What the Five-Star Promise really means
What the Five-Star Promise really means
10 DECEMBER 2018 7:00 AM

A hotel industry initiative, backed by AHLA and major brands, shows a commitment to providing good, safe workplace environments for employees. It’s a good start, and if followed through will raise the reputation of hospitality, and ultimately benefit bottom lines.

In the early part of September, the American Hotel & Lodging Association in partnership with Hilton, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International and Wyndham Hotels Group announced a commitment to industrywide improvements for employee safety, starting prominently with the issuance of portable panic buttons to help prevent harassment and assault. The initiative was called the “Five-Star Promise.”

I’ve waited to address this event because I wanted to allow enough time to see what the actual fallout would be and how individual properties would respond. While actions have been taken to advance working conditions for frontline associates, it is a long and arduous road to implement the necessary safety and training protocols while still keeping a tab on the bottom line.

Continuous workplace improvements
Thinking broadly, though, the Five-Star Promise should not come as a surprise to anyone with a good gauge of historical progress. Besides a few minor blips, workers’ rights and workplace conditions have improved over the past few decades, and they will continue to do so with commitments from the major brands. Concurrently, labor unions will continue their activities to generate awareness for potential hazards and problems in the hospitality industry, acting in many ways as shepherds for what steps to take next.

Important for everyone to note is that times are changing at an alarmingly rapid rate. For example, look at the recent banning on plastic straws across the world as a means to curb pollution in our oceans. Do you really believe that will be the last piece of wasteful plastic to be prohibited? Plastic water bottles, plastic bags at grocery stores, plastic package wrappings and six-pack rings may all soon be abolished. Along these lines, the recent panic button deployment will hardly be the last new employee safety device (ESD) that hotels adopt.

Part of the contemporary shift involves recognizing the best working conditions for all team members, and then acting ahead of any government legislations. This is done because it has been thoroughly proven that a good workplace environment translates into better morale, increased productivity over the long-term, lower turnover rates (and thus inherent cost savings through reduced onboarding expenses) and heightened succession planning so that the cream of our youth is given the right nurturing to rise within our organizations.

Although many would deem the hotel industry a laggard in soft innovations and policy shifts of this sort, the 5-Star Promise demonstrates that we have perhaps turned a corner and that we are indeed not resting on our laurels.

What the Five-Star Promise means for your hotel
It is a play made for the very near-term as well as the far long-term. For now, such efforts to encourage the health and safety of a hotel’s employees will work to heighten morale and decrease the occurrence of potentially dangerous situations—both physical threats to staff members as well as other hazards, such as the improper handling of chemicals or lack of ergonomic training resulting in a repetitive strain injury.

Such noble and lasting efforts will cause all of hospitality to experience a reputation boost, thereby helping to attract more and better candidates to our line of work.

My suggestion for you is to take a big-picture look at how you are helping to advance your corporate culture and advocate for all your team members, both frontline and at the managerial level. The world is changing and you need to change with it, lest your organization gain a toxic reputation, hindering your ability to attract great young associates to fill your ranks.

Comprehensive safety measures and ESD implementations are a good start. You will also want to look at what team-building exercises you have in place, what offsite activities are on the yearly calendar and, above all, what career planning or continuing professional development programs you have set up to effectively keep team members engaged.

Quotidian training
No matter what plans are devised at the executive level, hotel operations inevitably boil down to the day-to-day life of the associate. Therefore, an aspect of all this that merits your constant attention is quotidian training for every staff member responsible for making the guest experience a reality.

Ongoing training, although it requires some resources to effectively set up, can act as a tremendous productivity booster over the long run because it reinforces team bonds, updated safety protocols and new standards to improve workplace conditions. If you are able to seize upon this paradigm shift by ensuring that your team is fully prepared, you’ll be ready for any new policies that are mandated by the brand, major chains or government authorities.

Just as contemporary technologies like the Internet of Things have helped to make ESDs a reality, other software and hardware can be deployed to automate daily training so that your hotel can attain its benefits without getting bogged down by the exhaustive costs that would otherwise be incurred by assigning dedicated personnel to this task.

While there are few select technology-based training solutions that exist for all types of frontline staff, it’s critical that you choose the one that’s right for your specific conditions. With the contributing factors enough to justify a whole other article, please reach out to me personally so I can review your property’s unique situation then offer a bespoke recommendation.

One of the world’s most published writers in hospitality, Larry Mogelonsky is the principal of Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, a Toronto-based consulting practice. His experience encompasses hotel properties around the world, both branded and independent, and ranging from luxury and boutique to select-service. Larry is also on several boards for companies focused on hotel technology. His work includes five books “Are You an Ostrich or a Llama?” (2012), “Llamas Rule” (2013), “Hotel Llama” (2015), “The Llama is Inn” (2017) and “The Hotel Mogel” (2018). You can reach Larry at larry@hotelmogel.com to discuss hotel business challenges or to book speaking engagements.

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