I imagine that by now you too have encountered companies that proclaim to be “going green” in some way. “Green” takes a lot of forms: being environmentally conscious by promoting recycling, reducing emissions, measuring your “footprint,” or relying on sustainably farmed food products.
As a frequent flyer, I see hotels increasingly proclaim a commitment to conservation as well. Here’s an example of a bedside placard at one of my favorites:
“This hotel and its employees are committed to helping protect the environment. To help us reduce water and energy consumption, please consider not having your sheets laundered during your multiple night stay. If you prefer to reuse your towels, please hang them up. Towels left on the floor will be refreshed.”
OK, so I get the program. I dutifully hang up my towels and leave my placard on the bed.
But when I return, it is clear that my all my towels are fresh ones. Hmmm… So I hang them up again the next day. Same fresh towels appear.
“Perhaps I am confused,” I think. So upon checkouot I mention my experience to the hotel manager, who looks like he has no idea what I am talking about, shrugs, and says, “I’ll look into that.”
On the next visit—actually the next three visits—the towels were again freshened when I hung them up.
Why? I can come up with a few reasons:
1) The housekeeping staff has not been effectively trained on the procedure.
2) Some of the housekeeping staff change the towels anyway in the hopes of a better tip.
3) The manager and/or company have not communicated or reinforced the importance of this procedure.
4) The manager and/or company isn’t really committed to protecting the environment. The placards are just a gesture and make them look good.
This last hypothesis is the one, above all, that this hotel should hope I don’t come to believe. Because I stay there—a lot—and now I am doubtful and annoyed about the disconnect between their purported values and the actual behavior I am seeing.
It’s that easy to create uncertainty about company values. Fresh towels can go from an expected amenity to a symbol of eco-fraud.
So where are your company’s “towels”?
In what way does your organization proclaim its values and not really follow through?
Is there a gap between aspiration and execution where you work?
Most likely there is. The distance between vision and reality, commitment and consistency can be miles.
What can you do?
• Have a clear picture of what you want to happen and communicate that.
• Train people on how to participate in creating that picture.
• Reward and reinforce them when they do the right things right.
• Take action—the first time– when you hear about an issue. Don’t wait to confirm a trend.
• Proactively look for gaps and flag them for correction.
• Measure the impacts—positive or negative—and communicate them.
These actions are simple to describe, but very hard to do well.
My hotel sends a follow-up survey each time I stay. I continue to mention the towels issue. And I’m still unbearably fresh. My clients are probably grateful for my hygiene, but personally, I’m disappointed in the hotel.
As Kermit the Frog lamented, “It’s not easy being green.”