Developing Employees with a Heart for Service: An Employee Spotlight

Written By Ann Ashley


Authentic Leadership

Recently, I heard an incredible story from Biltmore’s ticketing center of an employee who went above and beyond her normal duties to create an exceptional experience for one of our guests. 

As the story goes, one of our ticketing hosts, Susan, was working on a summer afternoon when a couple came into Biltmore’s Ticketing Center. The couple had planned to get engaged during their trip to Biltmore, but the ring had not arrived before their visit. As Susan was helping the couple purchase their day passes, the woman complimented her on a ring that she was wearing. Without a moment’s hesitation, Susan pulled the ring off her own finger and offered it to the man so that he would have something to give his soon-to-be fiancée when he proposed. The couple was shocked, but Susan refused to let them return the ring later, wishing them a happy life together. The guests were blown away by Susan’s generosity. 

Fostering a Heart of Service in Your Employees

What can we take from this story? When an employee, like Susan, has a genuine desire to serve, showing hospitality to others is effortless. Hospitality can be as simple as politely answering a guest’s question or providing them with a bottle of water when they arrive, however, serving the right customer at the right time is not exceptional service; it is expected. At Biltmore, we know that our guests expect to feel something extraordinary – these personalized, unique experiences cannot be embedded into systems and processes, rather, they must come authentically from our employees. 

It is our job, as leaders, to affirm actions that create a culture of service in our organization. To identify employees with a heart for service, it’s helpful to ask questions such as:

  1. Does an employee continually go the extra mile to make sure a guest or customer is taken care of? 
  2. Does an employee exemplify business core values in a way that promotes company culture? 
  3. Does an employee integrate the business mission statement in their everyday work? 

Rewarding and Recognizing a Heart for Service

When an employee goes above and beyond their normal duties, it is essential to reward and encourage their behavior. Here are some Biltmore tips for recognizing and developing employees with a heart for service:

  1. Affirm the employee and let them know how their act supports the company mission. This simple encouragement can further foster their heart and desire for future acts of service. 
  2. Share the story with employees in a manner that encourages others to find their own ways of promoting exceptional service. 
  3. Seek ways to celebrate those employees who have a heart for service. 
  4. Attract and hire employees who exemplify the business' core values and a heart for service. 

In Susan’s case, her act went above and beyond our expectations for customer service, but it certainly did not go unnoticed.  Susan later won Biltmore’s Annual Acorn Award for Exceptional Employee Service. While such grand acts of gracious hospitality are not always as easy, anyone with a heart for service can leave a lasting impression on guests and fellow employees. Having a heart for service fosters an environment of positive company culture and gracious employees. 

Ask yourself: What is one way you can you develop a culture where employees seek to perform heroic acts of service? 

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Ann Ashley is Biltmore’s Vice President of Talent & Organizational Development, strategicially spearheading Biltmore’s recruiting, development, and employee training initiatives.