Making the Case for Quality

August 2015

Indian 5-Star Hotel Front-Line Staff
Find Happiness, Empowerment in
Solving Attrition Problem by Sunil Kumar V Kaushik

Sunil Kumar V Kaushik is a freelance Six Sigma trainer and consultant who is also an ASQ Influential
At a Glance . . . Voices author. Hired by a major hotel chain in India to train its senior management on Six Sigma
practices, Kaushik was retained to complete a process improvement project in September 2013 for the
• Muri, a Japanese term chain, which operates in 16 countries and employs more than 9,000 individuals.
that means stress, exists
throughout organizations, The director of the Bangalore branch, who was also the project sponsor, shared that for the previous
and the elimination of it
year, the company had experienced a large spike in customer escalations due to numerous mistakes
plays a crucial role in its
growth and sustainability.
from the staff. Kaushik gathered a sample of the mistakes through interviews and analyzed the details
to learn they were all linked to not following the process. For example, when a family came to the
• While the hotel industry
is growing in India and restaurant with kids, staff members did not ask if the parents required special seating for their infant
other parts of the world, children, and if the customers requested one, the employees did not put in effort to finding one, or
attrition has become a bluntly would tell the family they did not have one. Also, several customers had to repeatedly request
very big problem, with water that was not served on time, and even some regular guests requested specific tables to avoid cer-
one of the primary reasons
tain employees whom they thought provided poor service.
being work stress.
• This case study discusses Kaushik felt it difficult to put in place a process to fix these issues, as they all involved human interac-
the techniques that were
tions and the only measure could have been to learn how much effort the staff had made to please the
used by consultant Sunil
Kaushik to understand customer. When he looked at the tenure of the staff to validate if there were needs for additional train-
the root causes of stress, ing, 64 percent of the employees were on the job for less than one year, while 20 percent were less than
to quantify it, and arrive two years, and only 17 percent had been working for the company for more than two years. It became
at solutions for a popular increasingly clear that training, or lack thereof, was at the root of the problem due to a large population
Indian hotel chain that
of relatively new staff members coming in contact with customers.
will remain anonymous.

Insight to Attrition

The sponsor agreed with Kaushik’s findings, confirming that retraining should be provided on a regular
basis. The training’s duration varied from 10 days to four weeks depending on the role, and it took an
employee approximately six months to comfortably learn everything and be able to work indepen-
dently. The change, though, was not of much use, as the trained employees would usually quit within
a year, and then the cycle would begin again. Kaushik understood the problem’s root cause was due to
attrition, which was hovering at 41 percent.

To further investigate the issue, senior stakeholders participated in a brainstorming session—a task
many of the leaders expected to use to devise solutions such as automation or mistake proofing to
reduce mistakes. But such moves were not likely since this was the hotel industry, which requires
human interaction with customers, and leaders soon agreed that if the attrition was decreased to more

ASQ Page 1 of 4

The GM said in the service organization. saying they increase in customer satisfaction and reductions in cycle times were unaware of the issues. and 30-minute interview with respective managers. with major contribu. findings. But first. can be seen in Figure 1. management.reasonable levels. respect. make the job more stressful. as they survey containing 30 questions—a questionnaire that would had good communication. the number of possible points that could cause stress. unlike in the hotel industry. his coffee or turn on his computer. The findings were shared with the project sponsor and senior • 57 percent were demotivated within a month of joining leadership. Kaushik was curi- happy to be part of the company. employees were hand- and hiring and training costs. so he moved back to the impactful change could be brought to the organization. employees were handed a satisfaction • Those who quit the hotel mostly joined call centers. and guarantee anonymity to spark honest conversation of the real the work environment was stress free. and middle management did not feel attrition was an issue. which could not be published in this case study. first-ever meeting between front-line staff and senior leadership. the attrition rate for the map. including the general manager (GM) who complained that he was often treated like a servant when greeting top entre- To learn more from the employees. It was tions from the food and beverage division (23 percent) and found that an employee’s entire work day is spent receiving room service employees (13 percent). To further illustrate the • 72 percent felt their health deteriorated. the survey’s • 59 percent felt their job affected their personal life. leaving many to feel stressed because they don’t receive ASQ www. Kaushik learned that: importance of knowing their problems with a clear emphasis that improvement would be impossible unless the employees • Authority was the only power used by the managers to get shared the real cause(s) of the high attrition rate. which their voice. Based on the survey response. Many were scared to say anything ill of their had been in the hotel industry for years as a GM and could not managers or the working environment. He then moved to a service organization as a vice much deeper in search of answers. In total. employee interviews. Randomly. allowing them to openly and Upon learning more of the GM’s background. ministers. The manager told Kaushik that he many people quit. apart from a line employees—including those in the food and beverage. and levels within the organization. preneurs. you are losing your self-respect when a customer treats you badly?” A value stream map was created with the project team to depict a typical day of an employee from food and beverage. • There was never any interaction one level up. • There was no proper hiring structure in place. 226 front. Solution Approach and Workshop • 81 percent answered they did not see any growth in their job role. This led to the the work done. Kaushik learned: was in a bad spot. causes and effects for the muri in the organization. and lessons learned from brain- • 91 percent who answered said top leadership does not hear storming sessions were mapped to an Ishikawa diagram. The next step was to identify the processes that because of their immediate managers and supervisors. departments. issues present hindering positive growth. Kaushik conducted one. stress • 84 percent of the staff felt their job was highly stressful. identified hotel chain’s employees was 41 percent. The feedback included a benchmark study was completed—salaries were on the same 73 percent of the participants saying they had issues with self- lines with competitors. tenures. • 68 percent felt the work environment was much better with the competitive hotel chains. Hearing this and other feed- leaders began addressing the groups in person regarding the back. which were still insufficient. The In the six months prior to the survey. he didn’t have anyone to make him The project’s sponsor was informed of the difficulties and con. president. including that he truthfully provide information. “Do you feel can relieve employees’ stress. and this time. forcing Kaushik to dig handle stress. but they did not answer why so ous to know the reason why. and other VIPs at the hotel. The employees all said they were had changed jobs three times in two years. customer management skills. there would be multiple benefits. orders. He said it was on-one interviews with a small group spread across different very easy for him to lose his dignity. no and he felt he had lost his authority. where the culture was vastly different. and interpersonal skills.asq. room-service fields—provided answers to the questions. such as an The leaders thanked the employees for the feedback. which is one of the common causes for attrition. they were more vocal about the issues. it became evident the company From the survey. benefit Page 2 of 4 . and to determine how leadership • 58 percent answered “Yes” for the question. to rule out the monetary picked at all the levels for focus group sessions. Following the meeting. He found it difficult to earn their trust. The hotel industry within six months. The problem was difficult for Kaushik to approach because it was completely related to people. vinced that without the support of the front-line employees.

which installed in work areas (as can be seen in employee growth covers lean tools and wastes. line staff. and emails. boards were self-direction for year and during onboarding. bakery. and within three days. the staff could brainstorm ideas. Participate in meetings with managers Build trust between leadership and front- one level above your immediate boss. mistake that had occurred in the past. Lack of exercise While he had initially tried to play the role Muri of an advisor on the project. and hotel premises was offensive. 30-minute exercise in the gymnasium. recognition improvement idea at different levels. Solutions. stay The yoga instructor from the hotel spa was Employees feel energized and shop involved ice-breaker Page 3 of 4 . their objective was Measurements Lack of motivation to simply complete the task rather than to Deterioration of health ensure customer satisfaction. so he decided to guide the work done No career path staff through a brainstorming session to find Authority driven RCA never performed for employees solutions to problems identified in the sur- Abusive vey. manage asked to conduct 15-minute yoga and relaxed through the day. (rooms. While senior leaders agreed with most of the observa- Employee satisfaction not measured High ego in work environment tions. work-life balance Senior leaders are trained on Vipassana Staff manages uncertainty and stays The employees were able to come up with yoga to manage stress. ASQ www. best one being recognized through letters Ten hours dedicated for cross. The solutions were imple- training per month. then staff would offer solutions. the employees Personnel were not self-driven. Employees manage resources effectively. and the ideas are rewarded. provide a smile with their service. centered. Empowerment and Mandatory lean training once a Build a process improvement culture. health. hours per week with family. The objective was case of urgency and customer escalations. which helps in seeing the present 65 percent of the solutions. Kaushik was told the employee Work-life imbalance concerns were normal in the hotel indus- try and that not much could be done to Stress not measured Self-respect improve it. The problem was shared with them and participants were asked how Problem Solution Impact leadership could help them. without any emotion attached to it. Without losing momentum. saving costs on hiring and training. mented quickly. serve the customer. etc. Kaushik deter- Lack of process Power and authority Career development mined that being a facilitator was yielding improvement used to get the trainings were minimal better results. staff Rewards and Monthly awards for the best Motivate and recognize employees. with the Mentors are assigned to cross-train. they felt empowered and energized that Meetings could be attended Staff get to spend five additional from home over the phone. self. and the managers were advised to hold on to the solutions regardless of how simple Work Methods Attrition or straightforward they were. needs before they ask for something. and and vertical) from bell staff and driven employees from different areas doorpersons up to general manager. The work- Manage stress. work area. bar. restaurant. The manager and senior leaders and self-direction forum and employees come up with builds confidence and a continuous actively participated and concluded that for continuous a solution through lean and logical improvement culture. whenever there was any problem in the improvement reasoning. and stay focused on the present. achieve meditation sessions three days a week. uncertainties. Table 1) where the manager could write a Clear growth path created (horizontal Create a pool of motivated. and suddenly have improved health.asq.) and retain the best talents. and Impacts Board in the workshop. With so much stress and frustration. they were making a difference in their orga- Empowerment Managers put the problems to the Synergy among front-line employees nization. The main objective of these sessions language used People blamed Losing experienced people for defects was to assure employees they were impor- Customer-facing Long training period tant. There were 226 participants in 16 groups Table 1 — Problems. Employees feel better and This was quite new to them. Create a healthy and clear to employees: Understand customer clean work environment where there is a Abusive language used within the mutual respect irrespective of the level. an opportunity to vent their frustrations Figure 1: Ishikawa Diagram of Causes for Muri while always helping customers. Bring transparency to work. and some mind maps. focus centered. began receiving communication on the Policy Authority to be used by managers only in Encourage employee to be self-driven to progress of the solutions. group sessions.

Also an ASQ 20% Influential Voices author. Specific data to support the anecdotal evidence was not offered though. 80% 70% About the Author 60% 50% Sunil Page 4 of 4 . the attrition rate was 14 percent. Do you feel healthy? 3. Results Second and third surveys were conducted at three and six months with the same As a Six Sigma professional. CPSCM. Do you feel your opinions and concerns are heard by senior management? 5.trainntrot. Do you think there are similar jobs in the market that can provide better work-life balance? 6. a decline learned there are times when it is better of 27 percent just by using available resources and managing people effectively. PMP.asq. For More Information cally. He is getting set for an 0% around-the-world bicycle tour to promote 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 sustainable quality. Do you see a career growth in the next three to five years? 7. including improving customer satisfac. tion. Pre-project Third month Sixth month 1. 100% • To view this and other case studies. Figure 2 shows the the solutions. By the end of the first year. and the company reaping cost savings. is a freelance Six Sigma trainer and consultant. cycle times. and in such circumstances. Kaushik questioner. 90% visit the ASQ Knowledge Center at asq. The following were the eight questions answered by employees each time: • To contact the author of this case Figure 2: Employee Survey Results Over Time study. Do you feel you are losing your self-respect when a customer treats you badly? ASQ already know the solution (facilitator). impacting the sustainability of variety of factors. 40% ASQ Certified Six Sigma Black Belt 30% (CSSBB). according to the project’s This will create a huge synergy. employees completed three surveys answering questions on a self-driven. Kaushik blogs at 10% www. Do you think your job is highly stressful? 2. Does the job affect your personal life? 4. not to bring out his expertise (advisor) and Process improvement has become part of the work culture over the past year and instead have the clients understand they many improvements have been completed. Do you get enough motivation from your immediate managers/supervisors? 8. including feelings about stress and health. people feel email Sunil Kumar V Kaushik at sunilkaushik15@gmail. empowered. improvements the employees made in regards to their physical and mental health as the percentage of individuals identifying with negative factors decreased dramati. supervision is not required and people are Over six months.