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Hotel Engineering Team Training – Pilot Project 2015

In August of 2014, a large hotel chain conducted a three-day run-through of a skyp training program that will activate in 2015. The unique, standardized program is geared toward the chain’s facilities services’ team members. The company’s goal: Establish, standardize and unify practices and operations in its engineering departments throughout the chain.

The double goal for team members is specific: preparedness for change, and job security. Each worker – painter, maintenance tech, engineering tech, HVAC technician, etc. – will be able to (1) check-mate his or her basic techniques and skills, (2) update capabilities, and (3) learn to use newer and/or better methods, products, materials, tools, equipment, and systems.

The program was developed by experienced craftspersons in construction, property maintenance, and power systems operations. It features multi-disciplinary, hands-on workshops in painting, maintenance, HVAC, electrical, mechanical, carpentry, plumbing, power plant, groundskeeping.

Each session will be skyped, on a rotational basis, into each property’s secured, employees-only telecom system. Each will be offered three days a week, at different times – again within forty-five days. This flexible feature tries to accommodate for unexpected departmental work surges, emergency situations and worker demands.

Participation is required. Each team member takes every workshop in his or her core job description. In addition, each person takes at least one workshop in every other job area in the department. And, every team member takes each workshop during his or her work shift.

 

Basically, here’s how it will work…

 

  1. A team member signs up for each training session two-to-three weeks in advance.
  2. A team member is encouraged to take all training sessions in his/her area before taking others.
  3. A team member can sign up, in advance, for the entire series of workshops in his core area.
  4. A team member reserves the option to take any other session before completing core program. 5. Class “size” is limited to two team members at a time.
  5. Each workshop runs thirty minutes.

Each workshop will follow a similar format…

 

  1. Each engineering department site is set up, in advance, for the next scheduled workshop.
  2. At his or her respective site, each team member “student” is provided with the same products, materials, supplies, tools, and equipment being used by the trade craftsperson and instructor.
  3. Each team member uses the technique, or performs the task, that’s being demonstrated by the craftsperson/instructor.
  4. Every team member can e-mail or text questions and comments to that workshop’s instructor after each session, or at a later time or date.
  5. A team member completes each workshop by logging onto his or her online registration page.
  6. After completion, a team member can access the DVD-version of each workshop – at any time, at work.
  7. All products, materials, supplies, and tools used at a specific hotel site become part of that engineering department’s inventory – and can be used by team members in the future.

The training program draws on the filmed systems used for years by employer and franchise giants in nearly every industry. A painter friend works for the hotel chain, and attended the three-day run-through in August. He described the five-minute, on-line/mobile app critique at the end of each workshop.

“The questions were very specific. No ‘strongly agree to strongly disagree’ rating system. No multiple choices… Clearly the program’s developers – and the hotel people – wanted honest feedback. Input they could use to make the training even more helpful to engineering people.”

His enthusiastic attitude about the required program reminded me of something:

Every facility painter – every painterthat I know is always learning new things. In fact, they look for new things to learn. And, they look for ways both to improve and to upgrade what they already know. That’s what makes every one of them stand out from the crowd!

 

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“The top quality paintbrush can be improved upon only so much. The painter that puts that brush to work is always looking for – and seeing – room for improvement.”  RDH

 

The Engineer Behind the Engine in One Hotel: A Painter’s Perspective

Until my mother eulogized her days at The Drake in Chicago, I’d never considered serving as a staff painter with a hotel. Though I’d helped to complete numerous hotel and hospitality projects, while working for major contractors in Florida, and the Midwest.

In January of 2007, motivated in part by my mother’s true tales of “Life as a hotel family,” I redesigned my résumé. And, I applied for “hotel painter” opportunities available in Central and South Florida.

One of those positions – “painter and engineering tech” – was with a historic, 614-room family hotel in Kissimmee, Florida. At the interview, the director of engineering said, “I’m only interested in what you can do for me . . . not what you’ve done.” Referring to the skills and experience listed in my résumé. (Louis Adler writes regularly about “performance-based hiring.”)

Fortunately, the “hiring manager” saw something in me. And, he gave me a chance to prove myself. Perhaps, he recognized how a journeyman painter, who was able to work on commercial, industrial and residential surfaces and areas, could benefit the hotel. Perhaps, he felt confident that I would fit in with the engineering team already on board. Perhaps, he envisioned the major projects that he could see completed in-house, versus by outside contractors.

Perhaps, he calculated the workload that his department would be able to handle more promptly, efficiently, and cost-effectively. Perhaps, he recognized the possible improvements and enhancements that he and his department could be credited with making to the hotel property. Working with a tight budget, fewer supplies, and reduced staff.

Initially, we worked together for five years. During that time, the man saw some of his plans and goals become reality. He saw the hotel property take on a fresh, new appearance. He saw the condition of its surfaces improve remarkably. He heard and read the many positive comments by the guests, staff members, visitors, property managers, and even the new owners.

The hands-on director of engineering left. A year later, he returned when the replacement decided to move on. Within two months, he left again.

The director of engineering is the engine (no pun intended) that keeps the hotel operable. The mastermind behind facilities services. He or she is the entrepreneurial spirit, in the organization’s uniform, that understands the following essentials:

A hotel’s engineering department is configured of a vast, complex network of systems – electrical, mechanical, plumbing, carpentry, tiling, etc. Each system must work well, in sync with the others, and independently. And, each system must be maintained properly, constantly, and efficiently to ensure that every other department area on the property can function. Most important, so the hotel can conduct business! Manned by team members that pull together, to keep things together!

The director of engineering is responsible, also, for the effective completion of all people-related tasks within the department’s operations. The treatment and service of guests. The support of each staff member, both departmentally and interdepartmentally. The provision of services specific to each worker’s training, employment and abilities. The teaming up with the entire hotel team to promote, maintain and represent their hotel’s mission, values, image, and policies.

The director of engineering, that led our department, tended to follow two closely linked rules: (1) Get it working. (2) Get it done at minimum cost. He worked as a hands-on manager. He asked none of his people to do anything that he would not have done himself. (One of my sister’s firm policies, as well!) He protected his department, his men’s jobs, and the way he needed the men to do them. He put the hotel’s engineering operations and management and guests’ services first!

To cut costs and down-times, he made every effort to recycle parts, supplies and equipment. He was prepared to solve problems with little or no budget, low inventory, minimal manpower, and very tight deadlines.

He ran the department with an iron hand, and a strong will. He kept complaints close to the cuff. Hotel management business was kept confidential. Company policies and basic safety and health standards were followed.

He represented the engineering field as a seasoned professional. Also, he recognized that I represented the painting and decorating trade just as professionally.

Yes, our personalities clashed occasionally. Still, our respective skills, experience and abilities complemented those of the other. And, those of every other member on the team, as he anticipated when he added me to that team.

In fact, that entire engineering team worked well together. Like a finely tuned engine. We knew how each other thought and operated. We knew that we could count on each other. We knew what and how much to expect from each other. We knew how hard we could push each other’s buttons. We knew that everyone on the engineering team, working together, was committed to doing their best!

At some point, more cutbacks became necessary. Like with countless other engineering/facilities management departments around the globe, our challenges increased. Some beyond our engineering director’s power to resolve. Our department’s modes operandi squeaked more, and hummed less. Its systems began to freeze up. Like gears, locked up in an engine lacking essential lubricants and oils.

 

Both Experienced Engineers: Right Men for the Job

During my “hotel painter” career, I’ve had the good fortune to work under two very knowledgeable, highly-skilled directors of engineering. Men who thought clearly, problem-solved promptly and effectively, and managed their teams professionally.

“T” leaned toward the corporate-delegative management style. “B” represented the hands-on, we-can-do-it-ourselves management style.

Here’s my capsule view of what made each man the right person for the job. . .

“T” took a pro-active, organized approach. He managed the engineering department, and met the engineering operations and maintenance needs of every system and department, based on a well-conceived plan. Aimed at maximizing positive results.

He anticipated, then addressed predictive, preventive and emergency situations and problems. He assessed, planned, scheduled, and executed every project according to strict time, budget and manpower parameters. And, he applied a projectile for minimizing the potential for avoidable, repeat shut-downs and break-downs of facilities, systems, equipment, machinery, etc.

Strategically, he delegated responsibility for completion of any given project to whichever group – internal or external – that could provide the best, most cost-containing results.

Actively, he maintained a huge network, across trade and industry lines. One that enabled him to access whatever resources he and his department needed to handle any challenge.

He ran a tight ship. He expected close adherence to company policies, departmental procedures, time and budget limits, and job requirements.

From each person on the team, “T” expected loyalty, courtesy, honesty, and accountability. And, he returned the same in kind. He kept everyone in the loop. Also, he kept his team members informed of managerial and company changes, decisions and activities. Especially, those that affected them, and their – our – engineering department.

He promoted teamwork, and maximized the chance for individual and team success. He invited suggestions and input. He encouraged open dialogue. And, in all areas, he stressed manpower, resource, environmental, and cost conservation.

“B” took a more basic approach, which allowed ample room for flexibility, thinking-on-his-feet, and a very quick response. He was a master at troubleshooting and problem-solving.

He knew, instinctively, how to operate the hotel’s engineering department, and every engineering operating and maintenance system on the property, on a bone-dry budget. With “0” time allotment. He was a master at recycling: parts, supplies, and equipment. He was a master at “making due” with what he had.

He knew what management expected, and with what they’d be satisfied. He knew what guests wanted and needed, and what they would not accept.

He knew what every man under him was capable of doing. He pushed each one to his limit: physically, intellectually, creatively, etc. He let each man do his job. He knew what each needed to do it. And, he tried to see that those needs were supplied.

He required high energy, immense flexibility, loyalty, a common sense approach, and a total commitment. He expected, and got, total teamwork and complete cooperation from every man.That included assisting him, sometimes on very short notice, to handle whatever emergency situation arose. That included switching tasks or projects without notice.

One thing, in particular, won “B” high marks from his men. He led by example, never asking any worker to do what he was not willing to do himself. Dig a WI-FI trench; work five hours on a 100 plus degree, sun-exposed rooftop to replace a kitchen fan system; spray toxic bed bug chemical treatments. He was totally unafraid to get in the trenches with his men. Literally!

Recently, a relative asked if I’d work again under either man when given the chance. “Yes,” I answered. Good bosses deserve that kind of a following. And, good employees deserve those kinds of good bosses, too.

Clearly, both “T” and “B” earned my utmost respect, loyalty and cooperation. Each man stretched my skills and abilities. Each challenged my stamina and endurance. Each supported my strong work ethic; high production-and-detail-oriented style; project scheduling and prioritizing system; and, need for new opportunities, new ways to serve. And, each defended my value to the department.

Both treated me as a craftsman, and an important contributor to the organization. Both  taught me about running an engineering department under very tight budget, time, inventory, and manpower constraints. Both taught me how to help keep a hotel’s engineering operations and maintenance systems running, moving, humming, clicking, and breathing as efficiently and effectively as possible.

And, both showed me, by example, how to still walk out smiling, at the end of the day!

Thanks for visiting. Enjoy your day, and everyone with whom you come in contact.

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