Relentless turnover challenges the sanity of even the most composed hotel manager. I would know: after owning two restaurants that employed 70 people at peak times, the constant battle against turnover triggers plenty of stressful memories. We tried offering health insurance and a living wage for BOH employees, but the economic realities of the low-margin restaurant business made this nearly impossible. Add in the appeal of jobs in less low wage industries, and hiring and retaining quality candidates with a passion for hospitality was always the top challenge. While hotels enjoy slightly better margins than standalone restaurants, the labor crunch extends equally. As hospitality businesses struggle to stay staffed up, a “mercenary frenzy” leads to lower-than-usual loyalty among workers who shop around for the best offer -- and jump ship at the slightest opportunity for a greater wage. Even with generous benefits, it can be incredibly difficult to retain staff. Rising rents and low wage growth, coupled with low unemployment in the U.S., have sharpened employee focus on gross wages above all else. To combat these employment trends, HR managers for hotels must rely on tools to increase their own productivity around sourcing new hires, as well as retaining dedicated team members with flexible scheduling and professional development opportunities. While there are certain features of the hospitality business that make hiring difficult, such as wage competitiveness, the right technology helps HR managers excel in an challenging labor environment. The role of an HR manager When it comes to technology, It's important to match the functionality with the desired outcomes. Let's briefly review the roles and responsibilities of the hospitality HR manager: Sourcing. The HR manager sources potential candidates through online platforms, employee referrals, and personal networks. Interviewing and hiring. The HR manager screen candidates and oversees the process alongside hiring managers. Onboarding. Once hired, the new employee’s onboarding must be swift and thorough, balancing quality with speed. Retention. Existing employees are assets that must be treated as such. An HR managers helps retain staff, which is vital to the consistency of the guest experience and the profitability of the hotel. Each of these roles as a specific subset of technology that, when implemented correctly, makes the hospitality HR manager more productive and successful in the role. Candidate sourcing Turnover for most hotels reaches far into the double digits. This figure is even larger for those hospitality brands that also hire for extensive food and beverage operations. The churn puts hospitality HR managers on constant offense when it comes to sourcing quality candidates. HR managers should use a three-part strategy, sourcing potential candidates through staffing and recruiting networks, employee referrals, and personal networks. A blended approach brings a greater mix of candidates, and contributes to a healthy talent pipeline. An emerging category of online platform especially compelling for today’s hospitality HR managers is on-demand staffing. With an on-demand workforce, HR manages can fill unexpected labor gaps, both short and long-term. While the hiring process may be less rigorous and more suited for filling roles with specific responsibilities, these platforms are a useful addition to any hospitality HR managers toolkit. Speed to hire Staff departures are common -- but can still catch management off guard. The HR manager must be equipped to quickly hire candidates by moving them through the hiring funnel in the shortest amount of time. The “speed to hire” metric, which Hired defines as “the total time the candidate spends in the funnel,” is an immensely useful metric for hospitality hiring. “We define speed to hire as the total time the candidate spends in the hiring funnel from initial sourcing to offer acceptance.” -Hired.com By tracking how long it takes to hire, HR managers improve business outcomes by helping department heads replace outgoing stuff and fill new roles quickly. Another benefit: quality candidates have less time to be snagged by others. In the competition for talent, a mere hours can make a huge difference in closing a new hire. The Applicant Tracking Software is the hospitality HR manager’s greatest ally. It encompasses all aspects of the hiring funnel, from sourcing candidates down to the eventual hire. Effective management of this process leads to greater hiring success. Once the candidate is in the funnel, avoid scheduling hassles and use on-demand video interviews which are more candidate friendly. Potential employees can submit these videos on their own time, which also frees up HR managers with far fewer initial candidate screens. When evaluating Applicant Tracking Software, look for these types of automations that boost productivity and enhance the hiring experience. The best candidates see disorganized hiring processes as warning signs. Onboarding Once the candidate has accepted, now it's all about how quickly she can be trained. Just like with speed-to-hire, an efficient training process prepares the employee to be an individual contributor. The faster this happens, the lower the turnover costs associated with filling an open role. The trick is to balance speed with quality -- what’s the minimum amount of time that this person, at this experience level, needs to become an integrated team member? In collaboration with the hiring manager, the HR manager should shape the training process to be as mutually beneficial to both the organization and the candidate. Most candidates want to be trained, but many will be turned off by overtraining or a disorganized onboarding process. Applicant Tracking Systems with on-boarding functionality make it easy for HR managers to check-in with new employees periodically in the first few weeks on the job. Retain and reward Regardless of the business, turnover costs money. With each lost employee, the business faces additional costs related to finding replacement workers, training them, and often paying overtime to workers covering the schedule gaps in the meantime. [Turnover] has high management costs associated with it as you’ll need more exempt managers to ensure training, quality and to pick up the pieces when the quality is just not there. -Restaurateur Azhar Hashem on Why SF Restaurants are Suffocating. Mitigating these costs must be top-of-mind for an HR professional. Since it's far more affordable (and beneficial to both the guest experience and staff satisfaction), focus on retention through a positive employee experience and strong professional development support. The current state of the employee experience can be captured with employee engagement software that gather real-time feedback so HR managers can take the pulse of the organization often. These platforms also improve on-property staff communications, reducing mistakes, increasing productivity, and generally making everyone’s day that much better. Workers and hospitality often prioritize flexibility when it comes to scheduling. For those workers, it's important to offer mobile-optimized scheduling tools that facilitate shift trading and communications among colleagues. Some employees won't have access to computers at home, so these mobile-optimized solutions encourage engagement without alienating a core subset of staff. Many of these tools also integrate labor management, which provides a better on-property life for staff with digital logbooks, as well as performance benchmarks to reward high-performing teams. Payroll solutions should also be reliable and accurate, as a consistently paid staff is the bedrock of any hotel. Hotels must also reward the most promising employees with additional responsibilities and perks wherever possible. Beyond the obvious, such as promoting from within and seeking growth opportunities for the most promising staff, HR managers can more productively support staff with professional development features embedded in staff engagement software. By codifying the professional development process, HR managers boost retention by lighting the path for ambitious staff. All in all, be communicative, adaptable, and action-oriented. The best hospitality HR managers stretch across the entire organization, collaborating and hustling to keep staff quality and retention high. And never underestimate the power of a simple “thank you.”
Hotel HR & Staffing Software Articles
Creating a great work environment is the single biggest determinant of success for any business. Companies that foster great work environments attract the best people and the best people build the best products. A 2017 study that analyzed 326,000 employee reviews at publicly traded companies found that firms with high employee satisfaction outperformed the overall stock market each year by 135bp (1.35%). A similar study of 400,000 employee ratings found evidence of a statistical relationship between employee perception and a firm’s future earnings. Sophisticated enterprise software buyers know that when they partner with a technology company, they are buying into not just its products but its vision, mission and team. These buyers perform due diligence to understand the viability of any business that they plan to partner with and a deep analysis of employee satisfaction and vendor culture is part of that process. Hotel Tech Report hosts this award not just to help the community find great jobs, but also to help fast track diligence for hotel tech buyers who want to learn about the best vendors to work with. Understanding organizational culture is important for software buyers because companies that create great work environments retain employees longer, service customers better and innovate faster. Perks like ping pong tables, office snacks and vacation days are nice, but our 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech list is determined by the glue that holds companies together. Each year we ask thousands of employees at hotel tech companies how they feel about their employers and anonymize the results. The 2019 scoring is based on 7 key data points: Work-life balance: Please rate how well your employer promotes work/life balance. Personal development: How much importance does your employer place on your own personal development? Gender equality: How would you rate the opportunities available to women in your firm? Employee confidence: How much confidence do you have in the future of your company? Values alignment: How well do your values align with the culture of your organization? Employee engagement: How passionate are employees about the company? Growth prospects: How many open roles are there for your employees to grow into? Without further adieu we give you 2019's 10 Best Places to Work in Hotel Tech: 10. Triptease Our research on Triptease validates that the Company truly lives and breathes the ethos of its name. Employees consistently cited off-sites and team trips as the highlights of their year. According to LinkedIn data, Triptease has grown its employee count 72% in the last 2 years. Sometimes when companies grow that quickly, it’s hard to maintain a great team culture. With the team spread all around the world, Triptease brings new employees for training and team building to the LondonHQ. New employees rave about the experience for the learning and friendships that come from it. Other notable events include Triptease’s renowned Direct Booking Summits (America, Europe, Asia) and a company wide Christmas party in Madrid (let us know if you need HTR on the scene to cover next year’s party - this one sounded like a rager!). Triptease employees are constantly blown away by how much management cares. One employee cited an unexpected bonus for a month of killer performance and another described to us how open management is to employee travel focused on career development. Ultimately, Triptease is one a big happy family and employees around the world are constantly connecting through a multitude team building activities and trips. Employees love the fast paced nature of consistently launching new innovative products. Check out open positions at Triptease 9. GuestRevu GuestRevu had a year in which critical company milestones rallied the team together. Not only did GuestRevu acquire a large regional competitor but the team also launched a major version update that required all hands on deck. Despite all the craziness of rapid growth, a new version launch and a major acquisition - one employee raved to Hotel Tech Report about how supportive the entire team was during the loss of a loved one. Another told us that she often needs to bring her 9-year old to work where he is always made to feel welcome and at home. The firm is so committed to its team that it sent out a company wide survey asking what employees wanted to learn and then purchased everyone access to Udemy classes to help them develop those new skills. The marketing team took classes on video editing and is already leveraging those skills to develop a series of video case studies for GuestRevu. Check out open positions at GuestRevu 8. Beekeeper For a company building software to help teammates communicate better - Beekeeper takes employee engagement and experience very seriously internally. As one employee told us, “Beekeeper does an excellent job of capturing feedback and always checking in to understand where you want to go and providing actionable feedback and support to get you there.” The Company promotes a healthy lifestyle through lunchtime sports and CrossFit. Taking it one step further, Beekeeper offers unlimited PTO and flexible work schedules to accommodate the expectations of the modern workforce. Beekeeper’s culture exudes transparency and humility. One employee told us that the team was initially put off by management’s decision to require employees to clean dishes at an off site before they realized that this was all part of the team building. This employee told us that the people they ended up washing dishes with ended up being their closest new friends and that the experience gave them an opportunity to bond in a way that most rarely do in the modern workplace. Another employee told us about a rewarding experience they had volunteering together at a homeless shelter. The team’s humility shined through further when a new employee (2 weeks in) alerted management about tensions between two departments. Much to their surprise both teams were thrilled to hear their new colleague’s insight and showed their appreciation. Management even went one step further offering this individual to run a huge cross-departmental retrospective 5 weeks into their job. It’s not often that companies are so open to self-reflection and change coming from a new junior hire and we really admire the culture that Beekeeper has nurtured. Check out open positions at Beekeeper 7. Hotel Effectiveness Hotel Effectiveness is an incredibly successful company that largely flies under the radar of hotel tech buzz. The Company provides revolutionary labor management software that we’ve covered here. If there’s one word that sums up the Hotel Effectiveness team culture - it’s ‘performance’. Employees are unilaterally motivated by consistently hitting lofty sales goals time and again. As a testament to this performance driven culture - one employee told us that one time their boss had to tell them to go home early and make some time for family when they were overworking themselves. This performance culture isn’t mandated from the top and is completely grassroots in that it’s driven by internal employee motivation and ambition. While you can expect to work alongside incredibly driven and ambitious colleagues at Hotel Effectiveness - they definitely know how to have a good time host a hilarious annual white elephant Christmas party. Check out open positions at Hotel Effectiveness 6. Revinate Revinate’s culture is characterized by constant iteration and testing. The Company is always trying new things and that affords a ton of learning opportunities to team members. This year while the technical team executed a full shift from hosted data center to cloud based AWS infrastructure the sales and marketing teams were tasked to rapidly grow the install base of the Revinate Marketing product. Both teams executed with near perfection and everyone celebrated with an impromptu party where key team members reflected on the incredible achievements of such a relatively short time period. Revinate embodies the startup spirit with enterprise scale. Revinate CEO Marc Heyneker is deeply involved in the day to day operations of the business and employees across the organization rave about his ability to inspire and teach. One employee told us a story about a serious head injury that left this person working remotely for several months. His team made sure to make him feel included as part of the office through the entire time away but that was only the beginning. The employee recalled being shocked that over a year after his injury Heyneker pulled him aside to check in on his health and to ask what he could do personally to help. Check out open positions at Revinate 5. Cloudbeds Cloudbeds management recently surprised its team with a beautiful new San Diego headquarters equipped with a 14 ft indoor willow tree, a massive outdoor workspace, game areas, stand up workstations and more. The environment is fun, welcoming and echoes the company theme - all things travel. Cloudbeds has an extensive wellness program because management knows that healthy employees are productive ones. This productivity paid off in 2018 where Cloudbeds achieved #75 on Inc Magazine’s fastest growing companies list. How are they growing so fast you ask? Well it’s probably because CEO Adam Harris told the team he’d dance to any song of their choosing. We will keep you posted once we get our hands on the video from Harris’ co-founder Richard Castle. The Company maintains several internal chat threads exclusively for team sharing of funny photos, videos and memes - so we expect the video to surface there as well. All jokes aside, Cloudbeds takes both employee and team growth very seriously. Each employee has weekly 1-1 meetings to review competencies and revisit their path to promotion. The Company is growing rapidly and there are constant opportunities for employees who prove themselves. Cloudbeds is also a 100% flexible organization where remote employees and those stationed at the headquarters all enjoy the ability to work from anywhere anytime. Cloudbeds has fostered a culture where its team members truly enjoy hanging outside of work and building friendships important for their personal and professional lives. Several Ukrainian teammates trained for a marathon together and one customer success rep has leveraged her friendship with the UX designers to pursue her passion for design. After taking several courses independently the UX team has given her several opportunities to practice her skills on live projects. Check out open positions at Cloudbeds 4. Clock Software Clock Software is another company on our list that is growing insanely fast but doesn’t take itself too seriously. One Clock employee told us that on their birthday coworkers wrapped his entire workstation and even put a bow on it. The only complaint we heard from Clock Software team members was that they are growing too fast and needed more staff to manage the growth. This is the best kind of problem to have. Clock is the oldest company on our list and celebrated their 22nd anniversary this year - a testament to the longevity of the business. Clock founder Krasimir Trapchev has focused on growing the client base without scaling the team too quickly. Trapchev is all about execution and he’s prioritized building a long term sustainable business over rapid scaling which is extremely unique in an environment where funding is so plentiful that CryptoKitties, a company that enables users to breed and trade digital cats can raise $15M. Clock is now starting to scale the team so it can take on more enterprise clients and its employees are fired up. If you want to learn how to build a real business without massive amounts of venture capital - check out open jobs at Clock because Trapchev is the Mr. Miyagi of entrepreneurship and you’d be wise to make yourself his Karate Kid. Check out open positions at Clock 3. Screen Pilot Screen Pilot takes team building very seriously with activities like bubble soccer, a British Bakeoff (it’s ok we Googled it, too), volunteering at an animal shelter, an escape room and even a city wide scavenger hunt around its hometown in Denver. The scavenger hunt and Screen Pilot’s quarterly volunteer days are a testament to Screen Pilot’s commitment to the surrounding community. While Screen Pilot is a top rated digital marketing agency, it’s a technology innovator as much as a marketing service provider. The Company has created what it calls SP Labs where employees brainstorm ways to better leverage technology to help its clients win more direct bookings. Think of SP Labs like an ongoing internal hackathon with dedicated teams set on solving acute problems for clients. It’s this kind of innovative mindset that lead Screen Pilot to a 2018 Adrian Award for social content creation. Check out open positions at Screenpilot 2. Mews Systems If you caught the Mews Systems booth at WTM you might think that it was a rocket science company with all the lab coats and futuristic decor that earned it the Best Stand Award. While Mews isn’t quite a rocket science company it is taking off like a rocketship having doubled its client base in the second half of 2018 alone. To support that kind of insane customer growth Mews had to 4x its team size in the last year - the fastest growth of any company in our list. So how can a company even hire that fast? Mews attracts 40% of new hires via referrals. If that doesn’t say something about the company culture we don’t know what does. With that kind of insane growth supported by an $8M Series A in June you’d think it’s all business but Mews employees say it’s very much a “work hard, play hard” culture. One employee told us that one of his favorite things about working at Mews is “daily banter with the boizz” - this kind of hilariousness is exactly what’s helped the Company take the industry by storm. Hoteliers everywhere are sick of generic jargon and boring brand marketing from hotel tech firms and Mews is the antidote. Employees frequently cite founder Richard Valtr and CEO Matt Welle as saying “At Mews we are family and we will take care of any family member in need." Mews also boasts an extremely inclusive culture illustrated by the firm’s attendance at the Prague Pride celebration wearing special edition Mews gear to the event. The Company also has a shared value culture at its core and participated in UK Byte Night last year. Byte Night prevents youth homelessness by having corporate teams sleep in the streets to raise awareness and funds for the cause. Richard and team participated which is really cool and a statement to the quality of people that you’ll work with when you join the Mews team. Check out open positions at Mews 1. ALICE ALICE employees widely agreed that quarterly town hall meetings are the foundation of ALICE’s connected team culture. ALICE staff loves the opportunity to connect with colleagues from around the world, align around the company vision and get transparency into how the business is performing at a macro level. More than doubling its size in 2018, ALICE unsurprisingly had to upgrade its HQ office to add more space and acquire obligatory startup amenities like a cold brew keg, stand up desks and lockers. ALICE goes so much deeper for its team and invests heavily in career development. Employees participate in a company wide book club, receive access to free Udemy courses and are nurtured along a very clear path to promotion. ALICE employees talk about the clarity of path to promotion more than any other company’s employees on our list. Setting a clear path to promotion is important for making employees feel like they’re constantly progressing and puts them at ease knowing that there’s always room to grow internally. Major consulting firms like BCG and McKinsey have perfected this art but rarely do we see startups who are able to provide such transparency to their staff - kudos ALICE management.One employee told us that she was promoted 4 times in the last 3 years - a testament to ALICE’s ability to reward top employees. Even a remote worker was able to win ALICE’s Culture and Values Award twice in 6 months. This individual told us that they felt like they were on an island while working previous remote jobs - but felt very connected to the inclusive ALICE team. ALICE acquired GoConcierge this year and is making serious strides with major enterprise clients after its $30M Series B funding - a testament to the strong prospects for the firm and probably why employee confidence in the firm is best in class. “When you receive a high five from the CEO, that says a lot about the culture of the company,” says one team member. High fives all around! Check out open positions at ALICE
Del Ross built IHG into a billion dollar e-commerce business in 2 years, now he’s determined to solve hospitality’s labor problem3 months ago
Marketing, distribution and guest experience are undoubtedly the most buzzy topics in the world of hospitality technology. It’s easy to see why given the rapid rise of OTAs, the proliferation of mobile devices and recent innovations in data analysis techniques. Del Ross is no stranger to the tectonic shifts happening in hotel marketing and distribution technology having built IHG’s multi-billion dollar e-commerce business from the ground up. Perhaps that’s why we were initially surprised to see Del move into a senior role at labor management software company Hotel Effectiveness. The Company uses labor standard-driven staffing models that are built on deep analysis of real data to build real-time schedules for every function and department at a hotel in just a few minutes. Take a look at any P&L - you’ll notice that 50% of that hotel’s operating expenses are attributed to labor cost. If you’re based in unionized markets like San Francisco you’re probably spending most of your time focusing on these critical lines of your P&L. You’re also probably worrying about rising labor costs and talent acquisition in a low unemployment world. Low unemployment helps hotels (and the broader economy) by driving more revenue into businesses but there is always a trade-off. When unemployment is low - constrained supply causes labor costs to rise. When labor costs rise it becomes more expensive (and difficult) for hotels to attract talent. Many hotels are leveraging the gig economy to tap on demand staffing networks that fill these gaps. Others are focused on maximizing the existing talent that they already have. What do we mean when we say “hotels are maximizing their existing talent”? Hotels are investing in staff task management solutions to make a smaller team more efficient by tracking guests requests across shifts. They are also investing in technologies like cloud based property management systems that leverage mobile check-in to offload repetitive responsibilities and enable their teams to focus on delivering truly differentiated experiences. Labor management software is better at solving workforce related challenges because it hits the problem head on. You’ll see faster and quicker improvements to your strained P&L from using tools like Hotel Effectiveness to make better staffing decisions. Hotels are highly labor intensive businesses - there are tons of opportunities to increase efficiency and cut costs sitting right under your nose that technology can unlock. We sat down with Del Ross from Hotel Effectiveness to learn how his experience being a restaurant waiter while at Georgetown University eventually lead him down a path to becoming a senior leader at IHG, a McKinsey advisor and eventually to help hotels maximize labor efficiencies by leveraging the power of technology. Del Ross of Hotel Effectiveness Tell us about your career background in hotels My first hotel job was working in a Marriott restaurant at Georgetown University. This is how I paid for college. During my time at the hotel, I frequently served as the room service attendant in addition to waiting a 100-seat restaurant (often by myself). I returned to the industry in 2001 as a dot-com ecommerce veteran recruited to build the online business for IHG. I served as the global leader of IHG E-Commerce for several years before being promoted to lead Distribution Marketing (all channels) for the Americas region. Later I was promoted again to lead all commercial activities including sales, marketing, advertising, revenue management and loyalty for over 3,600 hotels in the Americas region. In that role, I was responsible for delivering over $12 billion in topline revenues to my hotels each year. I left IHG in 2012 and began a dual career as a hotel investor and a travel industry executive consultant, leading strategic and distribution projects for many global clients across the travel industry. For the past three years, I served as a Senior Advisor to McKinsey & Company, a global management consulting firm, helping to build their large travel practice. In October 2018, I re-entered the hotel industry by joining Hotel Effectiveness as Chief Revenue Officer. When did you first become interested in leveraging technology to become a better hotelier? In 2001, our industry was being slowly encroached by several online travel agencies who were taking advantage of the lack of e-commerce expertise among hotel companies. I re-joined the industry for the specific purpose of restoring balance and building a powerful direct booking channel for hotels. We grew IHG's direct e-commerce channel to over $1 billion per year in less than 2 years and it now provides more than 25% of revenues to nearly 6,000 hotels worldwide. What was one technology that you couldn't live without in your former role as a hotelier? I probably was the most hands-on with my CRM solutions, but I also worked with our CRS platform, e-commerce and distribution platforms, digital marketing tools, and loyalty systems. It's hard to think of how I could be successful without each of these systems (and more). As a hotelier what was your biggest frustration with technology vendors? Technology providers are usually too focused on their own features and product design than on the problems I was trying to solve. We needed them to help us figure out how to use their product to address our needs and not focus on how we could increase how much we spent with them. In addition, most technology companies have no appreciation for the scarcity of TIME at the hotel level. Our managers and staff are the hardest working people in the world, and the last thing they want to do is spend their days in front of computer screens looking at charts and graphs and buttons. Tech companies need to design products to save money AND time. No matter how great the product is, if it takes a lot of time to use, hotel people will simply not buy it. What is the most widely held misconception that hoteliers have about technology? Most hoteliers are skeptical about technology - for good reason. Tech companies have a long history of over promising and under-delivering. As a result, new technologies are not often eagerly adopted by experienced hotel people. They would rather "wait and see" before embracing yet another "shiny object" tech solution. The last thing we need is another complicated software program that takes up all of our time and delivers little value. Tech providers need to focus on the benefits of their solution and design products to require minimal effort for maximum value. Don't assume that because hotels are multi-million dollar businesses that we like to sit around on our laptops all day - we have become successful by taking care of travelers - and each other - with the service and care that we'd provide to our own families. Tell us about your journey from hotelier into technologist? I've always been comfortable with technology. As a teenager, I wrote computer programs - mostly video games. In college, I continued to program even while attending my studies and working almost full-time. While later in my career I got away from writing code, my comfort with and appreciation for technology has stayed strong. I love finding ways to leverage technology to make difficult problems easy to solve. Hotel Effectiveness is my dream job because (1) I get to work with hoteliers every day, (2) as a hotel investor I am deeply concerned about the threat to hotel profitability, (3) no other solution I have used can have as immediate and profound a positive impact to hotel GOP and NOI than our labor management solution. What was the most challenging part of moving from hotels into technology? It is easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest new technology. All technologists embrace innovation, but sometimes tech people can solve problems that don't really need solving! As a hotel person at heart, I am always thinking of the customer first. If a technology solution does not in some way make it easier to provide the best possible service to a guest, we simply cannot afford to consider it. How does Hotel Effectiveness help hotels maximize labor efficiencies? Hotel Effectiveness gives hotels perfect control over their labor costs. Using labor standard-driven staffing models that are built on deep analysis of real data, we can build real-time schedules for every function and department at a hotel in just a few minutes. Using our solution, hotels can avoid wasteful scheduling and excessive overtime & contractor usage while ensuring that guests receive the best possible service and quality. Our 5-minute Daily Labor Check-in is the easiest and most impactful part of our customers' everyday routine. Every department manager uses this tool to keep track of their team's actual hours compared with the plan and makes any adjustments to the schedule in order to meet operating needs and maintain efficiency. The hotel general manager and any regional leaders can then look at the overall performance of the hotel, quickly research any areas of concern to verify that the appropriate action is being taken, and rest easy knowing that each hotel is staffed appropriately according to the needs of the business. Imagine that you're going to open the hotel of your dreams tomorrow. What would it be and why? As an investor, I'd eagerly develop a well-located extended stay or select service hotel near a major market or demand driver. As a hotel fanatic, I'd of course love to open an upscale boutique in a historic market with a small but 5-star restaurant and the most charming staff in the region. We'd be known for creating memorable experiences that our guests treasure throughout their lives. Since my own name is already taken (Delano), I'd probably name this hotel after one of my kids - maybe the Amelia? What technology would you leverage at your hotel? A cloud-based PMS with an integrated channel manager, revenue management system and intelligent pricing tool are the foundation. Add to this a solid sales and catering system and a simple but effective CRM and we'd keep the hotel full. The Business Intelligence overlay would keep my team on top of performance, and of course, we'd have 100% perfect labor costs and quality scores by using Hotel Effectiveness for labor management, time & attendance, and performance analysis. What is the most exciting technology you've seen in the hotel tech space that is not built by your own company? I'm a big fan of Revinate. Not only are those guys building great technology services (CRM and reputation management), they are also some of the nicest people I have ever met. If they were not in the tech business, every one of them would be perfect to work in a hotel. What's one piece of advice you have for hoteliers who have dreams of working in tech? Stay current. Set aside time to learn about new technologies and even attend a conference or two to keep your knowledge up to date. Experiment - you should try just about everything (most services can be tried for free or for very short periods of time). Keep the stuff that performs and learn from the stuff that doesn't. Finally, spend time with young technologists and startups. Incredible things are happening all around you, but the inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs rarely have enough context or experience to know how to make the most of their new innovation. The combination of industry experience and technology expertise can result in some of the most impactful new solutions our industry has ever seen - just look at Airbnb for an example of this! What's one podcast, newsletter or book that you recommend hoteliers read if they're interested in tech? Read the quarterly earnings transcripts of Tripadvisor, Expedia and Booking. Sounds boring but you will learn a lot about what matters to these hotel tech giants. Google publishes some great articles on their "Think with Google" website. For fun, subscribe to the TechCrunch podcast and surprise your tech vendors with your knowledge of the latest gadgets and gizmos that are about to hit the market. What is your favorite hotel in the world and why? 25 years ago my wife and I spent our honeymoon at The Reefs in Bermuda. It was amazing. We have not been back but talk about it all the time. I have been fortunate to see or stay in thousands of hotels in my career - the ones I love are always the ones where the staff is smiling, the rooms are quiet and clean, and everything makes me feel welcome. What is one thing that most people don't know about you? I love hotels and technology, but my first love is my family. We have four kids, three dogs, a turtle, a bunny, and about 50 large goldfish. If you want to know what I am doing in my spare time, see the above list!
Close your eyes and picture yourself on a plane. Pick up your magazine, sit down, fasten your seatbelts, put your phone in airplane mode and get comfortable. Now imagine a smiling flying attendant coming to you asking: "Would you prefer the plane to be flown by the captain or the co-pilot?". If you answer is "the captain, of course!" you may want to think again. Statistically speaking, in fact, planes crash more often when flown by the most experienced pilot. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Yet, it is true. The Korean Air case In his book "Outliers", journalist Malcolm Gladwell covers the story of the dangerously high ( and at first view inexplicable) rate of Korean Air plane crashes in the 90s. Data are alarming: between 1988 and 1998 its aircraft loss rate was almost twenty times higher than United Airlines. Korean Air used to have (and still does) fully functional planes, subject to periodic and accurate maintenance, together with excellent airports and crew. Yet something went wrong for ten years. Although television has led us to imagine the air disasters as episodes of LOST, the reality is that almost no air crash is due to a single exceptional cause (for example a lightning hitting the plane or an engine failure), far from it. Statistically, in fact, almost all air accidents are the results of an accumulation of several insignificant problems. The National Transportation Safety Board has found a recurring pattern in air crashes, set in seven consecutive human errors: the pilot makes a negligible error, then the second driver commits another, and so on up to seven. At that point, the plane falls down. PDI and miscommunication But is it possible that all Korean Air pilots were so incompetent? Let's analyze the question from a different perspective. Perhaps not everyone knows that cockpits are designed in a way that, in order to work properly, all operations should be performed by two people, dividing tasks and checking each other to avoid or correct any procedural errors. This means that cooperation, teamwork and a system of flat communication is essential for the success of any flight. What did not work, back then, in that nefarious decade in Korea? Back in the 70's, Dutch psychologist Geert Hofstede, Professor Emeritus of the University of Maastricht, formulated the theory of PDI ("Power Distance Index"). According to Hofstede, "PDI is designed to measure the extent to which power differs within the society, organization and institutions are accepted by the less powerful members". Hofstede measured this distance with tests composed of questions such as "During your work, are you afraid to express your disagreement to a superior?" PDI is, therefore, the unit to measure how much a culture, a Country or, in this case, a company, recognizes the hierarchy and relates to it. A totalitarian regime has a high PDI, while a democracy has a lower one. In the same way, a start-up has a usually a lower PDI than an established company, although some big companies like Apple or Google (which are familiar with Hofstede's theories) try to keep a low PDI. The dangers of hierarchy Back to Korea Air, listening to the black boxes recordings during its dark decade, you frequently encounter situations during which the co-pilot, does notice a pilot mistake, but does not dare to contradict his superior, or at least try to mitigate the message to make it less direct (but, consequently, less incisive). Now, the Korean language has six different degrees of courtesy. Six. Can you imagine the difficulty a co-pilot pilot faces trying to correct his superiors without breaking the rigid Korean hierarchy etiquette? According to the Hofstede tests, Korea is in second place among the countries with the highest PDI. The United States, on the other hand, is fifteenth. Back in the 90's, American Airlines had 20 times lower air disaster incidence rate compared to Korea Air. See where I am going with this? In 2000, however, Korean Air fate suddenly changed, becoming one of the safest airlines in the World. What happened? No new airplanes, no higher safety standards, no mystical astral conjunctions. In 2000 the new company CEO imposed the use of the English language during all phases of the flight. Talking in a more direct language (in which there are no degrees of courtesy), the captain and the co-pilot were finally freed by the limits of the communication hierarchy and could work together properly as a team. Korean Air offered free English classes to all its employees and encouraged the team spirit. When hotels crash too The Korean Air example can be applied to the hotel Industry as well. Hotels with lower PDI (where employees can freely share their opinions or debate inappropriate strategic choices taken by their superior without fearing the consequences) have far better results. A wrong rate strategy, for example, can be corrected quickly and with limited damage if taken in time. Even the best GM can make a wrong assessment, and blind perseverance can lead to tragic results. A first negligible error, then a second one, then a third one, it is easy to get to the critical quota of seven errors, and now you know what happens once you reach that number. A prompt correction makes sure that a small mistake, not very significant in itself, does not turn into a disaster. This mutual control is impossible in hotels with rigid hierarchical and pyramidal schemes because even if someone recognizes an error, he will not dare to say it loud if he is afraid of the consequences. A hotel is not a craftsman studio, where all the production is in the hands of a single person but, on the contrary, it is a highly cooperative work. My experience with PDI In 2010, I was asked to manage a hotel in Rome that was in a critical financial situation. At the end of my first year, profit was up to 25% and the owner had enough cashflow to buy another hotel. During that year I did not fire any employee, I made no investment in advertising, no rooms update. I even went from a rather expensive PMS to an OpenSource one. I was basically flying a Korean Air plane, but the plane was finally out of the turbulence. I would like to say that I have applied some magic marketing trick or revolutionary revenue policy, but I only made two things: 1. The previous GM office was on the opposite side of the front office desk. I decided to use it as a baggage deposit and I preferred a simple chair next to the receptionist on duty; 2. I declared ties "illegal" for me and for all my employees. This physical proximity with my staff and the lack of a cultural filter (the tie in this case, or the Korean language six degrees of courtesy for Korea Air) made everyone in the hotel begin to relate with me in more informal, open way. And, more important they started to disagree with me. A lot. Correcting my errors or making me notice things that I overlooked ("There is a Depeche Mode concert next week, did you raise the price? "or" That group canceled but it is still on the PMS, can we reopen availability?") created a more cooperative environment and boosted productivity and revenue. Conclusions Lowering the PDI worked great for Korean Air, so you should really give it a chance, because if no one knocks at your office door, there are only two possible explanations: either you are infallible or you must prepare a parachute, because we have just lost cabin pressure...
There is a lot of information provided in this seminar which we have incorporated into our company culture. Our company has a culture and a vision, but it has never been refined and promoted through all levels of the company in a structured way as much as we would like. Every year we attempt to improve our company's culture and that of each of our hotels. If the Walt Disney Company is any benchmark, it's clearly worth doing. Leadership and Creativity Disney believes that storytelling is an important part of the company's job for its guests, staff, and investors. When Frank Wells and Michael Eisner were brought on-board, they made a video for the stockholders to watch to learn about them and where they felt the company should go. Walt Disney had a short video about himself and his dreams. These videos are very effective in communicating their "story". Communication of history and vision is essential to developing a well-run company whose staff are supportive. Traits of Disney leaders: risk taker; childlike (curiosity, creativity, wonder, etc.); iron fist in a velvet glove; visionary; motivator; and management by walking/wandering around. Apparently this was very important to Walt Disney who saw himself as a bee, going around from flower to flower pollinating other people and their efforts. Whenever staff is overheard saying "I" or "they" to a guest that person is always immediately corrected. They must always say "we". As in a Guest Service Agent (desk clerk) saying, "I'm sorry we didn't get your room made up on time." As opposed to, "I'm sorry they (housekeeping) didn't..." If they say "we" enough, they will come to believe it. Disney believes strongly that creativity can be enhanced with synergy, adding 1 + 1 and getting 3. Bringing diverse groups together with different perspectives to create "dynamic tension" such as in brainstorming sessions is used to develop creativity. Brainstorming sessions must always have the following: defined goal; structure; a facilitator who can control flow; diverse participants; and a scribe. It is important in brainstorming sessions that creativity be promoted. Always say "yes, and" because it keeps discussion going while "yes, but" stops the flow of ideas. Disney's goal in planning is creating value for all of their stakeholders (guests, staff, stockholders, etc.). Both their financial objectives and strategic objectives focus on increasing value for everyone. The example given in the seminar was IllumiNations, a fireworks, light, laser and music show each evening in EPCOT. The restaurants in the pavilions were not doing well. By adding the IllumiNations show guests enjoy an additional event included in their admission and there were substantially increased food and merchandise revenue for Disney's lessees. Staff Selection, Orientation and Training When it comes to staff selection, Disney believes they are not hiring, but are casting for a role in a show. Aren't we doing the same thing at our hotels? Each person hired needs to project the image of the company. Before they fill out an application they watch a nine minute video which projects, without being obvious, the company culture. Specifics covered are: pay availability; transportation; and appearance. This is in effect a pre-orientation and serves to screen out potential applicants who don't want to or cannot fit it for what ever reason. Men who watch and know they won't adhere to the hair length standards (above the ears) simply tend not to apply. We have adapted this idea into a brochure which is given out to job applicants. The brochure, titled "What you can expect when you join our team and what we expect from you", has eight panels. Three give information about the company, the hotel (about types of guests and what various departments do) and its culture. Three panels give details of our expectations of employees and our promises to the employees. Disney uses personality profiling to determine where there is a fit. Even if the person is not selected, the process makes them feel good about the company. After all, their friends and relatives are both potential guests and cast members! Orientation is done through videos and other consistent visual aids and the central element is communicating the following in order to begin the process of getting them wrapped up in the company culture: the company's past (its traditions), the company's present (how operations work), and the company's future (the vision). New cast members get a name tag day one, and are told if the name tag is not on at all times, even backstage (back-of-the-house), they are sent home because they need to maintain the feeling and standards among employees as well. Of course, this is true about their entire uniform (costume). Variations or missing items are never allowed. Name tags have first name only and city if they want. No last names to break down barriers with guests and other staff. Disney gives many quizzes throughout orientation and training as to Disney facts (name the seven dwarfs) and facility facts (extensive tours of the entire property are essential). All orientation is done by line staff from different areas of the company (like the guy who loads the Space Mountain cars) who are picked to be "Tradition Assistants" for two to three days a month. This builds self-esteem, loyalty, sense of importance, and the applicants can really ask questions about working on the line. Training is either 1-on-1 or 2-on-1. They teach job skills and people skills with equal emphasis - more on this in the service section of this article. When it comes to caring for staff, they feel you must ensure that the physical environment is supportive. Disney's Golden Rule: treat staff as they expect staff to treat guests - this is essential to set an example. If any supervisor notes a crabby staff member they will talk to that person and send them home, if necessary, so that negativity is not spread. Upbeat attitudes must be engendered back-of-the-house to carry to the front-of-the-house. No Disney visuals are in break rooms or cafeteria because the staff told management they overload on it and need a real break. Many personal services are provided because staff cannot get anywhere easily once at work, such as vehicle registration, voter registration, dry cleaning, etc. In addition, Disney provides a private lake with recreational area for staff and families only. Longevity and performance recognition through pins, awards, parties, etc. are also important aspects of caring for employees at Disney. Service Since nothing is unique (people can alternatively go to Universal Studios or SeaWorld), then what Disney is selling is only 10% product and 90% service. This is obviously very true of hotels, too. 65% of Disney's guests are repeat. But more important to them than their repeat guest, is the guest who becomes their advocate. The one who goes home and says, "We won't be going back to Disney in the next few years or maybe never but it was great, you should go". Disney recommends taking a magnifying glass to what you are doing RIGHT (rather than what you are doing WRONG), examine it, map it out so you understand and can translate those elements to what you are doing wrong. The guest (or employee) might not always be right, but always allow them to be wrong with dignity. In order to give good service you must have these four elements: Know who your guests are, what they want, and when: Poor service is different for everyone, so you need to treat each one individually. Since 65% of guests are repeat, their "wow" threshold is very high, and one needs to be raising the bar at all times. So you always need to pay attention to detail and exceed the guests' expectations. Disney has "guestologists" that study who their guests are and what their needs are. They do this through telephone surveys, in-person surveys, comment cards, guest letters, focus groups, and secret shoppers. Some facts: 38% from New England (#1 state is New York); 23% international; saved 2.5 years for Disney vacation; families of 3.3 people; and the #1 need is to see Mickey Mouse (translation: need to escape reality) Sometimes guests want "aggressively friendly" and others just want "warm and welcoming" and staff are trained to recognize the signs. For instance, if the family has driven to Disney (the valet should notice out-of-state plates), they are tired and anxious, so just welcome them and move them along to their Disney hotel room efficiently. However, if it's 8 am at the turnstiles into the Magic Kingdom , welcome them aggressively. There are no newspapers in any Disney store When their tickets are taken at the turnstile, it's easy to tell from the ticket if it is their first day or last day and the staff is trained to acknowledge this to the guest Need to communicate the service goal to staff: Everyone's job description whether they be in accounting or line staff on a ride has the Same first two items: Keep the property clean. Everyone must pick up trash - it's a big no-no if anyone is spotted walking by trash anywhere Create happiness. Service Standards (in order of priority): Safety for guests and staff is never sacrificed. Courtesy, treat every guest as a VIP - all staff must offer to take the family's picture if they see one being left out - it costs nothing to create a magical moment (Cast members must always be anxious to help and be aggressively friendly.) The show is extremely important so they must pay attention to detail in everything - never lose the theme anywhere Efficiency, the system and equipment must be effective. Also, all staff learns that they are needed to show up when they are told and do what they are trained to do otherwise the whole show suffers. People need to be needed and know they are important. All of the staff's performance appraisals rate the person using these standards. They are taught that they need to make all of their decisions based on these four goals and in this order. For instance, have they ever sacrificed courtesy for efficiency? That is a no-no. Never sacrifice courtesy for the show either. Two Disney Tidbits: It takes 37 magic moments to recover from 1 tragic moment. A good coach has a staff that has confidence in him/her while a great coach has a staff that has confidence in themselves! Set the stage The setting must be consistent with what you want people to feel and must always communicate your essence. The setting supports both the service theme and the service standards. The setting includes: The environment: They have "smelletzers" which spew specific smells throughout the park. When you first walk into the Magic Kingdom onto Main Street, they have the smell of just-baked chocolate chip cookies. Objects within the environment: Size and arrangement of objects, shapes and lines, lighting, shadows, color, temperatures, and sound. Look at everything in your environment and assess its impact on the guest experience. Procedures that enhance the quality of the environment: Never allow procedures to negatively impact on guest experience, always have procedures that benefit the experience. Facts are negotiable, perceptions are not so no matter what really happens, all that matters is how your guests perceive it. Deliver a quality show (service delivery): In order to deliver service, you must have well-trained people and they must have systems that support them and enable them to provide good service. At Disney, a quality show is made up of three components: people; systems; and service recovery. People: Staff are taught that the front line is the bottom line. Orientation of all staff includes behavior skill training such as: importance of first impressions; posture; gestures (their staff is taught not to gesticulate when talking to guests); facial expressions; vocal image; and use of humor (everyone's view of what is funny is different so humor is to be avoided). Cast members are also taught tips on how to be comfortable in their job, like standing for long periods of time without getting tired. Disney tries to keep staff motivated to succeed in their jobs. It is communicated that 62% of all managers were in line positions to start, that they have a future with the company and it is a good company to have a future with. Lateral moves are celebrated and acknowledged like promotions. They teach staff that getting skills in many areas makes them more versatile, more useful for the company so line staff is cross-trained in many different areas of company. All management staff are required to work in the park in line positions (cleaning tables, etc.) during peak times for a specific number of hours. They are all dressed in blue lab coats so other staff knows who they are. It's fun for everyone. Turnover of permanent staff is only 17.8%! Systems: Systems have been developed to enable line staff to provide timely, useful service. For instance, losing your car, locking keys in car, or running out of gas. Attendants in golf carts can be there within minutes to open car doors, provide two gallons of gas, cut keys (even with the computer chip), jump batteries, etc. to help the poor parking lot attendant who is facing the tired dad and his troop. Disney believes that only 5% of top management knows what the operational problems are, only 20% of middle management knows, and 100% of line staff knows. So, Disney looks to learn the service needs of guests and what is preventing staff from fulfilling them directly from the line staff. Service Recovery: It's ok to apologize to the guest even if they are wrong; always ask the guest: What can I do for you? Empower line staff to fix the problem; follow up with the guest and in a timely manner, it makes them feel important; and provide feedback to staff. Obviously you had to be at this seminar to benefit the most from it. Properly adapted and implemented, there are many things here that will help my company and yours do better. We can't all be Disney and we don't all have their resources to accomplish some things. But, concept is also important and we, too, are in a service-oriented business with guests (we don't even have to translate their language!) who want happiness in a clean property. Oh yes, so, what time IS the 3 PM parade? First, cast members know never to laugh at the person asking this question. Apparently, it is the most frequently asked question in the Magic Kingdom . Next, they are taught to understand that what they really need to know is what time does the 3 PM parade pass by where the guest plans to be during the time of the parade. In other words, the answer is, "Where will you be?" And then, answer the question, "The 3 PM parade passes the fire house on Main Street at 3:12 PM." Think about the orientation and training that street sweepers receive from Disney in order to ensure that everyone can provide quality service to their guests. Can you match it? We all need to try!