continuous improvement

February 02, 2024 •

6 min reading

How to foster continuous improvement in the hospitality industry

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To thrive in the hospitality industry, businesses must continuously improve their offer to adapt to industry trends and guests' evolving preferences. Achieving this requires a highly adaptive organization with a culture of continuous improvement that fosters adaptability, innovation and an openness to transformation. While building an improvement culture isn’t easy, organizations can achieve it through commitment, effective leadership and robust management practices that focus on transforming mindsets, evaluating measurable, data-driven results, and implementing processes that continually drive the organization toward excellence.

The ten steps provided here are designed to help you introduce, develop and maintain a culture of continuous improvement in the hospitality industry.

Prepare for change

To successfully build a culture of continuous improvement in the hospitality industry, it's vital to first prepare for change. This step involves assessing your organization's current culture, defining your vision for the optimal culture, and finally, developing a plan to achieve it.

1. Assess your current culture

Building a culture of continuous improvement begins with assessing your hospitality business’ current culture. The success of this step hinges on effective communication and transparency across your organization.

To achieve a complete picture of your current culture, seek views from employees across all levels of seniority and all business units. Take time to observe your colleagues' behaviors and discover how they interpret your organization’s current values. You can approach this with a combination of online questionnaires and personal interviews.

To encourage honest responses, consider providing employees with the means to provide anonymous feedback.

2. Define your vision

Next, defining what you are trying to achieve with the proposed culture change is essential. Look at your organisation's current culture and assess how you currently work toward continuous improvement well and how you don't.

These insights will enable you to conduct a culture gap analysis to identify discrepancies between your actual and optimal culture. This analysis will inform you of areas in your current culture that require development

This could be cultural weaknesses in staff retention, collaborating across teams or even how you learn from guest feedback.

3. Develop a plan for continuous improvement

Once you've identified your business’ cultural strengths and weaknesses, it's time to develop a plan to build a culture of continuous improvement. Start by outlining the actions required to achieve the cultural changes you're seeking to foster. This could involve changes to processes or even management structures.

Once initial strategies are outlined, develop a timeline for implementing the changes. For this timeline to be effective, you should consult every team in your hotel or hospitality business. This will allow you to identify actions with interdependencies and effectively mitigate potential risks that could impact your day-to-day operations.

During this process, it's crucial to ensure that a named senior manager is accountable for each workstream. You should also establish clearly defined review points for every action.


Engage for change

After developing your plan, engaging with all levels of your organisation is vital.

Employees will often need to adopt new values and behaviours to effectively build a culture of continuous improvement in the hospitality industry. Yet, with the highest rate of turnover, staff in the leisure and hospitality sector are very versatile and tend to flee if they don’t appreciate their workplace conditions. Hence, it's also crucial to demonstrate to all employees why the identified changes are important and to ensure everyone is involved and invested in working towards better results for all stakeholders, including employees.

4. Effectively communicate the change to your staff

Before putting your plan into action, everyone in your organization must understand why building a culture of continuous improvement is essential. Unless there is clarity within the organization around the need for change, you may encounter resistance from some employees.
To achieve this clarity, focus on these elements first:

  • Outline the reasons for change, such as adding value for the customer, optimizing workflows, improving operational work sites and conditions, and empowering teams.
  • Illustrate the optimal results: giving concrete examples of how the cultural change will improve the work environment and business results for win-win results is essential.
  • Clearly explain how each person or department will contribute to, and benefit from, the process.

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5. Secure high-level endorsement early

You must attain early endorsement from your leadership team to increase the likelihood of successfully building a culture of continuous improvement. This will create a united front from management and ensure that team objectives are aligned and resources are allocated to support the transformation.

A high-level endorsement also empowers you to identify influential employees in teams across the hotel or hospitality business to support implementation.

6. Engage employees and make collaborative decisions

Changing your business culture often requires all employees to change their mindset and behaviours in some shape or form.

Such a fundamental operational change needs to work for everyone, so as you start to drive changes in culture, everyone must be involved in the decision-making process.

This gives employees a sense of ownership of the new culture, which can be fostered further with training and development.

Sustain the positive movement

Once you have established a set of processes and instilled employee behaviours to promote a culture of continuous improvement, it is crucial that you continue to monitor and sustain the new culture.

Given McKinsey's finding that only three out of ten change management programs succeed, maintaining and nurturing the desired culture change should be treated as one of the most critical steps in establishing a new improvement culture.

7. Monitor progress

After implementing a change in culture, it is vital to continue to monitor progress against the objectives set out in the initial plan and to adapt these objectives to new challenges in the hospitality sector as they emerge.

It is essential to address progress and challenges with a data-driven, scientific approach. Continuous improvement requires long-term vision and planning aimed at sustainable results. Presenting data, analyzing results, and sharing objective information to support decision-making is crucial. The PDCA and SDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act/Standardize-Do-Check-Act) frameworks can be employed to plan and implement actions. Mistakes and challenges should be treated as opportunities for improvement and growth.

During this post-implementation stage, focus on identifying and addressing barriers to change as they emerge. This is a good time to identify employee training and growth opportunities to help them further advance the new culture.

8. Support and recognize success

To ensure continued engagement and to foster your business's new culture, it is essential to celebrate individual and team success and to recognize achievements as you overcome new milestones and challenges.

9. Sustain the change

To achieve an enduring culture change, it is vital to work to embed the new culture into your organization's processes and systems. It is also essential to ensure that new employees are trained in desired behaviours.

Taking a page from the lean manufacturing playbook, you can anaylze the sustainability of your continuous improvement culture by looking at the “4Ms of Basic Stability”, which reinforces basic organization stability. The 4Ms refer to:

  • Manpower: Good work habits, necessary skills, punctuality, low absenteeism
  • Materials: Fewer shortages, more accessibility at point of use
  • Machines: No breakdowns, defects, or unplanned stoppages
  • Methods: Standardized processes, maintenance, and management.

Maintaining consistency throughout your hotel or hospitality business is vital, so it remains important to ensure that these basic foundations of funtionality and standards remain robust.

10. Provide on-going training

Maintaining a culture of continual improvement in the hospitality sector can be particularly challenging, as maintaining the culture relies on staff retention. Yet, alarmingly, an estimated 6% of hospitality workers resign from their positions every month.

An effective method to increase the retention of high-turnover staff is to provide a comprehensive range of training programs that promote continued staff development. This is supported by Udemy's Workplace Boredom Survey, which found that 46% of employees who expressed that they were bored felt that it was due to a lack of opportunities to learn new skills within their organization.

For business leaders, investing in punctual upskilling courses and lifelong learning opportunities offers many benefits. Graduate-level courses for managers relating to hospitality innovation, performance, and strategy are good long-term investments that contribute to the pursuit of excellence.

Building a culture of continuous improvement for your hotel or hospitality business will help you meet the hospitality sector's biggest challenges head-on.

However, this cultural change also presents a significant opportunity for individuals to grow and improve and for teams to collaborate more effectively. Fostering a culture that is geared towards perpetual improvement delivers a more prepared workforce but, more importantly, a more engaged and collaborative work environment.For more ideas related to continuous improvement, check out these articles about service excellence in the hospitality industry.


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