5 ways to build bridges between silos
5 ways to build bridges between silos
06 NOVEMBER 2012 7:46 AM

Silos can act as communication barriers. To be truly successful, management must find a way to bridge these defined departments.

I am somewhat surprised to learn that silos still exist in hotels around the world. While they allow for clearly defined roles and responsibilities within departments, they also act as communication barriers.

For a hotel to be truly successful, management must bridge these disparate departments.

For our discussion, our hotel defines the departments and divisions as:

  • revenue management;
  • sales and marketing/catering/private dining;
  • operations (both front and back of house); and
  • finance.

Each department has its own responsibilities, but each also overlaps and interacts. If they do not communicate and support one another, the end result could be a customer service and/or financial catastrophe.

Here are five ways to ensure your silos don’t stand separate and alone:

1. Lead by example
The ability of any leader to clearly and effectively learn and then share vital information with others is supported from the top. A manager who helps everyone understand the hotel’s overall customer service and financial goals will provide an easy information exchange platform between departments. If employees feel there are silos, it might stem from managers who fiercely protect their territory. This breeds an environment where employees are fearful of sharing their opinions—and even worse, are afraid to admit when they’ve made a mistake.

If employees have the ability to speak freely and welcome feedback, the potential challenges can be discussed and faced together. Anything short of that is an unhealthy working environment.

For example, in our hotels, the assistant managers are interchangeable. Managers are properly trained in both front-of-house (front desk) and back-of-house (housekeeping) roles, and they can easily jump into each area as the need arises.

While finance is probably the least flexible department, sharing a clear explanation as to why a particular business trip, trade show expense or an unusual group contract will benefit the hotel in its entirety provides necessary support for a request. The key is communication.

2. Address complex relationships
One of the more complex and evolving areas is the relationship between sales and revenue management.

Twenty years ago, most hotels had a reservations department often on site, and that department was managed and supervised by the reservations manager. The reservations manager first reported to the director of sales, but industry experts soon recognized the increasing importance of revenue management. The revenue manager was born and was still reporting to the director of sales. Having one reporting to the other creates conflicting interests. As a result, the position of revenue manager was elevated in most hotel companies to an executive position reporting to the GM.

Today, a revenue manager must vet each piece of business and evaluate its overall value to the hotel. Sometimes this evaluation leads to rejecting a piece of business. Sales managers must sell to directors of revenue and make a compelling case why they should take that contract.

The revenue manager’s role is to grow revenue per available room, which contributes to the hotel’s overall success when it meets with the net operating income goals of the director of finance and the operations division. If the revenue manager puts “heads in bed” to keep RevPAR in balance amid a dip in market demand, the finance and operations divisions are challenged. Though there is improved occupancy in this instance, there is also additional cost created, which minimizes NOI contributions. Revenue management is a very delicate balance between occupancy and rate to create improved RevPAR.
Thus, complicated relationships must have open communication lines. They require a balancing act that can only be achieved through collaboration and teamwork. Recognizing each department’s responsibility and understanding its contributions to the whole is vital to a successfully managed hotel.

3. Cross-train your staff
Cross-training your managers in the various departments will help ensure that each team understands how actions by one division can affect another.

In our convention services department, it is important for employees in that department to spend time in operations so they understand how the event they’re selling gets executed. This cross-knowledge can help the sales department decide if the possible sale is a realistic piece of business for the property.

In operations, if the front desk doesn’t understand what is involved in properly cleaning a room or how much time it takes to turn rooms, they could make promises to guests that are simply not achievable. Similarly, if housekeeping doesn’t understand the sense of urgency when an agent makes a request with a demanding customer standing in front of them, there can be a lack of compassion and flexibility.

4. Build strong teams
Teamwork is most important. For example, eager sales people focused on meeting their monthly or quarterly financial goals might want to accept business that will place incredible strain on schedules and the physical property. Every department might need to send a few employees to help turn a room in a very tight timeline, but in doing so, the hotel makes a great sale, which profits the ownership. This collaboration helps the team find a satisfactory solution.

Another example also might include sell-out situations, where overselling can be a strategy to ensure a perfect sell. The team needs to discuss the risk of overselling and discuss options for relocations should they be necessary. Bringing together the teams most affected—the front-office staff, revenue management, sales and finance—allows each to discuss the possible outcome. When all buy in to the decision, there is a reduction of friction and disappointment internally, as well as a strategy in place to care for the guest in a manner that inspires returns for many years to come.

5. Take a lesson from geese
Fact: As each bird flaps its wings, it creates uplift for the bird following it. By flying in the inverted “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if it flew alone.

Lesson: People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they're going more quickly and easily because they are traveling on the trust of one another.
For over 20 years, Birgit Radin has focused her energy and talents on leading quality-oriented hospitality teams with the goal of creating employee engagement, memorable customer experiences, and maximizing profit for shareholders and/or owners. As a member of the Kokua Hospitality, LLC management organization team, she serves as the managing director for two properties in Chicago, and the Inn of Chicago. Reach her at bradin@doubletreemagmile.com. To learn more about Kokua Hospitality, LLC, visit www.kokuahospitality.com.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

No Comments

  • Leif Karlsson November 14, 2012 4:01 AM

    How very true! Since you now pinpointed the issue I hope this will be a wake up call and many will address the problem ASAP. It's not always hi techs, financial but also very basic issues that also matters. So easy to forget!

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