Understanding the Hospitality and Service Industry Culture

Understanding Hospitality Culture

Hospitality culture, sometimes referred to as service or leisure culture, defines your property at the core. It’s the pulse of your hotel — the captivating experience that keeps guests coming back year after year.

Your hotel’s unique brand will attract guests the first time, but it’s your culture of unparalleled service that will capture their loyalty. This dynamic is largely influenced by your staff. Satisfied and engaged employees are directly correlated to satisfied, loyal guests, and the main reason visitors don’t return to a hotel is because they believe that the staff doesn’t care. In fact, consider that 70 percent of engaged employees indicate that they have a good understanding of how to meet client needs, compared to just 17 percent of disengaged employees.

If your guests feel taken care of by engaged employees, they are more likely to return to your hotel. This is important because repeat guests drive revenue, which drives profits. As such, your culture — and how it impacts your employees — influences everything your company is ultimately able to accomplish.

In other words, a successful hotel culture equals a successful hotel.

Here are some characteristics of a thriving hospitality culture

Hotels are known for their unique culture. Unlike some other industries, the product and service are tightly integrated with the goal of providing an exceptional experience for the customer. This means that the characteristics of each employee are vital. In an ideal world, guests should be able to feel your culture emanating from your staff in every interaction.

Some of the most important characteristics of a thriving hotel or hospitality culture include:

  • A staff that’s passionate about their work
  • Employees that are fulfilled when serving guests
  • Managers that have integrity and strength of character
  • Hiring practices that prioritize attitude and emotional intelligence over industry aptitude
  • Fair, honest, and trustworthy leadership that leads by example and coaches the staff to succeed
  • A working environment that supports and encourages the development of innovative ideas and experimentation

Identifying service culture issues

We tend to see hotels focus on the symptoms of a subpar culture, rather than the root cause — which is often the culture itself.

For example, after receiving feedback that guest service is lacking, some properties may launch an initiative to improve by re-training their employees or drafting new policies. Unfortunately, while their attempts are well-meaning, they are also often futile. The reality is that you cannot fix client service issues or any other performance challenges without first evaluating your hospitality culture.

Identifying culture issues in hospitality begins with an in-depth assessment of your people. In a service-driven industry, your people can make or break you. One bad seed can create a toxic environment that affects everyone — including your guests. Equally detrimental is placing promising employees in the wrong roles. For example, some individuals will never excel in a client-facing position, but may thrive in a different capacity. For these reasons and many more, it’s vital to gain a deep understanding of your staff’s performance if you hope to improve your service culture in a sustainable way.

To get started on assessing your employees, rank each team member on a scale from 1 to 5 for the core competencies associated with their position. For example, a front desk associate would be ranked for their attitude; attention to detail; dependability; communication; local knowledge; judgment; and initiative, while a restaurant server would be assessed for their attitude; speed; accuracy; dependability; and menu knowledge.

As you move through this process, insights will emerge. You will collect data about your employees that has either been inaccessible or inadvertently overlooked until now. First, you will hopefully notice that you have some high-achievers on your team — employees that are performing well in nearly all of their core competencies. These individuals are likely bright, enthusiastic and reliable. From there, you may also notice that you have some team members that aren’t performing as well. They may be less dependable or they may have a poor attitude when interacting with guests.

Now that you’ve separated your employees into different groups based on performance — it’s time to use CultureIQ’s benchmarked surveys to understand them on a deeper level. These surveys are uniquely designed to capture unprecedented insight into how your employees think, what motivates your team, and where your operational and strategic culture stands currently.

Once analyzed by your personalized CultureIQ strategy team, this data will reveal the precise changes that can take your organization to the next level, along with the reasons why some of your employees aren’t rising to the occasion. This is critically important because in a client-facing industry like hospitality, you can be assured that if your employees aren’t performing, guests aren’t receiving the satisfying experience they deserve either.

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How to fix organizational culture issues

Ranking and surveying your employees is the first step towards fixing organizational culture issues because it provides you with the measurable data you need to accurately assess your property’s performance and develop a plan to improve.

Now that you’re armed with this information, it’s time to take action. In working with CultureIQ, your personalized strategists will guide you through this process as it relates to your specific property. However, we generally recommend the following steps as a starting point:

  1. Begin with the leadership.

When improving organizational culture in hotels, always begin with the leadership. If those in upper management positions recognize the importance of a culture that embraces happy employees and a positive, guest-oriented environment, the property will improve much more quickly. Make sure they are committed to effecting sustainable change and leading by example.

  1. Address problem employees directly.

Once leadership is involved, it’s time to act based on your staff evaluations. If employees in client-facing roles aren’t performing, you may want to consider removing them from those positions. If you think they can improve with additional training or are better suited for another role, move forward accordingly. If you see signs that they are contributing to a toxic environment, investigate the situation and consider terminating if necessary.

  1. Collaborate with your high-performing and engaged employees.

Your high-performing, engaged employees working in the hospitality industry are going to be an invaluable resource to your hotel throughout this process. Meet with them to discuss changing the culture from the ground up. Consider asking the following questions to start the conversation:

  • How does working alongside unengaged employees affect the team’s energy?
  • How is the guest experience impacted by negative staff members?
  • What culture changes would you like to see implemented?
  • In what areas do you think the hotel can improve?
  1. Embrace new hiring practices.

Strive to fill open positions on your team with service leaders. Using the data gleaned from your surveys, generate a list of characteristics, attributes, and backgrounds that are consistently present among your engaged employees. For example, if all of your strongest team members are self-aware, motivated, and empathetic, look for candidates that demonstrate those characteristics as well. We recommend really looking at the person as a whole, rather than just their relevant experience. Remember: anyone can learn your systems and processes. Not everyone can be the service leader you need to ensure a thriving service culture.

  1. Take care of your leaders.

With the underperforming staff evaluated and your team comprised solely of leaders and highly engaged employees, your hospitality culture should be moving on an upward trajectory. Now, it’s time to keep those team members happy to ensure they remain engaged and committed to guest service. Use your CultureIQ surveys to determine the benefits and incentives that are most likely to motivate your employees and drive their loyalty.

In the hospitality industry, this is often flexibility with their hours, though your team may value other perks as well. For example, through surveys, you may find that your employees prioritize their health and wellness. In this case, you can offer special fitness benefits or gym memberships to reward your staff. By responding to your employees and offering the incentives they want, you generate appreciation and loyalty, which has a massive influence on your culture.

How CultureIQ can help your hospitality management teams

How CultureIQ Can Help You

You can’t successfully change your culture in a bubble. In a service-driven industry, everyone impacts the culture of your organization, so everyone needs to be involved — and that starts with your leadership and upper management team members. Sustainable, lasting change begins with their example and commitment to this initiative. You also need to know how your employees think, where your culture stands currently, and exactly what your high-performing employees want and need to thrive.

This is where CultureIQ can help. Our benchmarked surveys will generate the data you need to act with confidence. From there, our seasoned strategy team will help you implement the precise changes your staff needs to take their performance to the next level. Armed with this measureable data and expert guidance, you’ll know exactly how to motivate and retain your best employees — and you’ll have the confidence to terminate or find a new position for those that are not performing. With time and effort, you will eventually build a hotel that is humming with engaged, high-performing employees that are committed to providing the kind of world-class service that drives loyalty, revenue, profits and success.

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