PeopleIf you search the internet for ‘hotel trends 2017’, you’ll find plenty of advice and opinion on product, marketing and technology as well as endless articles on ways to please that much bandied about group of people, the millenials.

Of course it’s important to be forward thinking and open minded to the trends and technologies that will aid the smooth running and cost efficiency of your business and make your customer’s journey easier and more reflective of the times. However, let’s not forget what we are all (hopefully) trying to achieve in this business of ours – flawless hospitality.

So what can we do in 2017 to ensure that we are making the best possible experience for our guests – not only the ones that we’re busy planning for in the future, but the ones who have booked, traveled to us and are sitting in our bars, restaurants, lobbies and limousines, waiting for us to preempt their every need?

Realise the potential of your people

By realising the full potential of the people in your teams, you ultimately create better emotional experiences for your guests and, as a welcome by-product, address a significant industry challenge – attracting and retaining good employees. There’s no shortage of statistical support of the gap between the demand and supply of folk choosing hospitality as a career and similarly, no end of instances of those folk moving on after disappointingly brief forays into service.

There’s plenty of talk around taking steps to make our industry look and sound more attractive to academic bodies, parents and consumers. However, an effective PR campaign or two might begin to address the recruitment problem, but the retention issue won’t go away until we actually make our businesses feel like great places to work.

Your competitive advantage lies with your people, so follow these recommendations to make this their (and your) year.

Action 1 – Understand

How can we expect employees to flourish if we don’t understand what motivates them, if we don’t know what success looks like for them and if we don’t understand what holds them back? Company wide incentives and perks might provide short term spikes in motivation and happiness, but the long term solution requires a greater understanding of each individual employee.

The combination of wonderful technology, scientific studies and vast investment in the growing industry that is ‘employee engagement’ has seen the rise of companies such as Culture Amp and WeThrive. The annual appraisal is fast becoming a thing of the past, and companies taking advantage of real time employee data and feedback from such providers are getting results. Consider partnering one of these companies and use the results as a scaffold on which to build the culture of understanding.

Action 2 – Engage and Lead

Once management and supervisors have begun to understand the people in their teams, they can go about engaging them in a manner that reflects this. If recognition is a primary driver, then don’t underestimate the impact of a well timed pat on the back or verbal acknowledgement of a job done well, however small. If it’s inclusion that makes them tick, don’t be afraid to ask for their input on an upcoming decision.

If they want to develop specific areas of their expertise, make sure this is factored into their role allocation and training. To support someone’s growth and evolution as a person is a great honour, one that can quickly become the most fulfilling part of your work. So make time to actively support and lead your teams.

Action 3 – Translate your values

A team of employees who feel understood and engaged is a mighty asset, but do they know ultimately what is expected of them ‘on the front line’, and what great service feels like? I’m not just talking about standards of service, which are an important foundation. Inspiring company values are generally created at executive and corporate level, but do the employees understand how they translate into their hundreds of everyday guest interactions?

There’s a big difference between knowing the values, and living them. If you’re asking your employees to deliver experiences that are ‘generous’ ‘exhilarating’ and ‘genuine’ (to cherry pick a few from leading international hotel brand values), are you also translating each of those into practical terms? Then, are you recognizing and celebrating them when they are demonstrated? Perhaps most importantly of all, are you setting the example, and are the values underpinning your every action? If you break the code, have the self-awareness to see this and then to understand why it happened.

The rest is inevitable

Let’s return to those guests, the ones that are in your restaurant, bar or lobby right now.

How are we going to consistently delight them and understand their individual needs (usually the two go hand in hand)? Well the good news is this, if you’ve taken the steps above into hand, it’s going to happen (if you’re not familiar with Heskett’s ‘Service-Profit Chain’, now’s a good time to look it up). You’ve created a culture where your employees feel understood and are engaged and singing the values that you expect from them. Your guests will feel understood and engaged, and feel the values of your company. So, don’t be surprised to see a lot more of them in 2017, and to see them happier and spending more money.

About the author

giles-gordon-smithGiles Gordon-Smith is a hotelier and founder of Penshee, a consultancy specializing in Emotional Intelligence and employee engagement in the hospitality industry.

Previously he spent eight years in senior management at London’s Goring Hotel and at top London caterer, Rhubarb, before going on to provide quality assurance to luxury hotels around the world with Leading Quality Assurance.