Company culture should be the most important aspect of running a business. In a people-centric industry, placing value in your employees helps you take better care of customers—and your bottom line.
Too many owners and operators in the hotel business tend to dismiss company culture as “warm and fuzzy” stuff. A lot of the men and women who believe this are incredibly smart, talented, motivated entrepreneurs and successful business professionals.
Which is why they should know better.
Because it’s actually a lot more than a desirable perk—it’s a critical part of doing business, perhaps today more than ever. I have found that a strong company culture is one of the single most important assets for a great hotel management company to deliver profits to owners.
A close and collaborative professional culture isn’t an abstract idea. You can draw a straight line from a strong culture to a measurable and meaningful dollars-and-cents impact on the bottom line. To give you one example of what that looks like, our own insurance costs have gone down 6% in the last year—at a time when everyone else’s insurance costs are going up. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we have a 94% employee satisfaction rating. Studies have consistently shown that happy employees get sick less often, take less time off and have to go to the doctor less often.
When we talk about culture, we are really talking about relationships. The connections that come from personal relationships not only strengthen the bonds of trust and improve communication, they unlock new opportunities and have the potential to transform formal, transactional business engagements into true partnerships.
After all, this is the hospitality industry. Warmth and personal connection is at the heart of what we do. And that mandate doesn’t end at the front desk. It needs to be part of your everyday reality. Because no matter how great your hotel management chops may be, your processes and, ultimately, your profitability begin with your people. If you’re able to build a tight-knit team of people who not only know their stuff, but enjoy their time together, the results can be remarkable.
Talk the talk
How you communicate with your employees is an important part of building and maintaining a strong culture (we’ve made a conscious decision to stop calling it “employee engagement” because it’s a confusing term—and no one really knows what it means). You need to make a point to let them know you appreciate their work and to give them the tools they need to feel informed, empowered and in control of their destiny. There are several systems and technology platforms that enable employees to independently check their vacation hours, their 401(k) balance, print out their W2, etc. This is more than just a convenience; it’s a way to make every member of your team feel more connected and more invested in your company.
A collaborative and connected workplace contributes to creativity, which subsequently spills over into your management work. The result is less turnover, more motivated employees and a sense of unity and cohesion that boosts productivity and improves service. In other words: Your values have value, and, as a hotel management company, your professional culture puts money in the pockets of owners and investors.
It’s also important to highlight the bottom-line cultural impact. We send all our hotel owners an email from the CFO, telling them exactly how much money they saved due to employee satisfaction. Translating warm and fuzzy “we care” stuff into dollars and cents can really open some eyes.
Getting (it) together
From the earliest examples of prehistoric human culture—when small family units typically were made up of no more than 20 to 30 people—there’s strong evidence to suggest that those early humans would periodically get together in larger gatherings. There’s something deep within us that is motivated and satisfied by this kind of tribal bonding. The world may be a very different place today, but people are still people, and getting your full team together on a regular basis is an important part of knowledge-sharing and relationship-building. Having two hotel management professionals from two very different markets exchanging ideas and experiences is a powerful and valuable commodity.
Some hotel companies are shifting to virtual training systems and basically eliminating in-person training. Video conferencing might be an efficient stopgap, but it can’t replace the personal touch. Something essential gets lost. To be completely honest, when I see companies shifting to a model where they are meeting less and switching to remote training programs, I’m thrilled. They can continue to become less personal, and I’ll keep taking their business. People respond to people. If you are trying to build or strengthen a relationship with someone, you need to actually be with them. Teambuilding, networking, experience, energy and motivation all get a boost from personal interaction.
I’m a big believer in the future of automation and technology solutions that can make our hotels more efficient while enhancing the guest experience. For all the promise of technology, however, I still believe that people will always need to be the biggest factor in the service equation. For example, things like automated check-in and digital room keys are exciting, and they present real opportunities to save money. But you can’t make the check-in experience entirely impersonal—you still need a greeter or some other dedicated professional. It might even help, because when professionals can spend less time with the logistics of check-in and more time greeting, listening to and responding to the needs of guests, the overall service experience will be more efficient and more personal. And that’s the kind of best-of-both-worlds results I’m excited to be a part of going forward.
Steve Van, president and CEO of Prism Hotels & Resorts, founded the Dallas-based company in 1983. Under his leadership, Prism has become an award-winning full-service hotel management, investment and advisory services company. For more information, visit https://prismhotels.com/.
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