I am writing this post as I sit on a bench in front of the Davidson, NC Homewood Suites. As I sat working on documents, I struck up a conversation with an employee, who was emptying the trash and straightening up outside. I’ll call him “Nate.” One could and should use Nate’s example to train professionals, including members of my benighted species, lawyers.
Nate greeted customers, some of whom knew him from past visits. As staff arrived, everyone received a cheery greeting. At some point our occasional conversation veered to customer service. Nate, like any professional, was “purposeful.” I suspect that he is a genuinely good guy, and his friendliness was integral to his character. However, he also told me that he knew that his job security at Homewood was intertwined with making people feel “at home.” This statement was not corporate-generated. Nate meant his words.
We talked about how a single good or bad experience can undue years of good efforts or can create lasting loyalty. Nate explained that if he cleans a restroom, he is fastidious about it, because few things more turn off a guest than dirty public restrooms. As a constant traveler, I pondered nice hotels whose public restrooms were dirty, and concluded that they never got my return business. Nate was “analytical” about customer service.
Nate talked about what he liked about work and it was his co-workers and the atmosphere. Later, I saw an attractive professional woman give him a quick hug in greeting as she entered the hotel. The professional woman was the General Manager, and as she greeted staff with genuine pleasure, I better understood the hotel atmosphere. Everyone takes pride in their job, feels a part of delivering the product, and takes an enterprise view of their job. Just ask the kitchen staff, whose eggs I have eaten for five years, and they will express their pride in creating variety in those same eggs. They want the hotel to shine. Even when swamped, I have not heard them whine. And keep in mind that while a nice property, it is not a luxury property or one of those extraordinary gems like the Davidson Village Inn down the road. Yet their customer service is superb.
So what’s the relevance to safety? We all know to do certain things to ensure an engaged and productive workforce, but we are inconsistent and we are not purposeful in our efforts to create this atmosphere. So here’s my lessons for safety:
1. Effective Safety Programs will not occur in an atmosphere where employees do not feel as if they have a role in the organization’s success. We focus so much on self-actualization and meeting an employee’s psychological needs, but common sense and various studies show that employees’ greatest work need, after basic needs are satisfied, is to have a sense that they contribute to the organization’s success. I am convinced that sense of one’s role is one of several reasons that the 9000 employee Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is on the best places to work lists every year.
2. Neglecting safety is a clear message that you don’t care about employees, so don’t be surprised if the employees in turn, do not care about their work and your customers.
3. Especially in construction and the manufacturing sectors, involving employees in safety is an effective way to focus employees on their role in the enterprises success.
My readers already recognize these suggestions, but are we “purposefully” encouraging the atmospheric that keeps the Nates coming to work and impressing customers? Do our actions substantiate our statements that we are “pro-employee” and that “safety is number one?”