Q&A with James Ferguson at Confetti Culture: The power of recognition and reward

James Ferguson, Confetti Culture

James Ferguson

BHN spoke to James Ferguson, principal consultant at Confetti Culture LLC and author of The Confetti Culture Playbook, about the managerial qualities and skills needed to lead a team post-Covid.

• How have the roles and responsibilities of hotel managers changed? What are the skills or qualities needed to lead a hospitality team post-Covid? 

I believe that a hotel general manager’s leadership ability to cultivate positive relationships and build a consistent culture is the key to creating sustainable success in our industry pre- and post-pandemic. The challenge we face as we continue to navigate these unprecedented times is that our staffing levels have been reduced, but our cleaning levels and guest expectations have been increased.

My experiences through the last few years helped me realise that in our industry we are taught to focus on guests and the all mighty dollar, not the people working hard to earn it for us. That’s why many lean teams across the country right now feel understaffed, overworked, and unmotivated. So, it’s time to change the narrative and challenge the status quo by realigning our priorities and putting employees first!

By giving top priority to the interests of your employees, they will then give top priority to your guests, which will deliver top priority results to your owners. As you reap the rewards of this framework, you will increase employee retention through recognition and reward, allowing you to save on recruitment costs, while boosting your team’s contribution and impact.

• How can a team maintain optimism and morale during difficult periods?

As a general manager it is your responsibility to be a positive force in your company and teach others the power of positive thinking, which then becomes a contagious energy that is undeniably seen, felt, and heard by everyone around you. That is why hotel managers need to make it their mission to create a home away from home where their employees feel loved, served and cared for like family!

A great tool that contagiously elevates energy and positivity in the workplace is confetti. Confetti represents the transforming power of recognition and reward in a company culture. Confetti has the power to immediately transform the energy in any room. By using confetti in celebration, you immediately shift the energy in the room from doom and gloom to KABOOM! Energy is contagious. The energy you produce is vital as a leader. It sets the tone. So by adding a positive energy element like confetti to every recognition and celebration, it contagiously spreads that energy well beyond standup into the rest of the organisation.

Needless to say, confetti has sort of become my trademark. It’s a powerful and positive tool that like a special occasion brings people together. I also like to think of confetti as an element of accountability for continued recognition because if you don’t see it around the building, you’ll know people aren’t being celebrated and recognised. Through celebration you energise and inspire your team to celebrate themselves, each other, and do it often.

• Pre-pandemic staffing levels may never return. Can you tell us more about the seven leading causes of turnover in hospitality, and how best to minimise these?

Employee turnover in the hospitality industry was an escalating and urgent concern pre-pandemic, and the opportunity for improvement has only grown since then. Our industry experiences an employee turnover rate exponentially higher than the annual average. This eye-opening truth not only impacts your operations efficiency and guest experience, but also the financial stability and growth of your business.

In our customer-centric and guest facing industry, having employees constantly coming and going like a revolving door can make it extremely difficult to meet or exceed guests’ expectations. Let alone build loyalty to your business and brand. Not to mention the costly financial implications of constantly finding, hiring, and training new employees. While a certain percentage of employee turnover is expected, there are things you can do to minimise it. In order to first understand how to keep employees around, you must first understand why they are leaving.

In my book, The Confetti Culture Playbook, I outline a series of purpose driven employee initiatives that are designed around and expand beyond the seven leading causes of employee turnover in the hospitality industry. Those seven leading causes are as follows:

• Unclear job expectations

• Disconnect with managers

• Toxic work environment

• Inefficient communication

• Lack of flexibility

• Minimal growth opportunity

• Lack of recognition and reward

While these seven strong reasons to leave are hard to argue, they don’t stand a chance against the initiatives I provide in my book. Allow me to guide you through the process of building a better culture by infusing what I know from experience and research and applying it to your daily operation.

• How would you measure the success of a team?

Great leaders build successful teams by utilising and valuing the strengths of each individual within the group. They provide a clear vision, energised by collectively set standards which will inspire their team to achieve their true potential. They continually cultivate positive relationships through equipping and mentoring that ensures their team feels both valued and appreciated, all while remaining approachable and leading with a constructive and motivational approach. Then it’s about providing the time, tools, and training to be successful and recognising and rewarding the behaviors you want to continually see.

This is why I measure the success of a team by how many people we celebrate monthly that are exhibiting the positive behavior we want to see more of. The way to do this is to not only celebrate your employee of the month winners, but also all the individuals who were nominated as well. It’s about celebrating the journey not the destination. We want everyone nominated to feel they have a chance to win, but not necessarily need to win. We want each person to be motivated to bring more people to the table, as well as stay there themselves. That’s why you provide an award at the end of the year to any person who is nominated every month following their first nomination. Because it’s more about each person continuing the positive behavior and contagiously inspiring others to do more of the same.

The hope is that each month, more and more people are nominated and added to the all-in club. Over time, people begin to buy-in to the all-in attitude. Not because you tell them to, but because they are inspired to. That will have a profound impact on your operation, your guest experience, and the way your company makes them feel.

For more on this and much more, visit my website here.

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