by Chris Powell | November 06, 2017
Engaged employees leave their mark on more than just company culture. Research shows they are 17 percent more productive and 21 percent more profitable than their less-engaged peers. But it doesn't end there. Aiming to improve customer service? Look no further than employee engagement. Highly engaged employees can increase customer metrics, such as brand preference and loyalty, by 10 percent.

The benefits of employee engagement are obvious, yet many managers struggle in their approach to actually foster engagement within the workplace. Given the importance of the guest experience and employee interaction -- especially in the hospitality industry -- there's a significant opportunity for change.
 
Here are four ways managers in the hospitality industry might be hurting employee engagement.

1. Fearing feedback
 
Not all feedback is good feedback. But while criticism may be tough to take, it's an important part of improvement. The problem is that some managers aren't willing to listen -- even when the end result could be a better workplace. Only 6 percent of employees say good suggestions or valid complaints always lead to important changes at their organizations.

Rather than guessing what's on an employee's mind, just ask. Surveying employees may help shed light on minor problems before they become widespread. Keep survey questions short and direct to avoid overwhelming busy employees. The easier it is to respond, the higher participation rates may rise.
 
While you might be tempted to ask different questions each time, try sticking with a similar pattern or theme so that it's easier to measure progress over time. Once you've identified areas of improvement, make employees part of the solution. Soliciting recommendations may help you address issues while also showing how much employee feedback is valued.
 
2. Normalizing stellar work
 
As much as managers may want great work, treating it as the new norm can prove problematic. After all, exceptional work stands out partially because of how rare it is. Recognize stellar work for what it is -- an unexpected surprise, not a regular occurrence.

Saying "thank you" for such work may seem like a small gesture, but it often makes a big difference. Half of all employees would leave a company if they weren't thanked and recognized for their efforts. Next time an employee does something special for a customer, offer a token of your appreciation.
 
Regardless of whether you feature employees in a companywide email or dish out a bonus, the reward may inspire others to go the extra mile. Seven out of 10 workers say that motivation and morale would improve if managers simply said "thank you" more. Set aside some time each week to determine which of your employees has gone above and beyond for a customer. By acknowledging their extra effort, you can set the stage for a more engaged workforce.
 
3. Skipping training
 
Make no mistake, proper training takes time. And for many managers, the extra investment isn't worth it. As of 2016, more than 70 percent of hospitality workers said they had not participated in any type of training within the previous year. But by focusing on customer service training, you can pave the way for improvement. 

From boosting employee confidence to setting a standard of customer service excellence, a comprehensive training program can quickly put your business one step ahead of the competition.
 
While you may have a few ideas about what to include in a training program, it might also be helpful to gather feedback from other industry leaders. In addition to steering you away from training techniques that may not be effective, your peers can point out new ideas or topics that are worth incorporating.
 
4. Failing to establish trust
 
A little trust can go a long way. Far too often, however, managers aren't willing to give employees the benefit of the doubt. Failure to trust or empower workers is a hallmark of bad bosses, and this lack of trust can ultimately leave workers feeling frustrated and ill-equipped to do their jobs.

Instead of requiring employees to constantly ask for a manager's approval when addressing customer issues, delegate some of that power back to the employees themselves. A small discretionary spending limit can empower employees to surprise and delight customers at a moment's notice. Ritz-Carlton employees, for example, can spend up to $2,000 per incident to improve a guest's experience. By quickly resolving the situation with a complimentary room upgrade or discount, employees can demonstrate excellent customer service and avoid pulling a manager away from other important tasks.
 
When it comes to employee engagement, standing on the sidelines has its consequences. Use these four tips to foster an environment of more engaged employees and drive increased productivity, retention and customer service.

Chris Powell is a 20-plus year HR veteran and CEO of Talmetrix, the employee feedback and insights company. Chris built Talmetrix around his perspective on HR -- that organizations are human systems, not machines, and should be managed accordingly. Prior to joining Talmetrix, Chris was the Chief Human Resources Officer for Scripps Networks Interactive. Chris has also held HR roles with Voya (formerly ING), Marriott International, and Deloitte. To learn more, visit www.talmetrix.com.