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Business Processes Innovation in the Hotel Delfin – An Applied Innovation for Students in Business Case Study

The Applied Innovation for Students in Business (AISAB) project supports SMEs in generating innovation through student led consultancy projects across Europe. In spring 2018 three projects were carried out by University of Primorska (Faculty of Management) postgraduate students. This is the story of one of those projects.

The Client

Hotel Delfin d.o.o. is a three-star hotel located in Izola on the Slovenian coast. The hotel is owned by the not for profit organization officially called the Organization of Pensioners' Associations of Slovenia. The structure of the guests reflects the hotel’s ownership. Mostly they are returning guests, many of them visiting several times a year for longer periods of time (some for up to three weeks, four times a year). The needs of new generations of pensioners are changing, many want different, more vibrant contents and programmes and many are now taking their grandchildren with them too. The hotel offers 219 rooms, all equipped with bathrooms, telephone, cable TV, Wi-Fi access, a balcony, air conditioning and a hairdryer. The hotel also offers guests unlimited access and use of the indoor pool throughout the year and an outdoor pool open during the summer months (June to October). It also offers accompanying facilities such as a beauty salon, a massage salon, a hairdresser, a physio therapeutic clinic and sports facilities, as well as guided activities such as guided gymnastics outside and water aerobics, bowling, tennis, and the volleyball.

The Project

Hotel's CEO pointed out a persistent problem with the optimization of the working hours for the employees in the catering department. The main issue has been split shift schedule which creates several effects, among them the dissatisfaction of the employees who are working split shifts and for the company the increased costs as a result. In case of split shifts, the company pays out double transportation costs to its employees and a bonus to split shift work. For identifying the causes of the problem and finding potential solutions, the Ishikawa diagram also known as the Fish Bone method was used. This method was used after conducting semi-structured interviews with the employees.

The Innovation (proposed initial solutions)

Based on the collected information and ideas, three viable ideas that could help to or completely solve problems with a split shift schedule were developed. The ideal solution would be a complete removal of split shifts in the first place. However, proposals were aimed at changing the split shift schedule to just two shifts, that is the morning and the afternoon shift with some workers who would be filling the schedule and have a sliding arrival (still work full block but starting perhaps later in the morning).

Option 1: New ways of managing the schedule

  • Transition to use of a software supported program for creating schedules. Training in the use of the program should also be provided in this regard.
  • The possibility of delegating the schedule management to someone else and freeing some of hospitality manager’s the time for more hands-on management tasks and training for new employees and in-training of the existing ones.
  • Systematization to determine the precise costs of split shifts.
  • Increasing the flexibility of service and catering employees, cooperation among different outlets and exchange of workers when needed (restaurant, hotel bar, pizzeria, beach hut).
  • Really consider organization of work shifts; workers should be placed into the positions more efficiently; hotel plans for meal times could be changed.

Option 2: More student internships (high school and university level)

  • To complete their studies, students are often required to complete a certain amount of internship hours. We suggest closer cooperation with tourism and hospitality schools from all Slovenian regions. During the high seasons, the hotel could provide accommodation for students in the vicinity or directly at the hotel. This would help students gain independence and ensure intergenerational integration.
  • A paid internship would motivate students to work at Hotel Delfin during their obligatory training and potentially after studies as a career.
  • After 4 - 6 hours of service at breakfast time students could be offered the opportunity to work as local tourist guides and take groups of guests on short trips or walks. It is also possible to introduce workshops for children (for example, in April 2018, 354 children stayed at the hotel). We anticipate that the demand for student work and internships would increase with this, because such work would be more interesting and attractive to them. Quality of internships and mentoring programmes could be increased and better promoted.
  • The system of employee performance management should be better defined with clear targets and rewards.

Option 3: Less flexibility for meal bookings

  • Daily excursions visitors (large groups of up to 200 people) should be obliged to book lunch with the hotel at least one week before to allow enough time to ensure appropriate staff coverage (and avoid the need for last minute split shifts).
  • Hotel should notify about this the owner (ZDUS) and all the associate members who are organizing the day excursions.
  • The guest should choose whether they will eat lunch or dinner in case of half board package at the time of booking or latest at the time of checking in at the hotel.
  • Eliminate the possibility of changing lunch with dinner and vice versa at the last moment in the half board packages.

Additional ideas worth exploring and testing out

  • Offer packed lunches instead of full lunch service (feasible if breakfast is moved to later hour and dinner is moved to an earlier hour).
  • Do not allow guests to bring food from the restaurant.

The Impact

The first idea of introducing a software supported programme for creating work schedules was best accepted by the hotel's management. Several Slovenian software providers and programs most commonly used for creating and tracking the work schedules were presented to them. Many have the ability to connect with hotel’s booking system which can systemize the work in all areas of work in a hotel very well.
A second proposal (to increase students' practice as internships) was viewed upon as very complex and not so straightforward to implement. The hotel representatives however did agree that a well-organized quality mentoring programme could attract more students at university level to work at the hotel during Summer months.
An idea of schedule creation to be delegated to someone else instead of the Catering manager was also very well accepted by the CEO.
Due to the start of the high Summer season, the implementation of solutions could not have be done immediately, but the management will try to implement them in the after-season or in the winter, when they will have fewer guests.

The Links

Participating students

This innovation consultancy student project was carried out by students Korana Kovačević, Anja Nograšek and Tina Žitko.