Mr. Heymann

Guest Service / Customer Experience Mgmt

Engaging Millennials with Accessibility and Consistency

By Mark Heymann, Chairman and CEO, Unifocus

With the millennial generation now representing the majority in the workforce and a third of all travelers - percentages that are only going to rise, it's crucial that hoteliers understand how to engage and earn the trust of this all-important segment on both fronts.

For a generation that's more socially conscious than any before it, and hungrier for feedback, essential strategies include communicating often, checking in with consistent two-way feedback, and engaging with the community beyond the hotel. Mobile technology makes this easier, but only when an organization truly commits to changing the method and frequency of its communications will it fully gain millennial loyalty.

More Communication, More Often

Traditionally, new hotel hires are reviewed first at 30, then 60 and 90 days, at which point management has had the option to retain them or let them go without incurring additional costs, like unemployment benefits. Between the interviewing process, departmental training and reviews, those early weeks are perhaps the most communication-filled of a hotel or any service worker's employment. But once employees have earned their "rubber stamp" of approval at 90 days, it is typically another eight months to a year before they have another opportunity for feedback unless a problem arises.

If hotels want to attract and engage millennial employees, that process is no longer good enough. Millennials have a real need to feel connected with their place of employment, and hoteliers must respond by communicating more often and in more meaningful ways with their workers. The reality is that as an industry, hotels have been slow to catch on. For managers accustomed to keeping information close to the vest, it will require nothing less than a mindset change.

Social Responsibility

At one time, there was a cachet associated with working for a company that had a reputation for being professional and smart. For millennials, that pride comes from being associated with a company that also has a strong social commitment. They don't simply want to say they work for a more profitable company; they want to feel confident that they and the organization make a difference.

According to Cone Communications' 2015 Millennial Corporate Social Responsibility Study, 70 percent of millennials claim they would accept lower pay if it meant working for a company that shares their ethical and social beliefs. For many organizations, particularly larger ones, CSR efforts are primarily externally focused - sending employees out on homebuilding projects, for instance. But internal efforts also speak loudly to millennial employees. A hotel can incentivize these workers by making a connection between hotel cost savings and charitable donations. Take the example of a hotel restaurant whose food cost represent 28 percent of its total revenues. A greater focus on getting orders right, better portion control, and inventory management might bring those costs down to 25 percent - a savings of three percentage points. The hotel could then consider donating a portion of those savings to a good cause such as feeding the homeless - creating a direct relationship between operational improvements and social responsibility.

More Meaningful Metrics

While greater frequency of communication is crucial with millennials, managers also need to give thought to what they're communicating about. Instead of limiting feedback to traditional benchmarks like customer satisfaction levels, they should also consider metrics that will resonate strongly with their millennial employees. Capitalizing on the generation's strong social consciousness, one meaningful metric might be controllable waste; for example, how much food is thrown in the garbage at the end of a night due to incorrect orders or even poor portion sizes? Is the environmental program to reduce water use followed? Millennials also want to understand their own contribution to the bottom line. And so managers should include metrics that tie performance to financial impact, such as how many guests were given a credit on their bill because the hotel didn't meet its service promise.

A few decades ago, a new CEO at a large hotel chain turned the brand's occupancy index on its heels, putting the focus on unoccupied, rather than occupied, rooms. The reasoning: A 70-percent occupancy rate is healthy by just about any standard. But considered from the perspective of unoccupied rooms, a 400-room hotel at 70-percent occupancy leaves 120 rooms empty. Every empty room represents money foregone. This becomes even more impactful for the millennial when the connection is made that less profitability means less ability to participate in community activities. Profit is one of the key drivers that increases an organization's ability to be a better community citizen. That's the kind of metric that can motivate millennials to perform.

Engaged Employees Drive Profits

Pulse (periodic) surveys, in addition to the more traditional annual or semiannual employee survey, are a great way to identify the driving forces that motivate a particular hotel's staff and at the same time feed millennial workers' desire for more frequent interaction with management. Employees feel more valued and the actionable insights gleaned from the results help managers quickly identify and address issues affecting engagement and performance. Engaged employees are more productive, more customer-focused, and drive profit and revenue. A 2012 Gallup study makes this connection clear, calculating the relationship between employee engagement and nine performance outcomes at 192 organizations across the globe. Those in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed those in the bottom by 22 percent in profitability, 21 percent in productivity, and 10 percent in customer ratings.

Measuring Guest Satisfaction

Pulse surveys also enable hotels to reach out to their mobile-savvy millennial guests for instant feedback. Response mechanisms - for instance, a QR code accessed from their smartphone or tablet - afford guests the flexibility to choose how and when they communicate with the hotel, frequently increasing response rate. Management, in turn, can respond swiftly to any concerns, resulting in greater potential for guest engagement and satisfaction. This approach further promotes feedback in a timely manner, which helps to quickly identify opportunities and strengths that can then be reviewed with the operating team.

And like their employee counterpart, guest surveys provide valuable insights that go beyond whether a guest will return and recommend to the factors driving that decision - information that can significantly impact a hotel's bottom-line results.

By coupling an employee engagement survey with guest satisfaction data, hotels can make the connection between workers' perceptions and customer insight. This empowers work teams to act on critical factors leading to increased employee engagement, customer retention and recommendation.

Sharing Insights

Once those insights are obtained, how - and with whom - does that information get shared? The manager who holds that information close in the age of the millennial loses a valuable opportunity to build a more engaged and motivated workforce.

In a sports environment, information is readily available at every level of the organization. All members of a basketball team, for instance, know their stats after every game, giving them an immediate understanding of their value to the team and where they need to improve. Why shouldn't that be the case in the service industry? The more feedback workers receive, the more they understand their impact on the business. For example, how many potential restaurant customers left on a particular night because the kitchen was slow and they couldn't be seated in a reasonable amount of time? How many hotel guests were dissatisfied with their experience? Employees understand that when a customer is lost, money is lost. It is this type of timely, accurate measure that motivates a team and ensures everyone is focused on the correct key outcomes.

Sharing Gains

To keep their millennial workers engaged and turnover low, hoteliers might also consider sharing something more tangible: gains. While it's clearly important to maintain a profit margin, when improved performance leads to higher profits, a certain percentage of that increase could be passed on to the employee. Gain sharing is a concept the market would do well to embrace with this cohort. It enables millennials to not only see the benefits of their efforts but to participate in them as well. It strengthens workers' connection to their employer and leads to greater loyalty and job satisfaction.

The Benefits of Engagement

To attract and engage the millennial generation, hoteliers must take a close look at their business model and how they measure success and tie those metrics to a higher level of social consciousness. Managers must make themselves more accessible than ever before, providing frequent feedback and inviting the same from their employees and guests. And they must be willing to share information more freely, enabling workers to draw a direct connection between their performance and business results. In fact, managers may well need to rethink their role in the business and look to a coaching versus managerial style. For those hoteliers who successfully engage both their employees and their customers, the pay-off according to Gallup's 2013 State of the American Workplace, can be as much as a 240-percent boost in performance. That's a call worth heeding.

Mark Heymann is a founding partner and the chairman and CEO of UniFocus. He has more than 40 years of expertise in the industry, particularly in hospitality. Mr. Heymann previously was founder and president of the Heymann Group, Inc. (HGI), a consulting, software and asset advisory company that was a forerunner in relating labor management to service quality in the hotel industry. For 15 years, HGI delivered significant bottom-line results to clients including Xanterra Resorts, Omni Hotels, Orient Express Hotels and Loews Hotels. Under Heymann’s leadership, HGI pioneered the development of labor management system technology, and in 1991, it introduced the resource and labor management software program Watson R.M.™ Mr. Heymann can be contacted at 972-512-5105 or mheymann@unifocus.com Please visit http.www.UniFocus.com for more information. Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

MARCH: Human Resources: Inspiring a Journey of Success

Cara Silletto

Ever wonder what planet your new hires are from? For most, it is called Millennialland. It is my homeland, and it is a whole different world than where Boomers and GenXers were born. So why are your younger workers from this strange land so hard to understand, manage and retain? Why is it that they lack the loyalty of those who came before them? Why do they need so much handholding in the workplace? And where does this tremendous sense of entitlement come from? Allow me to explain. READ MORE

Nicole Price

You’re just being politically correct! In America, being politically correct has taken a new meaning and now has a negative connotation. But why? Definitions can help identify the reason. The definition of political correctness is “the avoidance, often considered as taken to extremes, of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially discriminated against.” In simple terms, political correctness is going to the extreme to avoid insulting socially disadvantaged groups. What could be wrong with that? The issue is not them or the term, it’s us! READ MORE

Kimberly Abel-Lanier

Engaging and retaining talented, trained workers is a critical component of success for any business in any sector. When employees are disengaged or turnover is high, organizations face challenges of subpar customer service, high costs, and human resource inefficiencies. Gallup estimates rampant disengagement among employees costs American businesses between $450 billion and $550 billion per year. High turnover also carries exorbitant costs to organizations, averaging approximately 1.5x an employee’s salary for replacement. In the hospitality sector, delivery of impactful customer experiences is strongly connected to employee engagement and satisfaction. Happy, engaged employees can make happy, loyal customers. Currently; however, the hospitality sector suffers higher than average employee turnover. READ MORE

Michael Warech

So where will we find the next generation of leaders in the hospitality industry? Like their counterparts in other business sectors, this question remains top-of-mind for those responsible for finding, managing, and developing the talent needed to ensure the vitality of their organizations. While, arguably, not as glamorous as a new guest amenity or as important as a cost-saving innovation, there is nothing more critical than talent to succeed in an increasingly competitive and challenging global business environment. Leveraging the best strategies and tactics related to talent management, succession planning, workforce planning, training and leadership development are, quite possibly, a company’s most critical work. READ MORE

Coming Up In The April Online Hotel Business Review




Feature Focus
Guest Service: The Personalized Experience
In the not-too-distant future, when guests arrive at a hotel, they will check themselves in using a kiosk in the lobby, by- passing a stop at the front desk. When they call room service to order food, it will be from a hotel mobile tablet, practically eliminating any contact with friendly service people. Though these inevitable developments will likely result in delivered to their door by a robot. When they visit a restaurant, their orders will be placed and the bill will be paid some staff reduction, there is a silver lining – all the remaining hotel staff can be laser-focused on providing guests with the best possible service available. And for most guests, that means being the beneficiary of a personalized experience from the hotel. According to a recent Yahoo survey, 78 percent of hotel guests expressed a desire for some kind of personalization. They are seeking services that not only make them feel welcomed, but valued, and cause them to feel good about themselves. Hotels must strive to establish an emotional bond with their guests, the kind of bond that creates guest loyalty and brings them back time and again. But providing personalized service is more than knowing your guests by name. It’s leaving a bottle of wine in the room of a couple celebrating their anniversary, or knowing which guest enjoys having a fresh cup of coffee brought to their room as part of a wake-up call. It’s the small, thoughtful, personal gestures that matter most and produce the greatest effect. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.