Training for Empowerment - Hotel Front Office Management

Empowerment, which was discussed in Chapter, needs to be applied to training employees. Empowerment, the act of delegating authority and responsibility concerning specific tasks to front line employees, is an essential element in operating an efficient front wFront office employees must become aware of the importance of greeting international visitors, who have additional needs, such as information on currency, local geography, or local time.

They may be unfamiliar with smoking regulations, operation of dining facilities, or observance of local customs. Planning a training program for greeting international visitors will include trainee role playing and employee sharing of prior experiences concerning these topics. Sensitization of employees to the needs of international guests will go a long way in ensuring hospitality office.

As part of the training program, a front office manager has to specify when an employee can credit a guest’s folio within a certain dollar amount without the intervention of the front office manager. The trainer has to discuss this empowerment concept so that the employee knows when the dollar amount and the guest’s satisfaction are in harmony.

Yes, there are times when the front desk clerk may have to stretch the dollar amount because of extenuating circumstances. However, a daily review of credits that allows an opportunity for employee explanation will make empowerment work for the guest, the employee, and the front office.

According to Lawrence E. Sternberg, “contemporary management thinking is that the greatest gains in efficiency, productivity, and guest satisfaction are generated by making improvements in the system. Those improvements are most likely to occur when employees are empowered to recommend and implement changes on their own.”

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a U.S. law enacted in 1990 that protects people with disabilities from being discriminated against when seeking accommodations and employment. There are two parts to this act: accommodations for the physically challenged and employment practices concerning hiring of the physically challenged. Because the rhetoric of the law is still being reviewed in the U.S. courts, it is important to review employment practices and implications. Not only is it important to adhere to the principles of the law, but the opportunity to employ an individual based solely on his or her talents is rewarding.

The ADA states that employers must make “reasonable accommodations” to the known disabilities of the person unless the employer demonstrates that this would constitute an “undue hardship.” Section 1211 states that making “reasonable accommodations” includes making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to people with disabilities and considering accommodations such as job

The front office manager has a difficult time in deciding which employee to hire. Mark and Tse have similar qualifications. Mark has two years’ experience as a front desk clerk, but he was recently in an auto accident, which left him with a paralyzed right leg and in a wheel chair.

Tse has two years’ experience as a salesperson with an electronics firm and expressed interest in learning all he can in the hotel business. How would you proceed? restructuring, part - time or modified work schedules, reassignment, and provision of readers or interpreters.

Front office managers who have not worked with physically challenged individuals have to focus on the abilities of the job applicant. Well - written job descriptions should outline the specific tasks required to perform a job. These tasks provide the background to evaluate all job candidates. If there is a certain required task that is impossible for the physically challenged applicant to perform, then the front office manager should consult with the general manager on rearranging the work environment so the applicant can succeed.

For example, if an applicant in a wheelchair applies for a job as a front desk clerk, initial reactions may be “It just won’t work”; “There’s no room for the wheelchair”; or “Too much movement is required between pieces of equipment.” The front office manager should analyze how the physical work environment could be adjusted to meet the needs of this employee.

Could pieces of equipment be clustered to provide easy access for an employee in a wheelchair? Could counter height be adjusted via a front desk that allows for vertical raising and lowering? All of this has to be evaluated in terms of associated financial costs. But these financial costs also have to be evaluated against the costs of recruiting employees and paying for incentive programs, the expense of new trainee mistakes, and the like.

Training a physically challenged employee is no different than training any other new employee, in most cases. All the same methods are still required. While the trainer may have to rethink the four steps involved in training, it will provide an opportunity for looking at a familiar situation and perhaps rethinking a routine process from another perspective.

The Marriott Foundation for People with Disabilities has made an exemplary effort in providing guidelines for working with handicapped persons and has developed a list of “Fears vs. Realities about Employing People with Disabilities.” The Marriott Foundation developed the list after interviewing employers and coworkers of young people with disabilities who participate in the Foundation’s “Bridges . . . from school to work” program. “Bridges . . . from school to work” fosters the employment of young people with disabilities by facilitating paid internships for students with disabilities who are in their final year of high school.

Since the program’s creation in 1989, Bridges has placed more than 5,000 (as of 2001) students in paid internships with over 1,300 employers (as of 2001). Eighty seven percent of the students completing the program have received offers of continued employment. “Finding meaningful employment can be hard enough for young people, not to mention young people with disabilities,” said Richard E. Marriott, chairman of the Marriott Foundation. “By working with school districts and employers, the Foundation’s Bridges program is helping these young people and their employers break through the ‘fear’ barrier and think in terms of ‘ability’ versus ‘disability,’ ”

The seven “Fears vs. Realities about Employing People with Disabilities” are as follows:

  1. Fear — People with disabilities need expensive accommodations.
    Reality — Often, no accommodation is needed. When necessary, most accommodations cost very little or nothing at all.

  2. Fear — I’ll have to do more work.
    Reality — Not true, especially when the abilities and skills of the individual are matched with the needs of the job. More effective matching up front will make disabilities largely irrelevant.

  3. Fear — I’ll have to supervise more.
    Reality — Most employees with disabilities do their jobs as well as, or better than, other employees in similar jobs, and often seem more motivated and dependable.

  4. Fear — Turnover and absenteeism will be high.
    Reality — Studies show that employees with disabilities rate average to above average on attendance.

  5. Fear—People with disabilities may not be able to do the job.
    Reality — Because people with disabilities often have to work harder to get the job they want and, therefore, appreciate what having a job means, they typically perform up to and beyond expectations. The key is effectively matching skills to job needs, focusing on ability.

  6. Fear — People with disabilities need preferential treatment.
    Reality — People with disabilities neither require [n]or want to be treated any differently than employees without disabilities. What people with disabilities do need is an equal opportunity.

  7. Fear — Will people with disabilities fit in?
    Reality — As part of a diverse workforce, employees with disabilities often bring unique life experiences which can be a shot in the arm for the entire workplace. Their perspectives on, and approach to their jobs can be contagious, creating a positive ripple effect.

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