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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

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 which could not be published in this case Page 2 of 4 .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

Participate in meetings with managers Build trust between leadership and front- one level above your immediate boss. work area. 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. Bring transparency to work. Solutions. the employees Personnel were not self-driven. The work- Manage stress. restaurant. While senior leaders agreed with most of the observa- Employee satisfaction not measured High ego in work environment tions. and suddenly have improved health. self. With so much stress and frustration.) and retain the best talents. an opportunity to vent their frustrations Figure 1: Ishikawa Diagram of Causes for Muri while always helping customers. and the managers were advised to hold on to the solutions regardless of how simple Work Methods Attrition or straightforward they were. 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. 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. 30-minute exercise in the gymnasium. centered. mistake that had occurred in the past. and hotel premises was offensive. health. best one being recognized through letters Ten hours dedicated for cross. hours per week with family. 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. provide a smile with their Page 3 of 4 . they felt empowered and energized that Meetings could be attended Staff get to spend five additional from home over the phone. Employees manage resources effectively. ASQ www. manage asked to conduct 15-minute yoga and relaxed through the day. Table 1) where the manager could write a Clear growth path created (horizontal Create a pool of motivated. The objective was case of urgency and customer escalations. Empowerment and Mandatory lean training once a Build a process improvement culture. bar. The solutions were imple- training per month. and emails. and and vertical) from bell staff and driven employees from different areas doorpersons up to general manager. 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. and within three days. uncertainties. bakery. whenever there was any problem in the improvement reasoning. staff Rewards and Monthly awards for the best Motivate and recognize employees. needs before they ask for something. boards were self-direction for year and during onboarding. and the ideas are rewarded. and Impacts Board in the workshop. and some mind maps. stay The yoga instructor from the hotel spa was Employees feel energized and shop involved ice-breaker activities. Without losing momentum. which helps in seeing the present 65 percent of the solutions. line staff. their objective was Measurements Lack of motivation to simply complete the task rather than to Deterioration of health ensure customer satisfaction. Lack of exercise While he had initially tried to play the role Muri of an advisor on the project. then staff would offer solutions. 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. recognition improvement idea at different levels. they were making a difference in their orga- Empowerment Managers put the problems to the Synergy among front-line employees nization. Employees feel better and This was quite new to them. saving costs on hiring and training. The problem was shared with them and participants were asked how Problem Solution Impact leadership could help them. the staff could brainstorm ideas. (rooms. mented quickly. 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. group sessions. and stay focused on the present.asq. etc. with the Mentors are assigned to cross-train. 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. serve the customer. achieve meditation sessions three days a week. which installed in work areas (as can be seen in employee growth covers lean tools and wastes. focus centered. without any emotion attached to it. There were 226 participants in 16 groups Table 1 — Problems.

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