HAPPY EMPLOYEES MAKE for happy customers.

It’s a common view shared by almost every service-oriented business. However, for hotel owners and managers who feel they have a satisfied workforce, believing is not enough. Measuring the level of management-to-employee engagement can transform perception into reality. And that reality impacts the hotel business’s bottom line.

The financial promise was proven when Best Western Hotels & Resorts Inc. recently teamed up with UniFocus, a technology provider specializing in workforce performance.

Working with 100 member-owned hotels, Best Western beta tested UniFocus’ Pulse Survey program that quantifies the value of employee engagement with management. UniFocus surveyed workers and aggregated their responses which Best Western compared with the hotels’ guest-satisfaction data. They found a significant correlation between employees’ satisfaction with their jobs and guests’ intent to recommend the hotels.

Mark Heymann, founding partner and CEO, UniFocus

“A 10-percent increase in [employee] engagement could reasonably result in a 4 percent increase in intent to recommend, generating two to three additional rooms per night,” wrote UniFocus in its report. “Based on average occupancy rates and ADR at the participating hotels, that would translate into an additional $70,000 to $100,000 in annual room revenue.”

Mark Heymann, founder and CEO of Dallas, Texas-based UniFocus, defines employee engagement as an owner or manager taking a positive, active, ongoing interest in the working conditions – physical and psychological – of the hotel’s workforce.

“At the end of the day, it has to start at the top,” said Heymann. “Senior management sets the tone of the culture and the expectations of the business, not just verbally but by every interaction every day with every employee.”

He points to Ritz Carlton’s motto: “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” When taken to heart by management such cultural credos empower employees to provide exceptional customer service.

The workplace philosophy is older than Ritz Carlton’s motto, but what is new is technology like UniFocus’ Pulse Survey enables hotels to consistently model the impact of management-employee relationships on the businesses’ bottom lines.

“As service organizations become more factually driven, there is a growing need for technology that translates employee perceptions into hard data,” Heymann said.

“The difference is attitude,” he said. “If an employee comes to work every day with an upbeat attitude and believes he is delivering the best product, the interaction with the customer has a huge impact on the customer’s perception of value.”

Using technology to gauge employee satisfaction also supports the business culture, he said. “It tells the employee, ‘This is important. We want to know what is going on with you.’ It moves from lip service to reality.”

The Pulse Survey program, which Heymann said is simple and unobtrusive, helps hotel managers identify and respond to key issues quickly to drive higher employee satisfaction and, ultimately, ROI, he said.

Ron Pohl, senior vice president and chief operations officer at Phoenix, Arizona-based Best Western Hotels & Resorts, said, “Projections based on results of our first Pulse Survey have been enlightening and we anticipate that further analysis will corroborate these findings.”

UniFocus’ Pulse Survey program is available now to all Best Western properties in North America “to help each hotel improve guest-satisfaction results,” said the company.

Pulse Survey tracks employee engagement throughout the year. UniFocus also has a short Pulse Survey for staff to express real-time opinions, enabling management to get to the heart of concerns. Responders can remain anonymous.

The brief surveys can be conducted via mobile app, which encourages employees to participate. Managers can compare results against company or department averages and identify departments that need immediate attention.

Heymann said UniFocus has found that a year-long program is essential to getting to the truths in employee engagement. “If you look at the lifecycle of a hotel employee, there is a heavy, heavy focus by management on the first 90 days of the employee’s tenure. Then the employee is turned loose. They might not be surveyed six months to a year later.” With the high turnover rate in the industry – in both entry and management levels – owners who depend on annual reviews are “missing the boat,” Heymann said.

“With technology, we can measure throughout the year, and immediately spot a trend and how it impacts the customer. It can be done very cost effectively, and lets the owner look at the whole equation.”

Heymann said he uses Pulse Survey at UniFocus. “We have three offices. We do quarterly engagement surveys. And, even though I talk to everybody every day, we still find weaknesses. You can never underestimate the benefit of good, solid employee feedback.”