Episode 1- Series - 1
The impact of COVID-19 has been felt far and wide; across industries, the global pandemic pushed companies to temporarily shut their offices and shift to remote working. In particular, the hospitality industry was hit hard and fast, with many employees placed on furlough or being laid off. Wth the world emerging from the pandemic and demand for hospitality businesses at an all time high, one thing for certain is that the world of work will never return to pre-pandemic norms. In a webinar with EHL, Shelley Perkins, Chief Talent and Culture Officer of the Rosewood Hotel Group, shares some of her thoughts on the impacts of COVID-19 on the workplace and how the future of work may look like.
Many have said that COVID-19 did not actually change anything. Rather, it has simply accelerated trends which had already been in play. In that regard, what has really changed for the future of work in hospitality? What new roles are being created now?
It’s interesting because everybody was referring to robots and AI when it comes to future of hospitality. In our business, it has always centered around relationships and a machine can never replace that. With COVID-19, I think it’s actually reinforced that the need to go back to the basics – providing surgically clean rooms and restaurants, being sensitive around what people might be going through, adopting the highest standards of safety and security, and providing flexibility to meet guest needs – in other words, that true exemplar of Relationship Hospitality that our company is founded upon.
As a result of that, there are new roles that are rising to the top in terms of their importance. Now, every hotel around the world has a hygiene manager – some of them even sit on the executive committee. Who would have imagined that six months ago? The executive housekeeper role has also been elevated and they bring some serious expertise in hygiene – they had been in the background, but now as a critical part of the business they are really moving to the forefront. We’ve also seen how vital it is that communications teams are really armed up in a hotel to deal with anything. Things change so quickly every day; your communications leader of a hotel is more than just PR and marketing – it’s really about crisis management and reacting to situations promptly and in a skillful manner.
Fostering collaboration – many companies have this on their values, but does it really happen? Eliminating silos; and placing increased importance on communications, and talent and culture – being a true partner to the business and a trusted advisor – is essential in building a strong, engaging culture.
It can be challenging to build a culture of engagement without a lot of face-to-face time. One of the things that our CEO does with her global executive team – sometimes we have a virtual huddle where there’s no formal agenda, and we ask about each other, tell funny stories, or even have a glass of wine virtually together. This helps to take the pressure off and get to connect with one another on a personal level. As we continue to evolve and learn from this [COVID-19 situation] I do think that companies with a solid culture are going to survive in a way that others will not.
I believe that one of the most important skill sets moving forward is going to be empathy – the ability to put yourself either in the guests’ or associate’s shoes. I say trusted advisor a lot, but I think it’s so important that you can be counted on to be transparent.
When we communicate with people especially in flux and uncertain situations, there are three rules in engaging with people and building trust: “I’ll tell you what I know; I’ll tell you what I don’t know; and then I can tell you what I am going to find out for you.” Don’t pretend that everything is okay. We remain transparent and that shows people the human side of what you’re doing.
I think physical office spaces are here to stay – when we surveyed our people on their preferences, the majority opted for flexibility to come to the office in addition to work from home. We might not have huge offices anymore; but people do want a place to work that’s an office, to meet each other in person, to mingle, and share moments. In Hong Kong we’re actually moving to a new office which will probably be the same size, but it will be different. Instead of two floors, we will only have one; and we’re going to have a lot of hot desks, shared offices, and small meeting rooms, to foster collaboration, and creativity.
We are also seeing more collaboration across geographical distance. People are talking to and working remotely with others whom they may not have crossed paths before. Even as we migrate to conference calls, the interpersonal interactions – or the spontaneous ‘water cooler moments’ still happen on the side on WhatsApp – I think that’s interesting and it shows that we all yearn for the spontaneous, human contact with one another in-person – and I hope that we can resume some of that soon.