I have studied economics but my drive and curiosity to work with people and be part of the most ever-changing industry, made me move into hospitality. Shortly after my career shift, it transpired that I navigate well in the structures of the hotel operations, can quickly oversee the connecting dots, and create new efficiencies with the given resources. However, this was only a small bit of the story why I was chosen to become a taskforce and implementation person. I was able to click and connect with anyone, find common tones, and lead them to their best performance and sharp thinking. I have trained, coached, supported, consulted, buddied many colleagues from various skillset, cultural and lingual backgrounds. And we advanced and reached new heights.
I simply believe in people first. When the team is in a top shape and have an overflow of positive energy, this energy finds its way straight to the guest (and as for the back of house act, it`s channeled through operational effectiveness and happy cooperation). The customers feel cared for and will build strong trust with the staff while recharging. As a token of their appreciation, they give plenty positive feedback, so the circle can simply re-generate. Energy moves, everyone is happy.
What happens when this flow gets stuck? When there is no end of the line to close the circle? I mean, what happens if we do not have guest? Or their demands are so radically different that we struggle to pin them and meet them and as such, we can not perform in a positive mindset and high spirit? How does it feel when every day activities are becoming a hassle and we loose interest to carry them as we see no feedback and result? What a hotelier feels like when they are locked in an empty hotel building with the gates closed and with no tentative dates announced to picture the reopening?
And once tourism wakes up and ready to flourish again, the clientele will return with a brand-new set of expectations, habits and attention demands. The early birds, who will start to travel, will be more fragile, more cautious, and with more and not-yet-seen demands. They might not need the fanciest sightseeing tours rather enjoy some safe and quiet relaxation just within the premises of their own room. They are used to the physical restriction after all. It almost became their comfort zone to not to be out. Guest must always be well looked after. Even through these turbulent, unpredictable, and trying days, as everyone else, hotel teams will need to adjust and gradually come back to what we tend to call "normal operation" yet it will never be the same. We must anticipate with a lot more and new calls and requirements as our basic human needs were shaken and we lost the sense of safety and freedom which we took for granted up till now.
All reputable hospitality brands are proud of their batches on how greatly they look after their customers and make their unanticipated wishes come true even before they would have said anything. Their teams are highly trained on all sort of guest relation topics and brand values, so they carry out their doings with skilled and ever-practised steps and actions.
Yet how can you prepare your teams for the repercussions of the uncertain and unforeseen? When every traveller will have passing thought in their mind, am I safe? Will I be able to return home?
Secluded locations are an extra burden for hotel teams, when being based at the same scene yet requested to be refreshed without having a source to recharge their own reservoirs. Your front liners are facing an ocean of emotions and get passed on an ample of various feelings. And with the new ways we must learn to operate, it is going to be even a greater volume. They cannot go home and talk to somebody candid to let the steam out. They cannot drive to another place to disconnect. If they approach colleagues, gossips are born to inject poison into the daily life of this organic bubble they live and work in. They were through a lot; their ground had slipped, and their duties and necessity has been questioned.
How can you help them to get through and out of this chaos with a strong healthy mind and an overflow of positivity ready to give and serve?
My answer and a non-conventional path would be to hire a transition coach who will work with your teams on their reorientation and support to reignite their mindset. What if over all the hardships, you could induce ambition, vitality, drive and collective direction by touching an area where not even the most inspiring motivational speech or the most throughout training can enter?Coaching can bring a type of growth where they discover how to tap into their most inner and impactful sources, which delivers such an effective edge that work becomes not only a duty but an all-times genuinely driven act from the heart. Consistently injecting these flames into their days will allow them to perform towards a collective goal, build mental stamina and flexibility, adaptability, engage on a long term and cooperate more efficiently.
On your part, you can start moving your group or teams forward with the following practices:
· Hold weekly team meetings, not for the operational matters but for reorientation and integration;
· Check in with them more frequently on an individual basis; if you are not the leader of a group, you can still do this with your direct colleagues or shift- buddies;
· Leave time and space for your group members to walk up to you and have a chat on a human level about their hobbies, interest, favorite book etc., discuss casual topic which you would otherwise when meeting new people in a social gathering scene;
· Communicate the frame and your boundaries of this interchange clearly as a leader or initiator;
· Encourage mental breaks for them to recharge and create the setting and environment for those times, such as provide space where they can be alone (and it doesn’t look awkward like that they would have to walk into the jungle with a machete), support them to enjoy their music, instruments if they play sports alone or in groups;
· Ask them what else you can do to look after their mental and emotional health as much as you take care of their physical well-being.
Please remember that you should not expect instant results or immediate swaps. Every small act will add to your groups` emotional bank account and contribute to their mental well-being. These might look like timewasters but built into your `new-normal ‘routines, they are the small acts which may create the greatest impact on a long run and distinguish you from all the others.
The hospitality industry will thrive again, movement won’t stop as long as human curiosity and drive to discover survives; people will not be contained between monotonic walls.
What will be the ways of fulfilling the new needs? We will see.
But it`s better to be ready with your people first!
Photos (in order) by Humprey Muleba, Jed Villejo and Kimson Doan