Frank Schuman, vice president of human resources for Big Bison Resorts, heard laughter as he approached the chief executive’s office door. As he stepped into the room, he saw CEO Janette Briggs seated behind her desk, telling two other executives a story that they were obviously enjoying.
“Oh, Frank! Good!” exclaimed Janette when she saw him enter. “I was just telling Pedro and Marlys about my great adventure in TV land.” Janette had been away for the past two weeks, taping Executive in Disguise, a popular reality TV show in which top managers don disguises and act as lower-tier service employees and perform their everyday tasks and duties.
“How did it go?” asked Frank.
“It was eye-opening,” Janette replied. “After spending all that time in our kitchens and cleaning the guest rooms and pools, I see our people and their jobs in a totally new way.”
“Is that why you called me here?” Frank asked. “I thought you wanted to review our plans for the new Employee of the Month program we’re starting.”“
See, that’s the issue. After working directly with our frontline staff, I’m having doubts about putting resources into Employee of the Month,” replied Janette. “Have a seat, Frank, and let me share what I saw over the past two weeks.”
“I’ve been telling Marlys and Pedro what it’s like to work in one of our kitchens. The pace is unbelievable. The workload is incredible. And the teamwork is out of this world. Frank, I was amazed, and you would be, too. I know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, but these folks do a lot more than cook. They’re planning and con-trolling on the fly: How many salads? How many pan-cakes? How can we make all that without any waste? There’s no supervisor on the line; they’re all thinking like managers—how to please customers, control costs. Honestly, our managers could take lessons from them on teamwork and quality control.”“It sounds like we have a lot of Employees of the Month,” Frank said hopefully. Maybe the program wouldn’t be canceled after all, and his group’s efforts wouldn’t have been wasted.
“No,” said Janette. “The point is, we’ve tried so many pro-grams to boost productivity. As you know, we were look-ing at bonuses last year, but then the economy slumped and business dropped off. But we have to do something. That’s why I called you in. We need your HR expertise. What do people want? I thought it would be pay, prizes, that sort of thing. And you agreed with me. But really, Frank, are those the right motivators? The people I worked with the past two weeks—they’re so good at what they do, and they’re constantly thinking up ways to make our guests happy. They already take pride in what they accomplish. We need to decide how to design their jobs better so they can accomplish more without us getting in their way with, well, Employee of the Month ceremonies.”“
OK,” replied Frank, “now that you’ve put it that way, I have to ask if maybe what we don’t want to do is decide what will make their jobs better.”Janette looked puzzled. “So you’re saying we shouldn’tmake their jobs better?”“What I mean,” replied Frank, “is that we need to listenbefore we decide.”DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
1. What kinds of behavior would an Employee of the Month program, as described here, reinforce at Big Bison Resorts? How might the company apply the prin-ciples of goal setting, reinforcement, and expectancy theories more effectively?”
” How might the company get input from employ-ees to make people’s jobs more motivating? What impact would this effort have on the company’s performance?
3. How would Big Bison’s employees perceive the equity of the Employee of the Month program? Compare their potential reactions with the response you would expect from involving employees in improving their jobs.
4. Think about a previous job you have held or hold cur-rently. If you had the power to make such decisions, what would you do to make the job more motivating for employees?”