By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky
While the pandemic is what it is at this point, one of the key changes that is becoming irreversible for hotel operations is the shift towards lean teams as supported by a backbone of automation. But in this new organizational model, it’s important that you also finesse some of the ‘soft skills’ of management so that your teams aren’t overworked and can focus on improving the experience or locking in bookings.
For one, the financial reasons behind the shift to lean teams makes sense. With less overhead, hotels can derive positive net incomes off of lower occupancies – perfect for the erratic conditions brought about by COVID-19. With fewer managers to take on big projects, what’s needed is a faster ‘operational tempo’ so that initiatives can be executed without delays from groupthink or decision by committee.
This brings us to meetings, for which hotels are notoriously bad at from an efficiency standpoint. The key word to remember here is ‘output’; a meeting can technically be productive in that important business matters are discussed, but if nothing results or there are no actionable follow-ups (output) then there are better ways for your teams to spend their time.
The problem is, of course, that time is scarce, especially without the ‘bench strength’ of your pre-pandemic organizational structure. All those minutes spent meeting could well be cycled back into other projects like new initiatives, technology investigations, better guest service and more continued professional development (CPD) to enhance each manager’s capabilities while simultaneously reducing their chances of leaving for more fulfilling work.
There’s still a lot to unpack in terms of the natural tendency towards meetings and group decision making. Nevertheless, lean must mean fast, and thus that’s a good place to start for how to increase team productivity for the year ahead.
- Fewer meetings and fewer video calls. This should be readily evident by now. Each attendee should be able to immediately prove why they need to be present. And this applies to general managers or other senior executives whose schedules are consummately overstuffed already. Designate a minute taker so that anyone who can’t give a substantive reason can glance over those when they are disseminated. Next, will a mobile call suffice? You can still use Calendly or Google Meets to earmark the time and to serve as a backup for when phone networks are spotty but save your eyes the strain and stick to just voice.
- Open-minded work environments. The boss-employee dynamic is a delicate one, and it’s totally natural for subordinates to not want to verbally disagree during a meeting lest they embarrass the boss and suffer the consequences. A good solution is to hold ‘office hours’ – at the physical office or stated in a memo so that everyone feels as though their superiors are approachable – where anyone can come in to clarify a chosen direction or to voice any trepidations over the current plan. The matter of ‘safety’ in this instance means that any employee at any level should be able to question or suggest an alternative without reprisal. After all, good ideas can come from anywhere, especially from novices or outsiders who can evaluate scenarios without the bias or blinders of decades working in a single field.
- Give your teams more work. It’s often said that if you want something done, give it to the busiest person. After you reduce the total number of meetings and delegate responsibility so that your teams are more empowered to either make fast decisions or coalesce their thought processes into a specific recommendation, you’ll soon find that everyone has quite a bit of free time on their hands. Hotels have no shortage of long-term, visionary projects that are waiting to get greenlit, so to fill this void overload your teams with dense, complex and cranium-straining work, along with review deadlines to keep them all accountable. Another suggestion is to formalize a succession mentorship program as well as internal CPD courses with structured assignments and regular testing. Rewrite each person’s job description, then challenge your managers in a sink-or-swim manner and the most likely case is that they will be able to tread water with the best of them.