How to Motivate and Inspire Staff During Hotel Transformation
By Jeff Hart General Manager, Los Angeles Airport Marriott | June 23, 2019
Hotel renovations are commonplace in today's hotel operation landscape. With recent years proving to show an increase in construction and redevelopment in the hospitality industry, and as managers, we too must re-imagine the ways in which we manage a team during a large-scale project. From facelifts to complete overhauls, properties must take the necessary steps to stay up-to-date with current trends, latest technologies, and the needs of today's travelers – which brings many hotels to renovation.
While the impact a redesign has on the hotel guest is often the first area of concern for management, a team should also place emphasis on inspiring and uplifting staff, as it is their overall project knowledge, enthusiasm, and feelings towards the transformation that ultimately trickles down to the guest and the experience they have on property.
As a Hotel General Manager, keeping the staff motivated, invested, and enthusiastic is the single most important piece of the job when it comes to team leadership. It is sometimes easy to forget that the guest is not the only one impacted by a renovation, and that every single associate is also affected. Their experience is also important to the entire renovation process.
The Los Angeles Airport Marriott
Being empathetic to what the team is going through must not be lost amidst the chaos of the day-to-day project mayhem. On the heels of completing a multi-million hotel-wide transformation at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott - a project that re-imagined the entire hotel, our team experienced both the highs and lows of a renovation that impacted every facet of our operation.
In order for guests and clients to have the most positive experience on property while under renovation, a team must work together to over-deliver on an outstanding experience that does not deter a guest. The experience should be one where they don't (or barely) even realize the substantial construction going on behind the scenes and around them. It takes an educated team activated towards that common goal to make this vision a reality.
Delivering this sort of experience starts from within, and it begins at the top of the organization. As executives, motivating and inspiring our team to in turn create an exceptional environment for guests is a job in and of itself. At the Los Angeles Airport Marriott, all elements of the hotel were impacted at some point during the renovation. Guest rooms were often unavailable, all three of the hotel's restaurants were renovated, and amenities such as the pool and fitness center were closed for periods of time.
This can of course cause challenges, frustrations, and an ever-evolving list of new tools, tips, tricks, knowledge, and insights for staff to adapt to. The key is to keep them informed throughout all phases of the project and to make them feel involved in the process. After all, a staff is the heart and soul of a hotel as well as the guest's first and last impression of a property.
Inevitably, during a renovation, delays happen and plans must change. These sorts of circumstances can sometimes add an element of chaos and feelings of disconnect. As managers, our role is to ensure all the pieces of the project move as planned and to communicate any deviations quickly. We must be prepared for these roadblocks with an action plan that helps everyone "keep calm and carry on."
Here are nine ideas to motivate and inspire the team at all phases of renovation, from groundbreaking to ribbon cutting:
1. Set the Stage for Success
Before the project even begins, ready the team (at all levels) with the tools, talking points, and information they need to understand, communicate, and represent the project in a positive way to guests and clients. Simply put, get everyone excited! A slight shift in tone can take something from inconvenient to opportunity!
2. Activate Leaders with a Task Force
Create several teams through the duration of a transformation that can be soldiers on the ground, and service the needs, thoughts, and feelings of the hotel and its staff. Have senior leaders meet with the design teams, corporate leaders, and hotel ownership to ensure the property's perspective and insights are accounted for throughout the process, and include key stakeholders from all levels of the organization.
3. Engage the Team
Look for creative ways to integrate the team and make them part of the process. For example, if the renovation involves the re-concept of a restaurant or redesign of a menu, consider making the process interactive and one that involves the team. Add an element of fun, and remind staff that their opinion matters by allowing them to help select new items, hold blind tastings, or even vote on key marketing pieces such as names and logos. Deciding between a few items to add to the menu? Hold a team tasting, and open up items for a vote!
4. Celebrate All Milestones, Both Large and Small
The progress and updates of a transformation should be a daily conversation to all team members. Regardless, of how small or large recent progress is, take time to thank teams for their contributions and really celebrate key moments throughout the project. Provide tours to associates of new and updated areas, share images via email, and celebrate milestone moments as well as teams and individuals for their efforts to help maintain guest experience and reinforce morale.
5. Make Information Readily Available
There is no such thing as over-communication, and this should happen at all levels of the organization. Throughout a renovation, there will be tremendous disruption and keeping every associate "in the know" is critical. Involving teams in the project creates excitement and positivity, while leaving teams "in the dark," can lead to less than favorable interactions with guests. Create an Information Hub where all details and transformation news and updates can be found - it can also be helpful to include photos, maps, virtual tours, blueprints, and renderings here. The associate cafeteria or entrance can both be great locations for the Information Hub.
6. Always Say Thank You
Expressing praise and saying "thank you" is a simple, yet meaningful element of staff motivation. During a renovation, at some point or another every single associate in the building will feel the effects. From new trainings, rule adjustments, changes to work environment, and guest interactions, being empathetic to what the team is going through must not get lost in the chaos of the day-to-day whirlwind. It was important that all leaders provided constant recognition and thank you's. Personalized notes and public recognition at team and all staff meetings are extra touches that do not take much time, but are well received within the organization.
7. Expect the Unexpected, and Remain Positive
Setbacks are inevitable, and how you position delays to the staff is critical to their continued motivation. As a leadership team, it is important to stay flexible, and always have a back up plan to create a comfortable and uplifting environment. Scheduling a daily meeting with property leaders and the construction team is critical, as it helps lay the plan and keeps lines of conversations open. Integrate leaders in the day-to-day progress of the project that way they can continuously update their associates on changes that may affect them. When the unexpected arises, transparency is key to keeping teams invested.
8. Empower Your Teams with Ambassadors
All of the above strategies give your teams the ability to become ambassadors for the brand, enrich guest experience, and confidently talk about the property's new offerings. At all levels, integrate an Ambassador program; this can be large or small. Allow staff members to serve as Ambassadors, in which they have the opportunity to show leadership by serving on renovation committees, support morale, and be liaisons within their team and further promote morale within their specific area of the company.
9. Go Out with a Bang
When it's all said and done, celebrate! Beyond traditional grand opening events, client experiences, and FAM trips, look for opportunities to celebrate internally. From small parties to coordinated tours, or chances to experience new facilities firsthand, be sure that the staff is included in the excitement and celebrations when the project is completed.
The Los Angeles Airport Marriott is in the final stages of a $50 million property-wide transformation, which included the redesign of 1,000 guest rooms, launch of a 4,000 square foot M Club Lounge with panoramic views of the LA skyline and LAX Airport runways, the introduction of new restaurants and dining concepts, and a complete overhaul of the property lobby.
Currently, the property is undergoing a renovation of its meeting and event spaces, which is expected to be complete in fall of 2019. The new space supports the Los Angeles Airport Marriott's accelerated performance in meetings and events and solidifies its place as the premier west coast airport property.
Jeff Hart, General Manager of the Los Angeles Airport Marriott, is a hospitality veteran, with more than 30 years in the industry. His expertise includes opening, repositioning and transforming strategically important hotel assets, which has taken him coast-to-coast with Marriott International.
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