Hospitality Update, No. 2, June 2013: Lessons Learned from Sports: Improve Your Team Every Year

by Fisher Phillips
Contact

Seasonal hiring is critical to the hospitality industry’s ability to provide service in peak seasons. Whether it is the rush of the winter ski season or the crowded summer months at the beach, employers’ needs fluctuate dramatically with the influx of guests. With the competition for consumers’ vacation dollars expanding, providing a great customer experience is paramount.

Given the state of the economy and the unemployment rate, hospitality employers are likely being presented with a better crop of candidates looking for seasonal work than ever before. Undoubtedly, some of these employees will perform so well that they will be retained. The question retailers must ask is whether they should plan to do more than just retain the one-off spectacular performer, and instead use this seasonal hiring binge as an opportunity to try to improve the quality of their overall work force.

Have A Game Plan

In the sports world, teams are constantly looking to improve every position. A player who is performing adequately is constantly in danger of being cut and replaced by a player who is believed to be an upgrade at the position. These swaps do not always achieve the desired result, of course, but the teams never stop looking for higher-quality players.

Most businesses rarely operate with this mindset. The prospect of terminating employees who are performing their job adequately simply doesn’t seem fair to most workers who believe that doing a good job should be enough to keep the job. This results in many hiring managers finding themselves lamenting their inability to keep some of the seasonal workers who have performed better than their regular staff. In the managers’ minds, their regular staff has not performed poorly enough to justify replacing them.

This perception of unfairness inherent in replacing an adequate employee with two years of tenure with a new hire who has worked for two months makes trying to improve the workforce through seasonal workers legally risky. This is so because juries are not as much concerned with whether discrimination occurred as they are with fairness.

But failing to take advantage of opportunities to upgrade employees has significant downsides, as well, in terms of performance. Employees who smile more, take care of guests’ problems quickly, make fewer mistakes, and provide better overall customer service improve profitability and repeat business. The greatest advantage to finding these employees through the seasonal work force is that they have a several week tryout period providing a significantly better ground for consideration than a 30-minute job interview.

Hospitality employers who choose to use seasonal hiring as a means of upgrading their teams’ quality should take a number of steps to diminish the legal risks inherent in replacing adequate performers with better performers.

The Draft: Hiring

In order to be positioned to improve the team, employers need to hire the best candidates for seasonal positions. This requires not skimping on the hiring procedures. Today, employers will likely receive a surplus of applications for every position. Teach managers to identify good applications and problem applications. Look first for applications that are fully completed. Applicants who take the time and correctly fill out the application are more likely to do a good job.

You should also look for work histories with significant terms of employment. While in times past, it may have been expected that individuals looking for seasonal work would not have that type of employment history, in the current state of the economy, it is much more likely that many will. Carefully review the statements about why an applicant left a former employer and stay away from applicants providing answers that suggest a victim-like mentality.

Once a manager has culled applications for quality candidates, the interview process is critical. This will be the opportunity to determine if the applicants are potential long-term employees. Individuals who express an interest in staying beyond the holiday season if work is available are going to have a significantly higher vested interest in performing well during the season than an applicant looking for a few weeks of work to earn some extra income. Individuals who are looking for opportunities for advancement in the company, if available, will also be more dedicated to their work. Even if not hired for regular positions, these employees will likely do more during their tenure.

Training Camp: Evaluating

The most critical component of using seasonal hires to upgrade the workforce is the evaluation process in place during their employment. This process must be facially fair to all the current employees, or perhaps even weighted slightly in their favor. The key to facial fairness is providing notice to the current employees of any deficiencies in their performance and heightened expectations as well as continued assistance in raising performance levels.

Managers should evaluate their team’s performance well before the seasonal workers start. The goal is to be very clear with workers that expectations are being raised and identify opportunities for improvement. Workers need to understand that what was acceptable performance may not be sufficient to maintain employment in light of the current job market.

At the same time, it is critical to offer assistance to these employees to help them improve. Managers should be holding regular, even if brief, team meetings to assist employees in working on areas for improvement. Managers must emphasize that the importance of the season to the success of the business increases the importance of their being at work when expected, on time, and with a “can do” attitude.

When the seasonal employees begin work, the managers must have the time and opportunity to observe all the employees, and use that time and opportunity. The manager should make notes of observations of employees doing either particularly well or poorly. This will not be an easy task during the seasonal rush, but will be a critical component of post-season employment decisions. The manager should also be addressing any deficiencies with employees as they happen and providing assistance and support. By the end of the season, managers should have a well documented study of their teams’ performance.  

Choosing The Active Roster: Retaining and Dismissing  

When the employer is ready to return to normal staffing levels, managers should have a very good idea of which employees they want to retain. Nevertheless, the decision-making process must be studied to be supportable against employment claims. First, the manager should determine what number of employees are needed as between part-time and full-time employees among which available labor hours can be divided.

In some cases, keeping a greater number of employees with fewer hours works better and provides more flexibility than was previously available. In other cases, very regular scheduling might dictate the need for only full-time employees. But creating a proposed new team structure is a key first step in communicating the business purposes behind the changes.

Once the manager has the structure in place, fill it with the strongest employees. At this point, the documentation created of employees’ performance over the season will be critical in differentiating among the employees. However, new documentation also should be prepared wherein managers explain their choices. For example, if one employee significantly outperformed the others in customer service, it should be noted that the choice was made because of strength in this area. If another employee was the subject of several customer complaints over the season, then it should be noted that this played a role in not retaining that employee.

If employees receive written evaluations, it is also critical that these be reviewed. No matter how superior the performance of a seasonal employee, it will be difficult to justify trading up when the employee losing the job was rated “Outstanding” three months earlier.

When the manager has picked the new team and made decisions that some employees will not be retained, a higher-level review should be used. Here, the reviewer, either a higher manager or an HR representative, should sit down with the manager and challenge him or her on the decision-making. The goal is to determine how well the decisions can be explained.

If managers are unable to articulate clear straightforward reasons for retaining a newer employee and terminating a more tenured employee at this point, the chances of their being able to adequately respond to these questions in a deposition is minimal. The decisions should also be reviewed to make certain there is no bias, or even the impression of it. For example, if a manager is choosing to retain three young male employees and letting go three older female employees, the support for the change must be rock solid.

Winning The Game

Ultimately, the business with the best employees will deliver the best results. While upgrading by retaining short-term seasonal employees and terminating longer-tenured employees has risks, if carried out correctly, it presents a tremendous opportunity for growth.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Fisher Phillips | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Fisher Phillips
Contact
more
less

Fisher Phillips on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!