How to Identify Hotel Superstars

By Ashish Modak General Manager, LUX* Belle Mare | December 03, 2017

A hotel team is a unique combination of various skill sets and different individuals who bring forth their unique identities and styles towards making a guest as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Hotels vary in their offerings, their architecture, the levels of service and brand appeal. However, the one thig that binds all hotels and resorts of whatever style and irrespective of their locations is the people who work for these hotels and breathe life in to those buildings and chandeliers which otherwise would have no meaning. I recently came across a new Bollywood release with a similar title as this essay. The title intrigued me and while I shall not go in to the theme and a synopsis of the movie here, the title got me thinking of who could be considered the secret superstars of the hotel industry – more specifically, in a hotel. Needless to say, when one thinks of hotels, one thinks of the front of house areas and the perfectly groomed smiles of the front desk, the beautifully made Flat-whites by the baristas and the creative geniuses of the chefs who conjure up magic for every new meal.

All the various operational departments of a hotel, no doubt ensure delightful stays for guests’ day in and day out. From a porter who welcomes every guest to the reception team leading up to the room valets and the waiters – everyone has a specific responsibility towards the hotel guests; one that they need to fulfill all the time. These team members are being tested in real time. They are on the stage and the show is always on. There is no off time when on the operational floor. Very often the hotel operations remind me of another movie “The Truman Show”. This Jim Carey movie presents a strong mantra for someone like me who looks at the hotel world from very close quarters. The learning for me as a hotel manager from this movie was clear and simple – “In hotel life, you are always on stage and on camera!” and how very true it is for all of the above job functions that I have mentioned.

But then a thought crosses my mind. Very often the front of house team members are the ones who get all the recognition and fame. These ladies and gentlemen who are in contact with guests walk away with their names on glory boards. But, are these the only ones who make a hotel what it is? An Opera performance is dependent definitely on the star performer; however, can one imagine of an Opera or a play without a 100% contribution of the light and sound technicians, the porters, the make-up artists? Is it not true that there is a strong support system which makes these job roles tick and assist them to be celebrated...? Is it not true that without the hidden gems and magicians in the support departments – the team in the front would never be there in the first place? Whom am I referring to? Yes, indeed the reference is to those hundreds of people who work in hotel support teams like Human Resources, Training, Accounts, Purchase and various other such administrative functions. Imagine a hotel without any of these support areas!

Would a hotel be ever successful without a strong accounting team? Right from processing the salaries on time for the celebrated Stars of the hotel, these secret superstars are involved in every back-end step that results in hotels performing like well-oiled machines. Imagine a hotel without a strong credit and debtor control mechanism. Imagine a hotel without a team duly and diligently looking at all the accounting procedures. Imagine a hotel world without a strong purchase and receiving department. The list of jobs performed at every stage in these areas is endless and each extremely crucial for a successful business operation. The Integrity and responsibility involved in the entire accounting, finance and cost control team is the backbone of the value of ethics and integrity that is so widely discussed in all forums in today’s times. For an analogy, running a hotel without these functions is like asking a cobbler to make a shoe without its sole. Like a sole is to a shoe or a soul is to the body, the finance team are the unsung heroes of this jigsaw called ‘hotel’!

Similar to the Finance department is the critical function of Human Resources. An area which is always belittled as a function as not being in sync with today’s requirements. Very often one finds the human resources function following outdated systems, policies and procedures and the team finding it difficult to sync with the needs of today. This is possibly the half-truth that is spread around venomously without understanding the why’s and what’s involved. The HR department is always trying to catch up with the changing times while sticking to the laws of the land they operate in. It is expected from this function to ensure local laws and expected norms are followed to the ‘T’ and all rules and regulations adhered to in totality.

It is also the natural expectation of every employee that his / her needs are fulfilled on priority and the moment the desired solution is not provided, the HR department is the black sheep in the organization. Here is what I would like to say to all those sincere, truthful and committed HR employees of the world – Continue what you are doing; you are the reason why all the others are working in hotels in the first place. A suggestion would be to bring in an element of innovation and creativity in what you put forth. Like the finance team, you are undoubtedly the secret superstars in the hotel world.


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Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.