By Dr. Diana
Driscoll, September 15, 2010
It seems that all hoteliers are looking for ways to cut as much from
their operations costs as possible – and for good reason. No one knows
when this slump will end, and if you watch the news closely, you likely
have whiplash from the contradictory messages we face every day. For the
sake of our mental health (or what is left of it), many of us have found
it best to avoid the news entirely.
No matter what the news holds for us today or a year from now, it is
prudent to remember what we have learned to date. For example, this
recession has taught us how to watch our expenses closely. Some of us have
removed the mouthwash and shower caps from the guest rooms, perhaps a few
of the towels, and one hotelier I know switched the in-room coffee to a
horrible brand, so that guests would never want a second cup! Is this going
too far? Drastic cut-backs that affect the guest experience will likely
result in the loss of future occupancy levels.
As a commercial real estate owner and serial entrepreneur who has bootstrapped
quite a few businesses, may I suggest an alternative that may lower your
operational costs immediately and improve your team’s morale? It
costs nothing to implement and you can start today. I call it the use of
“Alternate Skill Sets.”
Basically, you will be able to lower operating costs, and potentially
increase occupancy levels and guest satisfaction by utilizing your staff’s
numerous skills, talents and hobbies. You can set up a spread sheet today,
and meet with your staff one at a time. Obviously, it is a great time to
tell them how much you appreciate them, and let them know you are interested
in their other skills, too. They may have the opportunity to utilize these
skills inside the hotel for everyone’s benefit. The items you want to discuss
and record on the spreadsheet include the following:
• Do you have any IT experience?
How many times does your staff wish they had someone to call on for
those persnickety computer issues, but your IT wiz-kid is either too shy
or unaware to step forward?
• Do you own a 4-wheel drive vehicle?
Have you ever been short-handed because your staff is afraid to drive
to work in high water or snow? Be sure to check with your insurance company
• Are you good with home repairs?
There is no need to outsource many routine repairs if a member of your
staff is truly talented and enjoys repair work. This is especially helpful
for those “off-hours” repairs needing immediate attention. This is a chance
for your staff member to be a hero.
• Tell me about your hobbies:
• Tell me about your educational background
You may be able to obtain original pieces of art, letting the staff
member use your hotel walls as a gallery of sorts. All the better for everyone
if the artist’s work is for sale. Offering a showing for the artist can
also draw a crowd to your hotel. Obviously, the artwork needs to fit into
the brand of the hotel and be an asset to the hotel’s image. This staff
member likely knows other artists who would be happy to rotate their art
through your hotel on a monthly basis, keeping it fresh and bringing new
visitors to your hotel.
If you have any space for a small band, piano, guitar player, etc.,
it can be a delight for both the staff member and the hotel guests. Let
your musician shine! A opportunity to glow in the spotlight is a huge motivator.
This has the same potential as any other artist’s work, and in addition,
great photography of your hotel can help your SEO if placed on Flickr,
your website, blog (should you have one), printed material, etc.
This may be an opportunity for you to start a hotel blog. The entire
staff can offer suggestions, your in-house photographer can add compelling
images, and you are on your way!
Some people just have the gift for reaching out to others and keeping
relationships going with both potential hotel guests and current hotel
guests. Take a look at their personal blog or twitter site and judge for
True story. One hotel I worked with had a physician working in the
kitchen. He was practicing medicine out of the country and was unable to
get a license in the United States. But for first-aid and emergencies,
he was perfect for the job. And of course he was thrilled that he was occasionally
called upon to utilize his skills. Additionally, when the staff realized
that he was a physician, he was treated with a bit more respect, and his
self-esteem (and love of his job) went up dramatically.
• What languages do you speak?
I would recommend keeping this list at the front desk. Having translators
at your fingertips is efficient and impressive to guests. Don’t forget
to ask about sign language!
• Do you have any interest in car pooling?
With today’s gas prices, vehicle expenses and the “green” movement,
you may be surprised at how important this option is for many staff members.
By making this information a part of the questionnaire, you remove the
potential embarrassment that could preclude many staff members from inquiring
• Tell me some characteristics about you that most people don’t know.
This can be interesting! There is really no limit to what you can learn,
but I’ve seen answers such as “I love children” (this staff member may
offer to be an emergency babysitter for guests or staff), to “I have a
handicapped son and am comfortable around the wheelchair-bound.” (This
can translate to that extra level of care and empathy for these guests,
whereas other staff members may not know exactly what to say or how to
meet their needs.)
• Do you have any other skills you would like to share with us?
Again, the responses to a wide open question such as this may amaze
you. “I make an awesome cheesecake.” Perhaps this should be on your menu,
or offered for guests in the evening? “I love to teach yoga.” Well,
OK then! If you have a fitness center, a yoga class may be appealing for
both your guests and your staff member.
• Finally, “We are open to any and all of your ideas to increase
efficiency of the hotel. In fact, we would be thrilled if you could bring
three ideas to our meeting next week.”
Your staff knows where most of your hotel’s inefficiencies can be found.
They can usually offer numerous ideas to remedy the situation. To prevent
this meeting from becoming a “gripe session”, we suggest the “Rule of Three”
– for every inefficiency or problem observed, they need to offer a minimum
of three potential remedies.
It is impossible for anyone to know everything about the inner workings
of a hotel. You will be shocked and amazed at how your staff can assist
you, when empowered to do so.
So, take advantage of your staff’s “alternative skill sets” and give
them a chance to offer all that they can to the hotel. With a sense of
empowerment and ownership, you could very well see both reduced turn-over
and increased morale.
You have a gold mine of talent surrounding you. Utilize it, and appreciate
each and every member of your team for all they can offer.
Diana Driscoll, LEED AP B, D + C (“green” specialist in Building, Design
and Construction) works with hotel developers on their LEED, Energy Star,
and other sustainability efforts. As CEO of Ridgeline Hospitality, LLC,
and the founder of HotelRescue®, she heads up a team of experts to
offer immediate assistance to hoteliers in this tough economic climate.
Prior to forming Ridgeline Hospitality, Dr. Driscoll developed and managed
office and retail developments through Driscoll Realty Developments, Inc.,
and acted as a Registered Investment Advisor in her own company - Professional
Money Management, Inc. She practiced as a Doctor of Therapeutic Optometry
for over 20 years and received numerous awards for excellence in her field.