How to Train Ordinary Heroes?

When thinking back at the last 13 weeks of this class, the case “The Ordinary Heroes Of the Taj” is definitely the one that made me and still makes me think the most. This story seems to come directly from the mind of Hollywood’s best writers.  Unfortunately this story dramatically happened. That day, ordinary people became ordinary heroes and part of it can be explained with a not so ordinary company: The Taj.  Everybody would like to think that he or she would have done the same. I have my doubts about that. Honestly I can say that I would not have reacted as well as the Taj’s employees.

What is really striking in this case is the number of people who became heroes. Usually in this kind of drama it is possible to find a person who acts as a “hero”. In this case all the employees have reacted as if they had been training their whole life for this event.

It is difficult to understand how this reaction happened. But we can be sure that the culture of the country and of the company played a huge role. I am convinced that this case can be the basis to improve our companies. Obviously all the companies cannot go to India to have the Indian culture but it is possible to replicate some points of the Taj Approach to HR.

Teach people to improvise rather than to do thing by the book.

In my opinion this is definitely the most important point. It is impossible to train the employees for every possible event, the company have nor the resources nor the time to do it. In addition our imagination is limited. Therefore the only viable solution is to train the people to improvise. This is obviously difficult and will ask time (Taj’s workers trained for 18 months instead of 12), but I am convinced it can have a huge impact on the company.

Ensure that employees can deal with guests (clients) without consulting a supervisor.

This point is closely linked with the previous one. It is worthless to train people to improvise if they need their supervisor’ authorization to act.  Giving more responsibility and more room to take decisions valorizes the employees which in turn can better serve the clients. As explained by a manager in the case :”if you empower employees to take decision

Insist that employees place guests ‘interests over the company’s.

This is difficult to implement because even in companies where “the client is king”, employees have a tendency to protect themselves and therefore to protect the company. This is a natural behavior but it is really shortsighted. The company needs to make totally clear that guest’s interests are over the company’s. This may have short term costs but it is nothing compared to what it can bring in the long run. In addition it is also good for the employees. As explained by a manager in the case:”if you empower employees to take decisions as agent of the customer, it energizes them and makes them feel in command.”

In conclusion, I am sure that those three points are the basis of the Taj employees’s reaction. I am even more convinced that just those 3 principles could lead to tremendous improvements in clients’ satisfaction, employees’ satisfaction and finally overall return for every company in the world.


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