Concept of cultural web at Ramada Jarvis Ealing Hotel
In the current economic climate with a highly competitive market in the hospitality industry, the choices made by organisations in selecting their strategies to survive and progress in such an environment can have a significant impact on their performance. The culture in an organisation can have an important influence on these strategies and their success. However, this can often be overlooked or ignored by managers as an essential tool (Dwyer et al., 1999, 2000).
Using Ramada Jarvis Ealing Hotel as an example, this paper will focus on:
The concept of cultural web to help understand the culture of organisations in hospitality industry.
The extent to which different elements of the “cultural web” are present in the organisation and the influence they have on organisational performance.
There are various definitions of culture. According to Sathe (1983) culture represents a set of important understandings that members of a community share in common. Deal and Kennedy (1982) define culture as “the way we do things around here”.
In this case study, culture and the main elements of culture will be defined with the help of Johnson’s cultural web as a framework. The six interrelated elements help make up what Johnson and Scholes call “The Paradigm” which helps to analyse the bigger picture of an organisation – to see what is working, what isn’t working and what needs to be changed. The cultural web has been applied to The Ramada Jarvis Hotels in order to explain how cultural influences on behaviour within an organisation come about and their impact on the organisation.
1 Routines & Rituals
Routines, in the context of hotels, can be associated with the welcoming or farewell of guests i.e. check in or check out, serving guests food & beverage in the restaurant/bar etc. The use of jargon in day to day operational activities of the hotel forms part of the routines. At Ramada Jarvis Ealing Hotel, jargon such as multi skilling – training staff in other areas of the hotel and buddy system – assigned experienced employee to help new starters, promote the culture of team work where the unique culture and shared understandings of everyone working together towards fulfilling guest requirements is emphasised.
On the other hand, rituals include formal & informal organisational processes. Examples of formal processes include employee induction programmes, staff training & development workshops etc. Informal process may take shape in the form of socialising after work for drinks, morning tea/coffee breaks etc (Robbins, 1994).
Rituals also include activities that maintain cultural values and beliefs. At Ramada Jarvis, rituals such as the staff consultative meeting which is held monthly helps ensure that all staff members are informed of any important events, operational decisions and key changes. The meeting is also open to taking new ideas from staff for improvements as well as engaging employees in decision making activities. Rituals also take form of ceremonies which are thought of as celebration of organisational culture which remind and reinforce cultural values (Brown, 1998). At Ramada Jarvis, employees who receive positive feedback for exceeding guest expectations are rewarded through formal recognition, by what is known as staff keeping in touch meeting held quarterly, for their quality performance. Such ceremonies are not only very positive for team morale but also motivate other staff members to replicate or even exceed the service delivery provided.
Stories are devices for telling people what is important in the organisation (Ott, 1989). They filter the essence of an organisation’s past. Stories told by staff to other staff members in different departments, new starters and outsiders – guests, apprenticeships, work experience students, contractors etc. highlight important events such as any major success or failure and personalities – heroes, villains and rebels.
The management at Ramada Jarvis actively encourage staff members to use initiative and take the extra step in pleasing the guests. This leads to several positive comments from guests where a guest problem has been turned into an opportunity to provide better quality service. Trip Advisor – a popular rate and review website is one example of several stories that are shared by previous guests about their pleasant stay or of a problem which was addressed and resolved in a timely and empathetic manner.
Stories also serve as important indicators of protocols, results of failure to comply with what is expected and required and thus the power structure of an organisation. Stories are custodians of the organisations beliefs and values as they help in recollecting information and generate belief (Wilkins, 1983). Stories are a tool which help organisations make claim to being different from their competitors (Martin, 1983; Robbins et al., 1994).
A popular story at the Ramada Jarvis is that of the hotel General Manager who worked his way up from being a Kitchen Porter within a matter of 10 years, thus highlighting the rewards for adopting company beliefs and values and demonstrating core behaviours expected by the organisation.
Symbols are used by companies to help identify themselves uniquely in a tough and competitive marketing environment. Symbols may take shape in the form of famous actors/role models, traditional occasions, celebrations, dress codes, buildings etc. (Brown, 1998). For an organisation like Ramada Jarvis, pictures of buildings are used in advertising. All staff are expected to look immaculate at all times and pay close attention to their appearance and grooming as this is regarded as a symbol of quality.
Abstractions such as “excellent service” and “top class quality” are often used at Ramada Jarvis Hotels in an attempt to promote the organisations operational and strategic objectives. However, as Schein (1984) has pointed out it is important to note that such terms may mean different things to different people in organisational cultures. Therefore, care should be taken that use of such terms have a universal understanding in the organisation or it may lead to serious communication problems.
The “R” symbol for Ramada Jarvis Hotels is recognised internationally and is used everywhere from the menus to the tissue paper, toiletries, carpet, pens, uniforms, customer invoices, guest bills etc. This is to reinforce the company’s mission statement of being “committed to create caring experiences, every customer, every time” in the minds of the guests and the general public.
4 Power Structures
Hickson et al (1971) highlighted the links between the focus of power in organisations and the supposed ability of such power – individuals/groups to reduce uncertainty. At Ramada Jarvis Hotels, it is the staff that are perceived as the most important resource without which it is not possible to achieve the desired culture of quality and caring experience for guests cannot be created. In an organisation where the service delivery and satisfaction of guest is the key priority, the function of human resources holds a lot of power. This is because of their crucial role in selecting and retaining staff that are service oriented people who work towards the achievement of the organisations corporate objectives. Each staff member is carefully selected with the help of psychometric tests and structured interviews, all designed to identify people with the right personality who will not only preserve the Ramada Jarvis culture but also who are career focussed and don’t look at the job as means to make ends meet.
Power resides in every single employee at Ramada Jarvis. Staff members are actively involved in decision making process and are empowered to make crucial decisions in those moments where initiative taken by a staff member can make or break the impression of a hotel in view of the guests. However, theorists such as Whipp (1993), express criticism regarding the labels used by management for such empowering process. He claims that labels such as “democratising the work- force” and “worker participation” are means to an end, not an end in themselves, and that it is a form of exploitation by another name.
Although there has not been any tangible evidence to suggest this is the case at Ramada Jarvis, it is evident that the use of such cultural approach has had numerous positive effects such as reduced guest complaints, staff members feeling responsible and trusted consequently leading to reduced staff turnover, good reputation of the organisation and an impression of quality service provided by the team at Ramada Jarvis Hotels.
5 Organisational Structure
In organisations such as hotels, there is a strong reliance on work groups for monitoring their own performance and also to invent new and different ideas to improve service delivery and ‘woo’ guest expectations. At Ramada Jarvis Hotels, it has been observed that competition amongst different work groups/departments is far more effective to not only improve the work place but also to generate motivation and satisfaction amongst the team inevitably leading to guest satisfaction and return. This works better compared to a structure that heavily relies on hierarchy, position in the hotel, policies and procedures. At Ramada Jarvis, such structures are considered as rather old fashioned and a flatter structure with fewer levels of reporting are preferred across the company. Such a structure has more focus on staff members working together as a team to support each other and constantly develop new ideas and suggestions on how to improve guest experience, provide quality service and increase business efficiency.
6 Control Systems
As the main focus at Ramada Jarvis Hotels is the quality of service provided and to exceed guest expectations, there is a lot of attention paid to the behaviour of team members. Behavioural control is exercised in the form of training. This is done from the commencement of an individual’s employment via induction where staff are educated how they should greet all guests with a smile. This is also followed up as part of refresher training for all staff members constantly reminding them that a simple gesture such as smiling is imperative in providing guest’s quality service and is also an important aspect of the company audit benchmarking, to check if each hotel follows the Ramada culture to the core.
Only recruiting people who can align themselves with the corporate objectives at Ramada Jarvis ensures further control. For example, the front of house staff across Ramada Jarvis Hotels are under 30, youthful, pleasant with outgoing personalities. They have been carefully selected with the intention to make them feel that they are wanted and that they have a significant contribution in the success of the organisation. This is done by highlighting the importance of the job role to the organisation and scope for career progression with Ramada Jarvis Hotels. This results in a team of staff members who are not only committed and loyal to the organisation but who are also career driven and want to progress within the company. Care is also taken to ensure that there are no tight controls regulated in any areas of the business. All employees are encouraged to take initiatives and be creative in solving guest problems and exceeding their expectations.
From the above discussion it is evident that culture has a strong role in the operational activities at Ramada Jarvis Hotels which shapes the employees responses to guests. Robbins et al. (1994) suggests that culture conveys a sense of identity for the organisation’s team members facilitating commitment larger than one’s own self-interest and providing a “social glue” which holds the organisation together and shapes the behaviour and attitudes of employees.
The key features at Ramada Jarvis Hotels that appear to explain the success of the organisational culture are flat hierarchy structures, shared goals of the organisation and staff members and planning that includes the costs of implementing and maintaining the culture of the hotel. This has resulted in efficiency, effectiveness and behavioural consistency across all staff members. With practises such as multi skilling and participative decision making staff members share a strong awareness of the organisations objectives and goals.
However, the organisational culture does have some limitations. Firstly, the amount of time and cost involved to implement an organisational culture can be very high. Second and more importantly, an organisational culture can create a very strong organisational identity among employees which may well become a handicap. For example, at Ramada Jarvis, attempts to introduce change outside of the agreed boundaries cause resistance amongst the teams. Management at Ramada Jarvis are very aware that in order to maintain a firm commitment from staff to the organisations goals and objectives, any changes made need to be in line with the organisational culture.
Thus, although dimensions of organisational culture are infused across all functional areas of the business, it is fair to say that management discretion is difficult to be exercised in its entirety in such an organisational culture. Any changes made by management without the involvement of staff could result in being counter-productive as it may be deemed to be against the organisational culture. On the other hand, a new strategy, approach or incentive jointly agreed can be implemented quickly as there is less time and effort spent dealing with any negative feelings or opposition by staff.
Overall, Ramada Jarvis Hotels have achieved much with its organisational culture. There is a sense of personal belief and commitments in the employees towards the company’s mission and philosophy. With the ultimate aim being guest satisfaction and guest experience, both management and staff are open to new ideas and suggestions to constantly improve on these. Staff motivation is achieved by way of adequate on the job training, rewards, appraisals and personal development plans for the progress of their career in partnership with line managers.
Such an organisational culture underpins an environment where employees not only plan their future with the hotel but also play a key role in planning the future of the hotel.
Ramada Jarvis Hotels are a chain of hotels that spread across the world. In such a widespread organisation, it is important to note that there are different national cultures which may have a direct impact on the organisational culture of the hotels. Therefore, management at Ramada Jarvis Hotels need to look at the possibility of an organisational culture being overridden by national culture. However, Adler (1886,1990) opposes the idea that national culture can have a greater impact on staff compared to their own organisational culture. Most Ramada Jarvis Hotels in England are located in cities with various ethnic diversities. This is also reflected in the staff population of the Ramada Jarvis Hotels where cross cultural interaction takes places not only between staff members but with guests alike.Order Now