In this installment of Our Stories, food and beverage manager, Chad Robinson shares how he managed to remain an awesome leader while enforcing COVID 19 safety protocols for his resort workers.…For many people, Jamaica is pictured as an island paradise- white sandy beaches, a beautiful and vivacious culture, rich and wholesome food, and attractive people. And while that image is not far from the truth if the lens is focused on the inspirational stories of ordinary Jamaicans, you’d find a sharper, richer, and truer image of the Jamaican experience… this is Our Stories!
“Mek Wi Smile & Sanitize!” This is the tagline for a developing communication campaign that will be aimed to promote safety awareness for local hospitality and tourism employees currently employed within the resort parishes of St. Ann and Montego Bay. In recognition of the fact that the hospitality sector is one of the primary contributors to the Jamaican economy, you might be thinking that there is COVID 19 safety awareness, specific for this sector, being promoted through the media, right? –Laughing- Well, through these interviews, we will certainly find out!
Meet Chad Robinson – A Concerned Manager
Chad Robinson, aged 34, is a Food & Beverage Manager at one of the prominent resorts in St. Ann. He has worked in several hotels and restaurants around the island and is currently supervising a team of 22 food service workers. Admired by his staff, motivated by his manager, and known by his many guests as a man of gaiety, Mr. Robinson demonstrated, through one telephone call, his ability to lead, his ability to be influential, and his ability to care for his team.
Mr. Robinson is also an inactive member of the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCo), and therefore, should have been aware of the COVID 19 safety protocols that were established by the TPDCo last month. Unexpectedly, it took him just “a couple days ago” (quoted by his exact words) to become aware of these protocols.
Furthermore, Mr. Robinson recognized that a large portion of his staff was not aware of the TPDCo entity. Below is Chad Robinson’s story, are you one of him?
- Give us an introduction of your job title and your specific roles and responsibilities at your company.
I’m a food and beverage manager and the responsibilities that are required of me is basically overseeing the food and beverage operations of the resort – supervising somewhere between 20 to 30 workers on a daily basis. Most persons would think that food and beverage only relates to the kitchen, but it’s actually more to it than that. I manage the dining area, the bar, room service, food procurement, and basically anything that relates directly and indirectly to food and beverage, that’s me. It’s definitely not an easy job but I do it for the love I have for it. (Mr. Robinson confidently stated with sternness in his gravelly voice).
- Wow, that’s impressive. Love your passion! You said you’re currently supervising a team of 20 plus workers, how has COVID 19 affected you as a leader to these workers?
It’s currently affecting me by not having all my staff members working. We had to do a significant cut to our labour force due to having insufficient revenues coming in. As a result, 40% of my staff is not here with me. I would really love to have all my workers present because this work is their bread & butter and it breaks my heart to know that they’re home not earning a living. We do give them a little thing as part of our COVID relief plan, but I honestly don’t think that’s enough, well, it’s certainly not enough. Nevertheless, I’ve been consulting with my superiors about having all my staff working on shifts or part-time and the future for that outcome seems promising so I’m happy about that.
- You’re really concerned about your workers. How have you been enforcing safety protocols for your current staff?
Doing temperature checks every day and wearing the appropriate mask are mandatory for all my staff. In fact, no one should be seen without a mask on while working. Every week, we distribute hand sanitizers for them to use during duty, along with new masks. The social distancing aspect now is a bit challenging for the staff to observe, but we make it work because whether they like it or not, it’s a critical preventive measure for the spread of the virus and I keep telling them that. Overall though, it’s not about enforcing, but rather encouraging. Enforcing is a bit too strict for me and I’m not a fan of creating an environment where my workers feel as if I’m controlling them as their boss. Know what I mean?
- Yes, I do know what you mean. However, if making your staff observe these protocols mean you being a controlling boss, wouldn’t you want to enforce and not just encourage?
That’s a good question. But, remember now, I encourage because I know exactly who and how my staff is. I’ve worked with them for almost three years now, so I personally know who they are. When I say encourage, it’s simply the fact that I’m aware of their behaviours and attitudes towards not just me as their manager, but the resort itself. That said, if the situation arises where they don’t want to comply, then enforcing would be necessary. But I rather make that become the last option.
- If the situation arises where you enforce, and I’m assuming that this would be a new approach to your staff., do you think they would see you differently as their manager?
Certainly not. The truth of the matter is that there have been very rare times where I had to enforce because encouraging was not enough, especially when it comes to introducing new rules that they were not accustom to, but even in those times, I try not to become excessively strict or too demanding of my staff, you know. And their perspective of me remains just the same.
- It seems that your staff truly respect you, what has contributed to this?
Nothing really. There’s no secret to having your staff respect you as their manager. It all comes down to showing respect to each and every staff member on every level and proving that you’re sympathetic and compassionate about not just them but the lives they live. That’s basically it.
- Would this be something that you would advise all upcoming managers to do?
Most definitely. This would be my number one advice for all future managers if they want their staff to willingly do exactly what they want them to do. If you make this a priority, then you’re on the path of becoming a great manager.
- As a leader, have you been encouraging any other safety protocols for your staff when engaging or in contact with guests?
Well yes, obviously. But the reality is, given the fact that you don’t know which of these guests might have the virus, my staff is extremely cautious to the extent that they don’t even want to talk to them. I have to keep telling them that guys, you can still engage the guest while maintaining the social distance. The last thing I would want as a manager, is one of my guests coming to me and telling me that they felt discriminated against by my staff, understand what I’m saying? At the end of the day, we need these people to have a wonderful time during their stay at the resort. I mean, they’re the ones paying us, come on people (Mr. Robinson explaining to me as if I was one of his staff).
- Sounds like you have experienced your staff discriminating guests. Was this the case?
Yes, this was the case but fortunately, it didn’t reach that stage… it actually did and it escalated so fast but I was there to correct it.
- What occurred?
I rather not say, but it was a situation that ended both positively and negatively…
- You said you have been encouraging other safety protocols for your staff to observe, can you share some of these protocols with us?
Ok, the first thing we had to do was to adjust our work areas and the overall property to meet the social-distancing guidelines. Our staff was encouraged not to spend more than ten minutes of close contact with guests which was actually recommended by the CDC. In the kitchen where, you know, spaces can be extremely tight with a lot of workers, we encouraged the chefs to spread out the prep area. We also encourage, discourage rather, all workers from congregating on the property after their duty has ended. Every Monday we would have a general staff meeting, but we discontinue that and we’re now communicating by video chat or sometimes I’d just send an email. We’ve implemented several minor changes but these, I would say, are the main measures we’ve done so far and there’re still more to come.
- Would you say your staff is observing these measures effectively?
There have been times where I had to be continuously reminding them of the measures because they’re so used to the old habits so it will take some time. But apart from this, I’ve been getting a good response from them. And to note, I’ve done this without actually enforcing anything on them so…can’t complain.
- You spoke on the protection of your staff, but how have you been protecting yourself from international guests?
Basically, wearing my mask and consistently sanitizing my hands. There’s more to it than that yes, but I actually encourage communication with my guests, especially the ones that I personally know from past bookings. In fact, sometimes I’ll have an elbow shake with them if I have to. I’ll try every means possible to engage my guest, as long as it’s not affecting my workers….but my staff thinks otherwise. (He finally laughed).
- So, instead of trying to stay far from these international guests, you actually embrace them?
Embrace them with every means possible, again, without breaching the protection of me and my workers. You need to understand that it is these people that are keeping the resort in operation and keeping me with a job. (We laugh simultaneously)
- Prior to the interview, you said that you’re an inactive member of the TPDCo, how long have you been a member?
I’ve actually been a member of the TPDCo since around late 2017, 2018, sometime around there. Most persons would ask me what I mean by inactive member, but it basically means that I’m not directly involved with the company. I just do presentations on behalf of the company every now and then., you know, pertaining to my field and the country’s tourism product.
- The TPDCo established some COVID 19 safety protocols for hospitality and tourism workers a few months ago. How soon where you aware of these protocols?
I’ll be totally honest with you; it was just a couple days ago that I went on their YouTube page and saw several videos about these safety procedures. Then, I went on their website and realized that there was a long list of information on there. (This interview was conducted on August 19).
- But as a member of the TPDCo, I’d expect you to know these protocols even before they were out. Why it took you that long to become aware?
Understandable, but, again, I’m an inactive member. It’s not like I get notifications or anything like that about the company. Matter of fact, the last time I did a presentation for them was sometime in December.
- Are you currently enforcing these protocols to your staff?
Enforcing, no. But encouraging, yes, and my staff is consistent with these procedures.
- They are consistent with these protocols because of you?
If it wasn’t for me, they wouldn’t even know about these measures. I had to encourage them to view the videos and read the guidelines. In fact, to motivate them, we did a quiz and the winners would get a prize from me.
- That’s awesome! How have these protocols affected you as a manager?
It doesn’t really affect me too much because, at the end of the day, it all comes down to protecting my staff and protecting my resort. Going off these authoritative measures at least makes me feel that my staff can trust me as their leader. Know what I mean?
- Yes, I do, and what about your guests?
My guests totally understand these measures and the reasons behind them. I mean, it’s also for their own safety, so why would they fuss about it.
- Have any of your staff caught the virus from working at the resort?
No comment…I’m just kidding (we laughed). No, to my knowledge, none of my staff have been in contact with the virus at the resort and I plan to keep it that way, so let’s hope for the best.
- Prior to the interview, I requested that you asked your staff if they knew about the TPDCo. Can you share your findings with us?
I was actually glad that you requested that because the majority of them don’t know the TPDCo. I mean, how can you not know a company like that where its main principles surround the same industry that you’re working in. Dem know now dou! (It was at this beautiful moment where Mr. Robinson finally uttered a piece of patois).
- Since your staff didn’t know about these safety protocols, would a communication campaign to promote these protocols, help you and your team to become more aware?
Most definitely. I mean, why limit the information to just a website and a YouTube page.
- That’s what I’ve been saying all along. We continued the interview further, however, both our passions collided, and we talked about everything that had absolutely nothing to do with the topic of the interview.
This is what Chad Robinson and many other hospitality managers and employees are currently experiencing at their workplace pertaining to the awareness of the COVID 19 safety protocols. It is evident that the conceptualization of the communication campaign unequivocally NEEDS to be in its complete execution to protect these hospitality employees, without affecting the positive engagement of international guests.