Why winning the service excellence game is all about people

Your single most important management decision now and in the foreseeable future – will be picking the right people, for the right task. Here’s why

Picking the right people with the right skills may seem as an obvious objective in a hiring process. Yet, we repeatedly experience that employees in service positions struggle to deliver service excellence at a level that will win the game.

Why is that?

Sometimes our focus on getting a task solved overshadows the importance of finding just the right employee, with the right skills, motivation and capabilities to solve the task at hand.
Speaking of Service Excellence where we repeatedly advocate for putting purpose (making people happy) before the task– this is a huge issue.

Employees need to be confident in mastering the task

To drive service excellence, employee engagement and satisfaction - employees need to be confident in mastering the task and able to understand the expectations from the customers and the management.


Confidence only comes when the employees have the necessary knowledge and skills to match the task. I choose to call this element; Competence.

Competence consists of knowing the purpose of the service and the requirements of the profession.

The employee also needs to have the practical abilities and the right personal characteristics to fulfill the job at hand. Working in the hospitality industry as an example, having strong interpersonal skills is a must, whereas this characteristic may not be as important when working with programming or data mining.

Next, employees need the ambition and the inner momentum to keep them going and deliver good performances. In my terms, this is best reflected in the word; Motivation.

Motivation arises with personal goals and ambitions as well as an inner drive and willpower. Motivation can also arise from external influence. This can be appraisals and the creation of a workplace environment where employees feel happy, comfortable and can thrive.

Why I’m sharing this?

The above way of thinking can help you defining job requirements and what it will take for an employee to successfully do his/her job. You can nevertheless use this method in appraisals and 360 evaluations when considering:

  • Training and development
  • Relocation
  • Termination

Personally, I have used this approach with a great outcome when relocating employees from one task or location, to another. I have experienced employees who struggled to live up to expectations at one place, achieved great success in another.

There are often alternatives to termination. Managers only need to dedicate time to understand their employees, learn about their capabilities and find just the right spot for the employee to shine and thrive.

Even though having just the right person in every position remains a dream, I’m confident that this approach, will get you closer to it than you were the day before.

And now you have come that far, the next step will be to reflect on how you best can involve your employees (who are in the right place), in planning and decisions, give them power to interact with the management and the customers and let them be the players who can win the service excellence game.

About Jan-Einar Edvardsen

Jan- Einar Edvardsen is the Regional Director for ISS Catering in Eastern Norway. The region consists of 6 counties around the Oslo area, and comprises about 275 employees in 150 canteens and employee restaurants.
Jan-Einar has a background and experience from the hospitality industry, as a chef, and in hotels and service for more than 30 years. The last 25 years as a manager and leader. He`s got a college degree from The Norwegian Arctic University, and worked for many years with the development of quality management and service excellence with the Norwegian Arctic travel and adventure industry.
Jan-Einar is very keen to create good service experiences through people, and his leadership mantra is always "Everything begins with the right person in the right place".