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Success At The Ritz-Carlton Is Simple: Your Bottom-line, Depends On Your Frontline!

Susanne Axelsson
May 3, 2021
How The Ritz-Carlton Build Success From The Frontline Up

If you heard Horst Schulze, Co-founder at The Ritz-Carlton, talking about the hotel’s Ladies and Gentleman you might assume that he was referring to the guests, but you’d be wrong. 

As the companies most important asset in their service commitment to guests, this is how Ritz-Carlton refers to their staff - and each of the Ladies and Gentleman who work at The Ritz-Carlton have been invited to join in the vision to exceed their guests’ expectations, and embody the legendary service that makes The Ritz-Carlton a leading luxury brand.

Horst is adamant that The Ritz Carlton would have failed without a motivated frontline team, and their commitment to the basics of service.

In an exclusive presentation from the AskNicely Frontline Experience Summit, he shares his tips to managing a great frontline team for success…

  1. Don’t just fill the gap.

The first stage to frontline employee empowerment is to select the right people for the right role. 

“We didn't hire employees. We selected employees. We invited employees to join us in our vision.”

When your company’s vision is to build the finest hotel company in the world, it’s essential that this vision is ingrained from the bottom up – starting with the hiring and orientation that will eventually build daily employee habits. 

On the flipside, think about an employee you’ve managed or worked with who didn’t quite cut the mustard. Now think about that same employee with these questions in mind…

Who was their leader? Why were they hired in the first place? Were there faults in the selection process? The employee orientation process? Did the employee feel appreciated?

Horst talks about using these important questions when someone isn’t living uo to their full potential. The follow up advice might feel confronting: “The fact that Joe is not a good employee is not his fault, it’s yours.” That’s tough love, and it hits hard. 

“We don’t hire for technical talent, but for natural talent”. It’s easier to train technical talent, but natural talent is what makes the difference.
David Cayuela, GM Ritz-Carlton Cancun & Stephen Blandino
  1. Get the basics right.

With the right people selected, it’s time to establish your basics of service.  

At The Ritz-Carlton this means all new employees are taught the 20 basics of service - the standards that set The Ritz-Carlton experience apart - within days of joining the team. 

"We want to be number one in the world." We said, "What are the 20 things we have to do in order to become number one in the world?"  

What are your company goals? And what are the basic service standards you need in order to achieve your mission?

Don’t think of them as orders or directions. They should be aspirational objectives for frontline employees to feel motivated to go above and beyond for during every customer interaction. 

Horst believes  it’s management's role to both establish these standards, as well as maintain the processes, systems, measurements and controls to ensure expectations are met. Because at the end of the day, having the basics in place makes the job of fostering an environment where employees are inspired to deliver on expectations that much easier.

  1. Communicate, don’t isolate.

Belonging is a fundamental human need. So why do 40% of people feel isolated at work?

Belonging has a clear correlation to commitment and motivation in the workplace, which directly translates to employee retention, pride and motivation. A high sense of belonging is linked to:

  • A 56% increase in job performance.
  • A 50% drop in turnover risk.
  • A 75% reduction in sick days.

The Ritz-Carlton places significant emphasis on belonging for their employees… and as a result, reaps significant bottom-line benefits. Take the statistics above and apply them to a company of 10,000 people - that’s an annual saving of more than $52M! 

Horst’s advice when it comes to fostering belonging and purpose comes back to making sure everyone lives the shared vision, every day. An EY survey found that 39% of respondents feel the greatest sense of belonging when their colleges simply check in with them, both personally and professionally, revealing the power of regular communication and feedback.

  1. Continuous improvement through continuous feedback.

Each day at The Ritz-Carlton, frontline employees focus on one basic from their list, discussing what it means and how the team are meeting the objective, or working towards it.

“We orient the employee. We clearly let them know what our customers think.”

Horst also talks about customer feedback as one of the most valuable currencies to your business, and how to turn feedback into action, because you simply cannot improve customer experience without it. ‍

  1. Hold that thought!

By now, you have the right employees; they’re well oriented on your basics of service and working towards a collective vision; they feel a sense of belonging and purpose and they are receiving training and feedback.

Take a breath. You’re almost there.

But here comes the tricky part: sustaining motivation. Long-term employee empowerment requires a continuation of inspiration, training, feedback and knowledge.  

The practice at The Ritz-Carlton of reviewing one basic of service each day is about identifying what makes their organization excellent, and repeating it. It’s about refreshing mindsets, providing new strategies and sustaining constant support and feedback.

 Horst says that The Ritz-Carlton wouldn’t be where it is today without their highly motivated frontline employees. 

“If my employees were 5% better than yours, I would win”

Bottom line: A business with a highly motivated frontline team, is a business that will succeed.

If the company offering the most luxurious stays in some of the most desirable locations in the world has clicked on to treating their employees as Ladies and Gentleman to make their guests feel like VIPs, then there is probably something we can all learn from that…

About the Author

Susanne Axelsson
Susanne is the Frontline Community Evangelist as well as the author and researcher for Frontline Magic Handbook. She believes happy customers are born out of great experiences. Great experiences are delivered by motivated frontline people.
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