Change Management COVID

Back to Work – Hotel Change Management in the Era of COVID

By , Director, Industry Consulting

The pandemic brought change and uncertainty on many levels, personally and professionally, and even if you’re still getting over the shock, we must keep moving to face our new reality.

Born late in April, as per astrology definition, I’m a Taurus—usually described as someone who fears change. Well, so far I’ve lived in four continents, six countries and 13 different cities. If you haven’t moved around much, trust me, packing up your life over and over across the world involves quite a bit of change and, more importantly, the agility to adapt.

Regardless of your zodiac sign, the extreme change we’ve seen this year has been challenging for all of us, and people have accepted it at different paces, which is not uncommon. Realistically, you can’t force people to adapt faster or at the same pace as you. We are all unique.

Remain Cautiously Optimistic

In the hospitality industry, some have started to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and even if we don’t know how long it will take to get to the light, we know it’s there. I’ve been encouraged by the positivity I’ve seen. Overall, I think there is more certainty about the resilience of the industry than ever.

Certainly, there is uncertainty around the recovery pace, which varies by hotel, city and country, as well as uncertainty around the type of business that will come back first or how much market share there is to gain. However, with some contextual information, hotel leaders are now able to develop new plans and strategies focusing on new opportunities and a more customer-centric approach.

Some leaders are just getting back into their jobs. Others have been in reactive mode and are just now starting to process everything and determine how best to prepare for the re-launch. Personally, I’ve learned the importance of listening with understanding and empathy and teaching those around me to do the same. We were all faced with different circumstances, some with kids at home running around, others isolated or jobless, and so on.

I’d already been working from home for a few years now, and I’ve learned to recognize people’s emotions and struggles in their voices. During the last couple months, I’ve reached out to people across the industry to listen to their stories, and even if I’m not able to do much about their situation, by listening with understanding and empathy, I have been able to help them more than I thought—and also help myself.

Seek Greater Understanding

I think a lot about the impact organizations are having with less resources, leading to people having to wear multiple hats and, at the same time, stay innovative to come up with new strategies and plans. In my experience, groups of people can come up with better and different ideas, but you’ll need to be open to collaborating with and influencing others. Also, from a community perspective, the more collaboration you get from businesses around you, the better offers you could potentially put together and not only help your own business, but your community in general.

Government regulations vary region to region, even city to city, as to when and how lockdowns are being lifted or made less restricted. Thus, demand and customer behavior is being impacted largely by these regulations, the individual reaction to the them, and the different approaches businesses take will make it difficult for us to believe a one-size strategy will fit all, and for some time to come.

There are many indications hotels need to become more micro-market and micro-segment focused with an agile approach, and so the more you can learn about your potential customers, the better prepared you’ll be to service their needs.

If you already know why customers will be willing to travel and come to your hotel, what is the incentive: family, small business, just to take a break? If you know, you can already plan the best customized offers to present them. But if you don’t—ask, and make sure your staff is open to listening to your customers’ stories and gaining insights as well.

We are all a bit wary of close contact with people, and we are most probably adding different devices to limit the contact with our clientele, but there is still a human need for people to interact, and there’s nothing better to break the ice and reduce fears than sharing your stories and listening to each other.

Lead the Recovery, Together

Collaboration will force historical silos in our organizations to break down more than ever before, so don’t be surprised to see different teams looking for alignment in priorities and understanding how each can better support others as well as rely on the technology to support their strategies and improve their efficiency.

Unfortunately, I’m afraid we are not going to achieve pre-pandemic business levels anytime soon. Early 2021 will still be heavily impacted by slow corporate and group demand, but we’ll certainly be stronger as individuals and as organizations with a more agile and innovative approach.

We may not all be in leadership positions, but we can all be better leaders, and during these times of uncertainty and change, we can help others by focusing on our communication, empathy, collaboration and influencing capabilities.

Director, Industry Consulting

Before joining the IDeaS global team in 2011, Digna spent 11 years in leadership roles at InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). With deep expertise in the deployment and structuring of pricing and revenue management processes, Digna helps clients build sustainable revenue management cultures in multicultural environments. Digna holds an MBA in Hospitality Management from IMHI, a joint program of Cornell University and ESSEC.

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