Staying Connected As Hospitality Organizations Grow
By Adria Levtchenko CEO & Co-Founder, PurpleCloud Technologies | January 05, 2020
For a fast growing hospitality organization that is adding many owned or managed properties to its portfolio and thus increasing its executive personnel and total staff size, success does have its challenges. How do we stay connected across an ever-broadening physical presence and organizational hierarchy?
In particular, it is extremely important to maintain precise communications, both to disseminate important information such as policies and procedures, as well as to ensure that the staff understands that "you are not forgotten."
Here, we need technology systems that just don't transmit instructions or commands, but, also, accommodate and process feedback back from the field, for effective communication is always a multi-way street. Fortunately, today's newer hospitality service software platforms can help with communications, using smart tech to achieve high touch. One key benefit: using technology to enhance the "Internal Guest" experience, a possibly neglected aspect of organizational development in service industries.
Today, technology is helping us to interact with guests even before they arrive on-site, right through to the check out and beyond. This interaction can include a welcome text or email once a reservation is made; a quick contact during the stay to make sure that everything is going well; scheduling of special requests like extra towels or an impromptu room cleanup; help with making one's next reservation; guest satisfaction surveys and continuing communications anchored through guest loyalty programs.
Similarly, hospitality organizations can now step up their communication game with staff, in areas that include new staff orientation and training, human resources processing, scheduling of assignments, evaluation and career progression, or new ways of recognizing and rewarding top performers.
This article will explore and discuss the advantages and the potential of advances in communication and organizational technology, while emphasizing that it remains the responsibility of leadership to craft the messages that bridge physical and metaphorical distances, sustaining the organization's mission and vision.
A Cascade of Technology. Resources at Hand
Consider functions like scheduling and conducting the pre-hire interview, which can begin online or though a smartphone; new hire orientation and review and sign-off on the organizational manual; sign-up and tracking for payroll and benefits programs; training sessions; or staff evaluation and career counseling.
Quality technology solutions have been available for some time for most, if not all, of such functions. However, the current technology impetus is to integrate these functions, including in real time. Supervisors, as well as individual staff, have more information-and power-at their fingertips than ever before.
Most importantly, at each step of the way, expanded functionality, data collection, analytics and intent can be built into the hotel task optimization system.
For example, the onboarding function is an excellent time to convey to new staffers an appreciation of the organization's overall vision and mission, with ready access to written and multi-media presentations like an overview video or a message from the CEO. Better yet, make it interactive, with a short review quiz or a dynamic FAQ function. Engage, educate and motivate.
As careers progress, each associate can be presented with a customized action plan that charts their achievement against set targets or benchmarks; how well they are matching up with expectations. At the same time, systems like these should identify and help set out a career path for top performers, as an adjunct to in-person supervision. This helps solve one of the key issues in hospitality today-retaining one's best employees.
Hotel task optimization platforms can also incorporate "tools for success," with necessary staff training manuals and other task-specific information built into the system. How do I process a work order? What are the steps in cleaning a room? How do I file an injury or guest incident report? And so on. Having resources at hand like this can help an employee become more of a self-starter. There is no need to feel embarrassed if you don't know something. Just go ahead and look it up, almost like taking an open-book exam. Of course, keeping things digital also makes it much easier and less costly to update these materials as policies, standards or procedures change.
In an area impacted by advances in artificial intelligence, technology platforms also allow hospitality organizations to access real-time, on demand verbal and written translation among the world's many languages. This is especially valuable in an industry with many frontline staff whose primary language is not English.
All's Fair: Staff Evaluation
One of the first principles of staff management is: document, document, document. Hotel task and management systems like those we have been discussing make it much easier to maintain an accurate record of employee achievements, to include training signoffs and assigned functions, as well as any personnel actions.
Moreover, this new world of integrated technologies should encourage objective assessment and equitable treatment of staff, from the hiring process onward. Personnel notes are no longer scribbled in longhand and possibly hidden away in a supervisor's desk. Instead, digital records foster accuracy in recordkeeping, while making it easier for each staff member to know where they stand.
If someone is not doing well, there is a clear document trail of issues, counseling and attempts at remediation in support of any necessary employment actions. As appropriate, remedial assistance can be assigned, and its completion tracked, through the hospitality task optimization platform.
Engage and Recognize Top Performers. The Age of Gamification is Upon Us
From trying to win at a board game, cards or the latest video game to predicting the score of the next Super Bowl, who doesn't enjoy a friendly contest? Often, the winning prize need not be anything greater than bragging rights to keep the competitive juices flowing.
The business world is increasingly taking advantage of this principle of gamification to boost organizational cohesiveness and productivity in a variety of settings.
For example, of all the specialized service positions in hospitality operations, frontline housekeeping is one of the most demanding, for hotel staff and their supervisors.
Housekeepers are in short supply. Turnover is high. And the job at hand requires completion of a detailed, time pressured, repetitive task, all for modest pay. As a result, hoteliers and their technology partners are working hard to improve staff engagement and recognition as a means to improved retention and performance.
Incorporated into the housekeeping module of a hotel task optimization platform, gamification for housekeepers can feature leaderboards and goal-setting functions with in-app rewards and bonuses. Points can be awarded based on such items as the time it takes to complete an assigned task, number of completed assignments or quality of task assignment; either as individuals or as teams of housekeepers; or other actions that improve guest service.
Possible incentives include extra points for assisting other housekeepers who have run behind in their assignments or volunteering to take a short notice room preparation assignment.
Interestingly, it seems to be more about the competition than the reward, as even modest rewards are proving to be great motivators for staff, while encouraging supportive behaviors for other housekeepers. Popular and practical awards include being able to choose shifts or low-value gift cards.
Overall, gamification helps align staff with the hotelier's goals and reinforces all the elements that must work together for a hotel to be successful. When hoteliers win the hearts of their staff, they also win for the guest.
While incentive programs are already being used in the hotel industry, we can envision greater application of more formal gamification strategies in areas like suggestion programs, sales programs, signups for loyalty programs, energy conservation and recycling, or community programs.
Who's counting? We all are.
Other New Powers on the Horizon
While generally outside the scope of this article, which is about communication within the hospitality organization, it is important to note the advanced possibilities of hotel task optimization platforms with respect to benchmarking, data collection and analytics.
At one level, these systems will be able to more quickly and more accurately process tasks with which staff and supervisors are already familiar. Examples include making up a daily work schedule for all staff or room assignment sheets for housekeepers; better real-time tracking of room availability; dynamic reassignment of room cleaning; or prioritizing engineering work orders or preventive maintenance schedules.
At the next level, these systems will be able to analyze the data they ordinarily collect and offer higher-level solutions (i.e. incorporating pattern recognition and artificial intelligence). Examples include shifting supervisors to higher value tasks; ordering of room supplies or adjusting staff assignments based on projected guests; or identifying plant equipment or room fixtures with higher than expected failure rates and suggesting possible remediation actions.
Certainly, this is an exciting frontier of hospitality technology that promises to give staff and supervisors new powers, improve the guest experience and save costs.
These last considerations remind us, as noted earlier, that technology is a means to an end. It is still the responsibility of leadership to understand the capabilities of any technology platform and direct its real-world application. In doing so, it is extremely important to ascertain the assumptions, values or intent "behind the rules," for they are surely there. No technology is really neutral or blind.
Fortunately, today's best technology implementations are malleable, able to be customized to a great degree. It is within our power to align the "rulemaking" and "solutions" as discussed within this article with an organization's mission, values and, even, corporate style.
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