staff. The sooner the employee is aware of the location and contents of the rooms, the quicker he or she will feel comfortable with the job. Floor plans for each floor and a printed summary of the typical contents of the rooms will serve as handy references that the new person can review at a later time. For instance, if the odd - numbered floors have three suites and the even - numbered floors have study areas for business persons, including this information in the printed material will assist in the training process.

The services offered by the hotel (restaurants, banquet facilities, room services, lounges, pool, athletics room, and gift shops) should be identified during the orientation program so that the new employee can assist and direct guests. Hours of operation for each department listed will help the new employee learn more about the systematic operation of the hotel.

The people listed on the organization chart should be pointed out to the new hires. These people and their responsibilities should be explained. This background information will assist in decision making and communication of information to various department heads. It will also give the new hire a sense of belonging to the group.

The overview of the lodging establishment is not complete without a tour of the property. This tour should include the guest rooms and guest room areas, major departments, service areas such as restaurants, banquet rooms, gift shops, and recreational facilities. This tour can be informal yet specific in content. It will allow the new employee a chance to see the establishment as a place of work and a place of recreation for the guest. These tours also help the employee understand the front office’s relationship to the entire establishment.

Employee Handbook

The employee handbookprovides general guidelines concerning employee conduct and is a valuable resource for new hires. In this publication, hotel managers describe many topics related to personnel issues, including:

  • Pay categories
  • Evaluation procedures
  • Vacation time
  • Sick leave
  • Holidays
  • Paydays
  • Use of controlled substances
  • Social interaction with guests
  • Resolving disputes with guests and other employees
  • Insurance benefits
  • Uniform requirements

Sometimes people being interviewed for positions at an establishment or new hires do not ask questions about these policies because they feel the employer may think them greedy, lazy, or over concerned with a certain issue. On the contrary, these questions form the basis for a good employment contract. Employers should make the effort to discuss and explain their personnel policies.

Policy and Procedure Manual

The policy and procedure manualprovides an outline of how the specific duties of each job are to be performed (this is also known as standard operating procedures[SOPs]). This is another specific set of guidelines that is valuable for employee training. The policy and procedure manual addresses such concepts as the following:

  • Operation of the PMS and other equipment in the front office
  • Reservations
  • Registrations
  • Posting
  • Written and verbal communications with guests and other employees of the hotel
  • Checkouts
  • Preparation of the night audit
  • Safety and security measures

The front office manager who takes the time to develop these guidelines will have prepared a very useful supervisory tool. Providing materials in writing to supplement the verbal training session allows new employees to review the skills they must master and retain more of what they are taught.

Introduction to the Front Office Staff

The final segment of the orientation process is an introduction to the front office itself. This introduction will prepare new hires for the training program that will follow. It familiarizes them with co - workers, equipment they will be using, personnel procedures, and interdepartmental relations.

New employees should be introduced to the current staff of front desk clerks, bellhops, telephone operators, reservation clerks, night auditors, supervisors, and others. A little planning on the front office manager’s part is required to ensure that the new employee meets the entire staff in the first few days. Saying a few words about the role of each employee during the introductions will not only make new hires feel more comfortable with their co - workers but also make each current staff member feel like a special part of the team. The current staff will also appreciate meeting the new addition to the staff.

Very often, this procedure is overlooked, and new employees feel awkward for days or weeks. The various pieces of equipment in the front office should be described and shown to the new employee. Brief remarks about each piece of equipment will serve as a reference point when needed skills are explained in further detail during the training program.

This part of the orientation program can be slowed down somewhat to allow the new hire to become familiar with the equipment. The operator of the call - accounting system may have the new person pull up a chair to see how calls are handled. The new employee maybe encouraged to observe how registrations and checkouts are handled by using the PMS.

The front office manager should assure the new employee that specific training will follow. This is a time for familiarization only. The new employee should be shown how to check in for a shift on the PMS or the time clock. The location and timing of the posted schedule of shift coverage should also be indicated.

Interdepartmental cooperation must be stressed during the introduction to the front office. This is an ideal time to establish the importance of harmony among the housekeeping, maintenance, marketing and sales, food and beverage, and front office departments. The front office must take the lead in establishing good communications with the various departments. Since the front office is the initial contact for the guest, obtaining status reports, maintaining communications, and knowing the functions being hosted each day are the responsibilities of the front office staff.

Overlooking trivial misunderstandings with other departments takes colossal effort on some days, but the front office must keep the communication lines open. The guest will benefit from and appreciate the efforts of a well - informed front office.

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