Maintain Meaningful Personal Connections to Hotel Team Members
By Rick Takach, HNN columnist
August 10, 2022
Hotel operations are a complex endeavor, especially since they are amplified by the subtleties of managing people and caring for guests.
At the same time, our valued team members want to connect with corporate personnel and make personal connections with key management staff. Moreover, many circumstances at a property can only be truly seen, understood and remedied in person.
Therefore, as our industry recovers from the pandemic, these in-person visits are more important than ever, as many of us were not able to visit properties as much as we would have liked over the last couple of years. Furthermore, we have witnessed notable turnover in staffing, and many excellent, veteran property-level general managers have chosen to retire. In some cases, we are building back the basics of operations and culture from the ground up. The best way to do that is through face-to-face interactions.
Regardless, we believe that companies that manage remotely by relying on technology and analysis of data can quickly find themselves out of touch with the needs and, most importantly, the opportunities of a property. Furthermore, spending time with the on-site property team is critical to establishing and sharing ownership goals and priorities.
Up Close and Real
Property visits are also essential because there are just too many small, but important, details that contribute to successfully running a hotel that can’t be seen from afar, even on video camera. They must be observed in person.
When I visit a property with my executive team, I look first, listen later. On the day of arrival, after surveying the exterior of the hotel, I always go to the back of the hotel first and see how things are going in the maintenance and housekeeping departments. Next, believe it or not, I visit one of the restrooms. Then, whether I am tired or not, I quietly walk every square foot of the property that I can. Start at the top and work down. Closets. Hallways. A few empty guest rooms.
As we like to say, you can learn a lot. Are we maintaining cleanliness and organization throughout the property? Are carpeting and furnishings wearing as we expect? Do any walls need repainting ahead of the existing schedule; and so on? Overall, this silent observation is not about a lack of confidence in staff, but to identify areas that can be improved, as well as to commend our team members when they excel.
Next, my team and I are here to listen to the needs of the general manager and her or his department heads. What issues need resolving? How can we help with budget forecasting or revenue management? What property upgrades do you recommend? What about human resource management? I want to know what they need from me, especially as significant staffing pressures and supply-chain issues remain in our industry.
Yes, we have a wealth of property-level data available back at headquarters, but all of this data gives us the opportunity to fully prepare for property visits, weeding out the details that can be covered over email, allowing us when on-site to focus on team interactions, the physical property needs, training and connecting with individuals.
Many times, we hold a lunch or dinner for as many team members as we can get together to offer my personal gratitude for their hard work and commitment to the company. I make sure to speak to guests to personally thank them for their business and ask how they liked their stay or if they have any suggestions.
Thus, at these property visits, one wears many hats. Inspector. Problem solver. Morale booster. All these functions fulfill our ultimate goals, which are to make sure that we support our team and give them the tools needed to maintain the investment at the highest level possible, while doing a great job of caring for guests. Approached in the right ways, these visits further catalyze our efforts at building an outstanding hotel culture.
Rick Takach is chairman and CEO of Vesta Hospitality.