Human-centric hospitality

June 12, 2024 •

6 min reading

Human-centric hospitality: The key to thriving in the industry

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In the hospitality industry, success lies in the ability to integrate strategic business practices with the unique demands of the sector.
A people-centric approach should lie at the heart of everything you do, both in terms of delighting your guests and attracting and retaining the best talent. However, all too often, the demands of running a business can get in the way.

In this article, we explore the key challenges hospitality businesses face and the strategies they can implement to align corporate culture and human values. We also discuss some of the benefits you can realize by successfully navigating the transformation to become a human-centric hospitality business.


What is a human-centered approach to business?

Many business professionals in the 21st century share a powerful philosophy: putting people first leads not only to business growth but also to growth for their customers, employees, investors, and society.

They understand that to overcome the many obstacles organizations face and achieve their long-term goals, they must cultivate a transformative mentality that combines human values with corporate objectives. According to a report (pdf) by Accenture, 89% of C-suite leaders acknowledge the importance of embedding this combination at the heart of their business.

It used to be the case that business leaders would determine their strategies by analyzing historical data and adapting their benchmarks according to the circumstances of the day. However, we now live in a world of constant disruption, where employees and customers have unrivaled choices and opportunities to make their demands known. These are very human challenges, and the only way to solve them is through strategies that are founded on human connections and behaviors. By being more human-centric, businesses can better adapt to their challenges and capitalize on the opportunities that arise.


What does a human-centered organization look like?

A human-centered organization is one that genuinely focuses on the humans who are at the heart of what a business does. The first step in this process is to reconceptualize the groups they serve. These from business to business, but broadly speaking, there are three categories they should focus on:


Employees - A human-centered organization cares as much about the experience of its teams as it does about its customers. It prioritizes their engagement and wellbeing but also focuses on making them feel a sense of company ownership.

Customers - Despite being critical to their success, many businesses fail to prioritize the needs, preferences, and experiences of their customers. Human-centered organizations are committed to creating better human experiences, and this is particularly relevant in the hospitality industry. Putting customers first consistently yields organizational benefits, such as enhanced brand loyalty and credibility.

Communities - The wider impact organizations have on the communities and environments they operate in has historically been ignored, but now environmental, social, and governance (ESG) measures are increasingly coming to the fore.

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Why take a human-first approach?

Having a strong sense of purpose and a commitment to your stakeholders can help you connect more deeply with your employees and adjust to the demands of your customers. Ultimately, that can enable you to respond to threats more quickly and drive long-term profitability.

Empowered employees are key to translating your boardroom vision into action at the frontline and enhancing the customer experience. You must undergo a human-centered transformation that focuses your operational activities and innovation around these people. Although technological advances have made it easier to understand different stakeholders individually, meeting and fulfilling the needs of these groups can be complicated and uncertain.

However, according to research by IBM, the challenge is worth it. When compared against traditional business metrics, human-centered leadership enables organizations to:

  • Deliver outcomes to the market twice as quickly
  • Have 32% higher revenues than traditional businesses
  • Outperform the S&P 500 by 211%


What challenges do hospitality businesses face?

For most organizations, becoming genuinely human-centric requires a mindset shift. That’s particularly the case in hospitality, where an increasingly complex and fast-paced environment is dominated by a transactional mindset. The industry faces several key challenges.

Fast-paced disruption: The pace of disruption is greater than it has ever been before, with new technology, travel and tourism trends, and disruptive business models bringing the need to constantly innovate.

Resource allocation: That makes it difficult for businesses to determine how to allocate their human, financial, and technological resources, and is why 80% of the C-suite have already shifted their strategic approach.

Customer expectations: The desires and standards of guests are also changing. Increasingly, they want to buy from brands that align with their values, whether it’s wellness, sustainability, diversity, or any other core value that influences decision-making. That’s why hospitality companies need to rethink what they’re selling. It’s no longer about features and benefits on a surface level. Instead, consumers are looking for the personal meaning behind their spending and the happiness, fulfillment, and connection it brings to their lives.

Trust issues: Another challenge that’s particularly relevant to the hospitality industry is the dwindling level of trust. 90% of customers only buy from organizations they trust, and 80% only buy from businesses that act on client feedback. Customers and employees want organizations to be more transparent, so those that deliver human-centric products and information are more likely to succeed.


Three tips for implementing human centric leadership

To integrate the human aspect into their decision-making and strategy, hospitality business leaders can focus on three key areas:

1. Diversify your tools: In the rapidly changing hospitality industry, agile strategy development and decision-making processes are vital. It's essential to be open to new ideas, embrace fresh data sources, and take calculated risks. Customer experience insights, service excellence practices, and targeted hospitality soft skills training can help implement new attitudes, processes, and service models efficiently.

Harness the power of stakeholder feedback: Set business objectives by actively seeking and valuing stakeholder feedback. Balance traditional data and analyses with new forms of qualitative metrics to gain insights into what's most important to stakeholders, as well as what motivates and inspires them. A human-centered culture should continuously aim for improved customer and employee experiences and business growth, with the understanding that stakeholders' input is invaluable.

3. The power of emotional intelligence: In the rapidly evolving hospitality landscape, a strategy based solely on data and analytics is insufficient. Leaders must blend the traditional analytical approach with a new way of thinking – an inspirational and emotionally intelligent leadership mindset – to attract and retain customers. This approach empowers leaders to connect on a deeper level with their teams and customers, fostering a culture of empathy and understanding.

An organization's strategy development foundation cannot be solely based on past success. A human-centric business starts by focusing on people's desires, needs, and expectations while prioritizing facts and knowledge in decision-making. This approach demonstrates genuine care, builds inclusion, supports development, and empowers staff to harness the multidimensional power of people. Leading with empathy and humanity yields dividends through strengthened trust, innovation, productivity, and reputation.