Derek Picot, general manager of London hotel the Jumeirah Carlton Tower and Master Innholder, says regular feedback from employees can provide real business insight
What do you want when you fly - smoky bacon chips or salted cashews? It may seem inconsequential, but this is the sort of question South West Airlines asks its customers via its website once a month, which means that they believe they are really participating in the business.
This simple but effective measure is something we have taken on board with the employees at our hotel. Every quarter we hold a general meeting and have recently used hand-held electronic voting devices to ask staff some key questions on the business. The system works anonymously and the answers are displayed instantaneously on a big screen. The results have been revealing.
Most recently we identified an issue that was impacting our quality scores, and we wanted to know what we could do to get over the hurdle that our colleagues faced in delivering our agreed standards.
We asked everyone if they understood the standards in their department, and some of the teams felt more training was necessary. We might have left it at that and gone away to devise another set of training sessions, but with a little more of the probing that the anonymous system allows we discovered that the real issue was that some of our new recruits did not understand the English the standards were written in.
As a consequence, we now are starting a programme of English tuition, in work hours, to ensure that newly arrived staff can carry on effective and hospitable interaction with our customers.
No longer can guests walk our corridors without being greeted in English - even before they have a chance to say hello to the staff member - and we are avoiding those embarrassing moments in lifts when staff in uniform ride with guests in an excruciating silence, purely due to the lack of language skills.
It's not rocket science but a solution to a business challenge, provided by staff themselves and warmly embraced by management.
We now want to engage all our people in anonymous voting for the operating decisions that affect their own departments - and that includes voting on the menus, their benefits and their work schedules.