To remain innovative, hoteliers must implement a culture of thinking outside of the box... and be willing to fail. Of course, this is often easier said than done.
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the fifth annual Revenue Strategy Forum in London, where a common thread among hotel leaders was how to implement a more innovative culture.
“How do you drive change management in your organization?” hoteliers from some of the most forward-thinking hospitality companies were asked. It’s critical, speakers agreed, that when it’s time to implement a new, cutting-edge project or strategy, the entire team is involved.
In fact, Jutta Moore, director at Moore Hotel Consulting, compared the process to a home improvement project. She said it starts with identifying a need for change.
“I've spent my last week ripping wallpaper at home. You realize you want to fix something and you start ripping a little bit,” she said.
Comparing wallpaper removal to hotel operations, Moore said she knows something isn’t quite right when she’s spending too much time on a certain task. Like most of us, she first turns to technology to assist in completing the task in a smarter way.
In hotels, she said change starts not with new technology, but by identifying what you want the outcome to be and who you need to motivate internally to get enough support to drive that change.
It was a common thread shared throughout the day: hoteliers pointing to automation as something they’re increasingly adopting through processes of change management. Often times the adoption process, or “buy in,” is much more critical than the technology functionality itself.
At GLH Hotels, change occurs constantly and over time rather than all of a sudden and at once. Jonathon Liu, director of revenue strategy and marketing operations, said it's all about farming and cultivating a culture of change.
Liu said he would never walk into a hotel and tell them, “This is what you need to do.” Instead, it’s about planting a seed and getting staff to buy in.
“Get them to develop the idea,” he said. “You want to guide and direct them in the right way, but the people who need to make the change are the people in front of the customers every day.”
Kempinski Hotels hopes for a bottom-up approach as well. Wilhelm Weber, VP of global revenue and digital strategy, said Kempinski is a company with nearly 26,000 employees and, if they try to drive innovation top-down, they’re missing the boat.
“We have to see how we can enable the brain power of the entire organization,” he said.
Weber said his team AB tests nearly everything and operates on a trial and error process.
Of course, testing includes failure. Weber put it bluntly: Don’t embrace failure to the point “that you hire idiots,” but allow failure in AB testing to become learning.
Keynote speaker and digital consultant Rik Vera, of Nexxworks, added that “celebrating failure” is one of the riddles of today’s times. We should not try to celebrate failure because there's nothing to celebrate when you fail, he said.
“But if you’re in an environment of constant AB testing, then it's not failing, it's learning.”
As hospitality leaders, how do you know if it’s time for a change within your organization?
At GLH, it can start with a “gut feel,” but then the data has to be there to support the initiative.
Liu said there is an art in having a gut feel. If you truly have the right gut feel, then there'll be evidence to back it up through the data.
“If you can drive a culture of relying on the data, relying on the evidence, then you can build that trust and be able to innovate,” he said.
For Moore and her hospitality clients, the desired outcome is often automation. There is hotel software that can simplify a lot of manual, everyday tasks, and then provide “aha moments” where suddenly life is much easier and you have time to focus on the next big thing, she said.
But technology is only one piece of the puzzle. Moore said change is not a journey from “here to there,” but rather an ongoing cycle.
“As you bring in the other departments, from revenue, sales, digital, branding, that's when the whole change occurs,” she said.
At Duetto, we’ve referred to that change as moving from revenue management to revenue strategy. We’re excited to see that so many hospitality organizations have adopted the practice and we’re focused on continuing to innovate, finding new ways for hoteliers to work smarter and drive more revenue.