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Operational Assessment

It is often said that people take jobs because they buy into an organization’s vision, but they leave jobs due to the relationship with their manager.  While vital, these are just two of many key factors that drive performance and retention in a business or a household.  Other key issues include such meaningful factors as how well the work fits the employee’s unique talents, what recognition employees receive for their achievements, what policies and administration govern their work, and clarity surrounding the work itself.

An Operational Assessment can not only evaluate what is working and what needs to be addressed in a household, it can also uncover risks and opportunities related to the retention of key staff.

An Operational Assessment, or simply an ‘assessment’, typically follows a structured approach to reviewing the essential elements of any domestic operation.  Initially, the facts are gathered with regard to the size and scope of the household.  Goals are established with the principals to understand exactly what they want to accomplish.  Pain points requiring immediate attention are uncovered. 

Service levels and standards are then reviewed or developed to ensure the operation fits how the family lives (or want to live), and a site visit helps clarify details that will drive the types of skill levels and number of staff or vendors required to maintain the property and serve the family. (These steps may be initiated simultaneously or sequentially, but all are important inputs to any future recommendations.)

Key Steps to an Operational Assessment

1. Develop Fact Base. 
     a. Homes:  locations, sizes, systems
     b. Staff:  names, duties, tenure, expertise, performance, schedules
     c. Assets:  vehicles, systems, technology
     d. Lifestyle:  service levels, preferences, priorities, plans
     e. Admin:  HR and legal processes, insurance, etc.

2. Interview the Principals.  
     a. Goals:  desired outcomes and timing
     b. Priorities:  immediate needs, staging of activity, long term objectives
     c. Service Levels:  engagement, etiquette, routines, guest service, entertaining
     d. Standards: quality measures, house rules, do’s / don’ts

3. Conduct a Site Visit.
     a. Inventory: identify and log all buildings, systems, mechanicals, appliances
     b. Staff: interview staff, review employee files for completeness
     c. Resources: assess local staffing sources, vendors, and employment laws
     d. Needs: develop a list of needs by property

The assessment can really influence retention by dealing with the fundamental elements of building a work environment that will attract and retain top performers.  To accomplish this, it is helpful to use additional elements such as an employee engagement survey.  Do people know what is expected of them?  Are they equipped to do their job right?  Are they utilizing their talents?  Are they being praised or rewarded on a regular basis?

Assessing these elements is done best by an objective third party.  No predispositions enter the discussion.  Facts can be balanced against perceptions, and a level of anonymity can be maintained, if necessary.  As well, the consultant can identify opportunities to improve the employee’s ‘engagement’ through the use of best practices that have worked elsewhere and make recommendations that are less offensive to the principals or other staff.

For example, if one employee wants written feedback, but the estate manager knows that the principals hate paperwork, the idea of implementing written annual performance reviews may never be raised.  As an outsider, we can credibly point to the importance of written performance evaluations, provide samples, and even offer to conduct them as an ongoing service following the assessment.  Similar obstacles may be address with respec to employee development, training, rewards and recognition programs, and connecting employees to peers who can provide professional mentorship and camaraderie.

Most of all, a thorough assessment will create and promote a forum for communication.  As dialogue begins on the overall management of one or more homes, invariably other issues surface and can be addressed prior to an emotional episode or surprise termination.

Clients interested in an Operational Assessment may contact the Manager of their nearest office for more information.  Assessments are usually conducted as a flat fee that covers the investigational development of the fact base, interviews with principals, a site visit, and the development of recommendations.  Larger estates, multiple properties, and multinational travel add to the cost of the assessment, but all fees will be disclosed prior to engagement.