Chip Conley, the magnetic founder of Joie de Vivre, flatlined on stage once. The tale isn’t meant figuratively. The man literally collapsed on stage while delivering a keynote address in St. Louis. By the time paramedics arrived, his heart had stopped beating and his life looked lost.
The 2008 incident was a crescendo during the most difficult period of his life, he told a crowd of approximately 400 attendees at the 6th Annual HR in Hospitality Conference & Expo on Monday. During the four years leading up that moment, Conley lost six of his friends to suicide, while another left his life during a particular tumultuous breakup.
And then he broke his leg. The fracture would eventually become infected, spreading its way through Conley’s body until it became so severe he collapsed under the bright lights of an industry conference.
“I was in a really rough place. But the flatline experience was sort of divine intervention for me,” he told the crowd.
The room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.
The experience left Conley in search of answers, in search of the meaning of life—which he would eventually discover in “Man’s Search for Meaning.” In the book, author Viktor E. Frankl concluded that the fuel of life is meaning. If you have meaning, you can aspire for new heights and handle any challenges that come your way.
That sense of meaning, Conley realized, is what separates good companies from great companies. Good companies might only focus on the bottom line, on the easy-to-measure tangibles. But great companies realize their organizations are more than just profits; they’re people.
“The most neglected fact in business is that we’re all human,” Conley said. “You’re in human resources … and yet quite often you’re diminished by the powers that be as if you’re not important.”
The most difficult task for great leaders is helping their people move from a mindset that’s focused solely on the job to one that’s more focused on meaning.
Room attendants who approach their role and responsibilities simply as “cleaning” view the position as a job. Others, however, who see that same position as a crucial part of the guest experience—one that transforms a hotel room into a home away from home—have found their meaning.
That concept of “meaning” was reiterated more times than I could count throughout the two-day conference—as were the facts and figures to support its importance. A few that caught my eye:
• The No. 1 reason customers don’t return to your hotel is because they sense your employees don’t care.
• Only 12% of hotel employees think their leaders listen and care about them.
• More than three-fourths of employees said praise and recognition were important or extremely important.
• The No. 1 reason employees leave a job is because of their bosses or supervisors.
• In several case studies, hotel departments with the highest incidence of employee recognition also had the highest rates of guest satisfaction.
I write a lot about hotel metrics and operations and the bottom line, but it’s rare I get to focus on the people behind the business. Here’s hoping you realize their importance—hopefully without experiencing a catharsis after a near-death experience.
Now on to the usual goodies …
Stat of the week I
75%: The percentage of satisfied travelers who will never return to your hotel. The stat was shared by Conley in the keynote, during which he described today’s consumer as the “promiscuous customer.” There are so many choices out there, most of which are only a few clicks of the mouse away. To convert satisfied customers into loyal customers, then, hotels must offer exemplary customer service—which can only be achieved if managers and executives realize the importance of their employees and try to engage them.
Quote of the week I
“Don’t try to save people anymore. It doesn’t work.”
—Cornell professor David Sherwyn discussing termination and retaliation claims, as reported in “More legal tips for hotel HR professionals.”
First, a disclaimer: Sherwyn’s blunt assessment was meant tongue-in-cheek. (It drew considerable laughter from 400 or so attendees during the HR in Hospitality Conference earlier this week.) But the core of what he said is dead on. Retaliation has emerged as one of the easiest claims to allege and one of the most difficult for hoteliers to defend against. Years ago, HR professionals might have viewed problem employees as needing more support and supervision and education. But now attempts to “save” such workers opens the door to litigation.
Today, every disciplinary action, every performance review, every decision to retain should be analyzed this way: Will this person file any type of charge and turn the inevitable termination into a retaliation claim? If so, Sherwyn said, cut the losses and terminate now.
Quote of the week II
“You’re a piece of s@&#!”
—A delightful Local 2 union organizer protesting outside the Hyatt Regency San Francisco as I walked in to attend the HR in Hospitality Conference.
The protestors—about 10 or so, the majority of whom were not hotel employees—were decrying Hyatt for unfair labor practices and demanding union representation. They were screaming at every poor soul who walked onsite for spending their money at a property that “obviously doesn’t care about its employees.”
To which I reply, bull.
For one thing, this particular Hyatt already was unionized. Local 2 was simply attempting a loud, obnoxious publicity stunt to put pressures on other Hyatt properties throughout the country. Their goal? Card-check neutrality. It’s been an ongoing struggle for Hyatt the past few years, though the Chicago-based company has taken it all in stride. They’ve attempted to reach out and compromise with Unite Here, but the union has dragged out the process into the mess that it is today.
What I found particular interesting were my off-the-cuff chats with many of the hotel’s employees, none of whom were itching to join the picket lines. Speaking anonymously, most said they were very happy with the way they’ve been treated by their employer. Did they want higher pay and better benefits? Sure. But then who doesn’t?
And let me extend a great, big kudos to Hyatt for addressing the disturbance with dignity and aplomb. They allowed the protestors to carry on in a designated space in accordance with their first amendment rights and had a few extra doormen and security personnel in case things got out of hand. Immediately inside the front entryway, the company had stationed a handful of Hyatt representatives to greet travelers and answer any questions they might have. It was a reassuring show of force that made for comforting transition into the hotel, one I’m sure many guests, myself included, were happy to see.
Comment of the week
“Awesome article and SPOT ON! One addtional (sic) thought regarding effective Recognition Practices: Recognition will generate the maximum effect when it is RELEVANT (meaningful as Gaylord Entertainment has learned), SPECIFIC (articulated (sic) as Embassy Suites notes) and TIMELY (as soon after the behavior as possible). Great stuff - thanks for sharing!”
—Commenter Anonymous responding to “Engaged employees drive guest satisfaction.”
Thanks for the comment, Anonymous. It’s something I should have mentioned in the article, myself, so I’m glad you stepped up and helped fill in the holes!
Email Patrick Mayock or find him on Twitter.
The opinions expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.