I often hear senior managers rant about how much they love their employees, their awesome customer service and how much they value diversity and inclusion. And there are often times when I those words that I think, "blah, blah blah," because I know the actual practices of those organizations, and their employees and customers are not very happy with the ways these companies do business, nor do they leverage diversity and inclusion.
So I was very happy to meet someone whose organization's actions actually were in alignment with his or her stated values of inclusion, caring for customers, and holding their employees in the highest regard.
I recently met Isabel Porzecanski, Director of Human Resources for the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami, Florida when we both spoke at a human talent management conference in Bogota, Colombia. I was intrigued by the way she talked about her hotel's workplace culture and decided to learn more.
She told me that the workplace culture of the Four Seasons is based on the belief that employees are the most important asset, and are respected for the work they do, as individuals with diverse talents, skills and experience. "We are a very democratic organization, in that we treat each other as peers. People can come and talk to me anytime without making an appointment. We actively practice the open door policy. I think it's clear to the employees that they pay my salary."
I've worked in hotels where employees were not allowed to taste the food they served, and what they were allowed to eat, was some funky pasta, and wilted lettuce. Porzecanski said that the executive chef in her hotel oversees the employee cafeteria, and takes pride in what is served. "We want our employees to know that we care about what they eat, and their well-being.
"If our employees feel cared for and empowered, they will in turn care about our guests, and find creative ways to meet and exceed their needs." Isabel shared a great example of this, "When one of our guests was getting dressed for his wedding, he realized he had forgotten his shoes. He ran downstairs and asked the doorman for the nearest shoe store. Knowing that the wedding was starting in 30 minutes, and that the groom would never make it to the store and back, the doorman asked him for his shoe size. Discovering that they both wore the same size, the doorman switched shoes with the groom who was on time and dressed appropriately for his wedding."
Anyone who has ever been in a restaurant or a store and heard some music they liked but didn't know the artist or name of the song will appreciate this next story she shared with me.
"A guest in one of our restaurants, told the server how much she enjoyed the music that was being played, during her meal, and asked the name of it. The server found out the title and artist of the CD, and went one step further.
The next day, our guest was surprised and happy, when the server presented her with the CD, so she could listen to it any time. The server had taken the time and used their own money to buy it for the appreciative guest.
I wonder what the response would be if on my next stay at a Four Seasons, I tell them I like the bed or the artwork on the walls. Hmmm
A key element of the Four Seasons culture is personalization and building relationships. When employees feel that are recognized as individuals, they in turn, pay special attention to the individual needs of their guests
It takes four interviews to get hired, of which the last one is with the general manager. This sends the message, "you are important, and we don't just hire anyone who applies."
I have to say that in my years of working for, and with, the hotel and restaurant industry, I have seen too many organizations where not only did the employees not know the name of the general manager; they didn't even know what they looked like.
"We have a lengthy interview process, to make sure there is a cultural fit, because we believe that we hire for attitude and we can train for skills." "After six months, employees can apply for other jobs in the hotel and after working with us for one year, they can apply for a transfer to another one of our hotels, in any other state or country."
As someone who loves to travel, my ears perked up I heard that employees could stay for free at any of the Four Seasons Hotels across the world.
For the past fourteen years, Four Seasons has been in the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work. After talking to Isabel Porzecanski, I can see why.