2015 - 07 July

American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute eNewsletter

Guest Service Gold

Wiesbaden Army Lodge Delivers GOLD Service in Germany


Wiesbaden Army Lodge is the first military lodging operation and the first property in Germany to earn the Certified Guest Service Property designation from the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI). To earn the designation, staff completed AHLEI's Guest Service Gold® training program and 29 employees earned the Certified Guest Service Professional (CGSP®) designation."

Wiesbaden Army Lodge is the first military lodging operation and the first property in Germany to earn the Certified Guest Service Property designation from the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI). To earn the designation, staff completed AHLEI's Guest Service Gold® training program and 29 employees earned the Certified Guest Service Professional (CGSP®) designation. 

"We are very lucky to have employees who have been motivated and driven to pursue professional development," said Crystal Davenport, CHDT, Wiesbaden Lodge training specialist.  "To be the first military lodge property to earn this designation is incredible land having the opportunity to be part of this process is amazing.  Everyone has worked hard and to provide this designation to the team is a proud moment for all of us."

Wiesbaden Lodge opened in March 2011, under the leadership of general manager Jim Weber, CHA. The lodge features 164 rooms and serves an average of 420 guests at any given time. The lodge serves military personnel with or without families, as well as guests of Armed Forces sponsored by the Department of Defense.

Davenport explained that professional certification is a high priority for the Wiesbaden Lodge team and is part of their company culture. 

"We decided to complete the Guest Service Gold® process to really drive home what all of the employees already knew. We wanted to give them an opportunity to really shine and we are very proud to say they did just that," she said.

Davenport explained that in order to train and certify staff, the lodge presented six seminars to small groups of employees, beginning back in February. The process allowed employees to have a more personal experience with one-on-one coaching. After each seminar, employees completed the paper-based exam for the CGSP® designation.  New employees who have come on board since the big training push are mentored and coached until they feel confident about taking the exam.

Three stories presented by Davenport illustrate how wholeheartedly the Wiesbaden Lodge team has embraced the Guest Service Gold® attitude.  

"We had a new family PCS (permanent change of station) into Germany and unfortunately, the airlines had lost their luggage.The family was distraught and extremely upset, especially since they were new to the area and did not have a vehicle yet. When the airlines called the hotel and told them the luggage has been found and the family could come pick it up, our front office agent Nelody took it upon herself to help the family. Nelody has one vehicle between her and her spouse, so after receiving the call about the luggage, she contacted her husband and asked if he could come and pick her up to take her to get the luggage at the airport. Her husband left work, picked her up, and went to the airport. Nelody brought the luggage back to the family here at the lodge without them knowing. The family was amazed and astonished that she had done that and was incredibly grateful. Nelody single-handedly welcomed the new family to Germany with an amazing experience! 

"In another instance, we recently had a family stay with us who were traveling with their mother. The mother suffered from Alzheimer's and dementia. The mother was left alone quite often and would walk about the hotel and sit in the front lobby. After just a few days, the entire staff knew this woman due to incidents that kept happening between her and other guests. She would get lost easily, not remember her room, would yell at other guests and staff and forget where she was. The staff came together as a family for this guest and made sure we all looked out for her. The staff would comfort her when she was upset, would help her find her room when she was lost, and even help comfort other guests when she would say something to upset another guest. After staying a couple weeks, this woman found comfort in our staff and soon the incidences slowed down and she enjoyed sitting in the lobby talking to staff. 

 "The last story involved our supply specialist Glenn and a guest. We recently had a guest check into the hotel and due to unfortunate events the airport had lost his luggage that contained his insulin. The insulin he had with him soon ran out, which caused panic not only in our guest, but in our staff. When our supply specialist heard about this problem, using his native German, he began making calls to pharmacies and the airport trying to locate insulin or find out whether his baggage had arrived. After many calls, he was able to contact a doctor who helped ship new insulin the very next day to the hotel. Without being asked, Glenn drove to collect the mail early the next morning and brought the guest his insulin. 

"The staff here at the Wiesbaden Lodge has really shown what being Certified Guest Service Professionals means!" stated Davenport.

    Guest Column

    The Art of Leadership: 6 Pillars of Sustainable Success

    Renee Cavallari By Renie Cavallari

    Over thousands of hours of research and hands-on experience while working with hundreds of businesses and the leaders within them to improve performance, Aspire identified 6 Pillars of Alignment™, which are the foundation for growth and profitability. All leaders have the opportunity to create and strengthen the alignment that sustains top-performing organizations, and this AHLEI exclusive series will show you how. Today, as we continue to uncover what intentional leaders do to drive productivity, we're exploring Pillars 2 & 3: Clean Communication and Compassion. (If you missed it, be sure to check out the first article, which introduced Pillar 1: Connection.)

     Pillar 2: Clean Communication

    As the saying goes…"it's not what you said, it's how you said it" or at least that is what my mother used to say to me and she remains an outstanding communicator! When it comes to communication, most of us are great at talking, weak at listening, and have been so programmed to multi-task, we simply can't focus or be fully present. Then there is the ultimate challenge of being so crazy-busy, we sometimes share half the details needed to accomplish an outcome or expectation, meaning our people are only half as likely to achieve success. Let's face it: communication is hard!

    Pillar 2 of the 6 Pillars is Clean Communication. Clean communication is different than clear communication. Clear communication tends to be very direct and though it may deliver the information, if a person finds it harsh or disengaging, it may not be heard. Clear communication is just CLEAR. The rule of thumb is "he" who is doing the talking is responsible for making sure the communication lands effectively so the other person can have it . "Have it" means they hear it and they get it. Clean communication delivers the same information so that the other person can both hear it and understand it.  That's right, your communication is a reflection of YOU!

     The intention of our words vs. the impact…

    According to research, most words don't have a lot of power all alone. It is the tone and body language accompanying the delivery that gives them their true definition. And yet, some words are dirty words . "Dirty words" in business tend to be words that disempower or limit thought and engagement. The word but is one of those dirty words. 

    At my company Aspire, we don't use the word "but." In fact at our annual retreat, we enforce the But-Jar Rule, and charge $1 any time someone says the word. For new team members who rack up dozens of dollars' worth of debt by the first day, it's an eye-opening experience. Until they start listening for it, they just don't realize how often people, including themselves, use the word "but." It's such a little word. Why does it mean so much? 

     More often than not, the word "but" implies that what we said just before it was not entirely true. Think about the last time someone told you, "I like that idea, but…" What were they really saying? And more importantly, what did you really hear? Most of us only hear the words after the word but as this is where the truth tends to live.  

    And for those of you who like to use the word "however," it's just a BIG but!  

    It's not what you said… It's how you said it!

    Today, we spend more time than ever interacting through technology: texting, emailing, chatting and sharing online. The convenience and speed of these new communication tools are undeniable, and yet Psychologist Albert Mehrabian's widely accepted research on the relative impact of words found that words carry only 7 percent of a person's meaning, while tone accounts for 38 percent, and body language for 55 percent.  

    When you think about it, that leaves a whopping 93 percent margin of error when delivering information through words alone-a 93 percent chance of being misunderstood! This is why organizations that depend upon email and texting as their primary communication vehicles tend to have communication challenges, higher levels of errors, and more interpersonal rapport breaks. These breaks cause upsets and disengagement, and can have significant impact on productivity.

     If you listen like you never heard it before, you'll have never heard it before.

    Listening is at the heart of Clean Communication and ultimately, Connection. When a person feels heard, they feel valued. And yet, there are different ways to listen. The Co-Active Coaching Model by Henry and Karen Kimsey-House describes three levels of listening that actually dictate the amount of information absorbed. 

    At listening Level 1, you are in your own head. You may hear what the other person is saying and not gain the full intention of their communication. The little people in your brain (that's right, we all have those little people known as self-talk) may be thinking more about our response, or what is ludicrous about what is being said, or even what we plan to do about dinner. Level 1 listening isn't listening - it's hearing and it is where most of us spend the majority of our time - barely present in another person's communication with us. For those rainmakers (sales people - which is all of us) who are reading, more deals are lost due to level 1 listening than for any other singular reason!

    Level 2 listening is where the highest levels of success live. It is when you are fully present with another person. You are in the other person's head instead of your own. There is no self-talk - a clear sign of level 1 listening. You avoid drawing conclusions, passing judgment or formulating a response. You are listening beyond the words (level 1) as you are paying attention to tone and body language. At level 2 listening, you get the intent of the communication, which means you get the complete message. 

    At level 3 listening, you listen beyond the person's words, body language and tone. You are receptive to the energy around the message and you discern the meaning behind what you are being told. It's that "listening" you do when you feel something in the pit in your stomach and you explore it further vs. ignoring it (level 1)! I call it an intuitive level of listening. Level 3 listening helps leaders access and interpret more information and stay present while being curious, asking smart questions, anticipating challenges, and making more integrated and informed decisions. 

    Remember, you were given one mouth and two ears for a reason! When you listen beyond what a person is saying to understand what they really mean, you are able to make effective and smart decisions. 

    Great leaders listen more than they talk! 

    Pillar 3: Compassion  

    According to a recent study titled What's Love Got to Do With It? by management professors Sigal Barsade and Olivia O'Neill, fostering compassion in the workplace not only decreases employee withdrawal, absenteeism and burnout, it increases job satisfaction, commitment and accountability. It also creates a more positive impression among consumers. That is why Pillar 3 of the 6 Pillars is Compassion. 

    Compassion is a way of holding another person in a space of understanding and empathy. An enjoyable workplace may run like a machine, and it is FAR from one. Human beings have feelings and those feelings don't shut down when we clock in. The work may be priority number one, and for it to get done better, smarter and faster, you actually have to put people first. It's the people on your team who execute your work. Take care of them first and the work will take care of itself. 

    Caring isn't just right…it's smart business!  

    We all know the law of the universe. What you send out comes back at ya! As leaders and managers, we expect our people to care about our business for intellectual reasons like "I pay you, so you should care" or "if we don't make it, you are out of a job." News flash: People just don't think that way. Our people are human beings first. They have hearts and they tend to lead with them even when they don't act like it.   

    By definition, compassion is empathy. It is the ability to care about another person. Compassion can be challenging at times for if I don't understand you, I will be more likely to pass judgment on you which is actually a lack of compassion. It is a mind-set that says, "Though I may not relate to your perspective or opinion, I respect that you are entitled to it." 

    Like almost everything in the work environment, compassion starts with the boss. Simply put…when you care, they care. 

    One final thought about Pillar 3. Compassionate organizations have a competitive advantage because when things "hit the fan" as they always do, organizations with deep levels of compassion rally together to help clean up the mess…even if they didn't make it. Commitment is always a heart thing…so is compassion. 

    Why do people repeat themselves? Because they don't feel heard!  

    It drives us all crazy. You know that person who seems to the say the same thing over and over. News flash: When a person doesn't feel heard they repeat themselves…over and over again. 

    Throughout our education we are taught to write, speak and punctuate (along with other elements of effective communication) and yet never once did we go to a class that had anything to do with how to acknowledge another person. When you acknowledge what another person is saying, you not only ensure that you understand their message, you also communicate you heard them. When someone feels heard, they stop repeating and start listening. 

    Often, people mistake acknowledgement and agreement for the same thing. They're not. You don't have to agree in order to acknowledge. Acknowledgement is an act of compassion. Acknowledgment gets people out of their own heads and helps bring them into the conversation you are trying to have. As a leader, you will often find yourself in a position to explore other people's mistakes and perspectives. Are you the kind of leader that makes them feel worse, or do you acknowledge their perspective and what went wrong so you can engage them into correcting it? 

    Alignment comes through intentional leadership  

    Together, Pillars 1, 2 and 3 build an emotional culture that supports high performance, trust, transparency and teamwork. The next article in this series will address Pillar 4: Higher Purpose and explore how you can align your team to accomplish more than you ever imagined possible. Look for it right here in October. 

    Would you like to learn how to integrate the 6 Pillars in your workplace? Order "The Art of Leadership: Foundations,"AHLEI's new leadership development workshop created in partnership with Aspire and designed to strengthen hospitality leadership by delivering the tools industry leaders need to enhance their effectiveness through alignment, focus and understanding of Aspire's proven processes for learning and development.

    International Spotlight

    Marriott International China Recognizes AHLEI’s CHTMP Professional Certification

    marriott china The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) and Marriott International have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) whereby Marriott International China will formally recognize AHLEI's Certified Hospitality and Tourism Management Professional (CHTMP) designation awarded to students who successfully complete the requirements of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Program (HTMP).

    The signing ceremony was held at the JW Marriott Hotel, Shanghai Changfeng Park. Bill Lu, senior director of talent acquisition, Asia Pacific, signed on behalf of Marriott International, while Leon Shi, CHE, country manager of operations for Greater China, signed on behalf of AHLEI. The signing was witnessed by representatives from AHLEI's China partners and several human resource executives from various properties.

    Through this agreement, Marriott International China will prioritize internships and hiring opportunities to individuals holding the CHTMP certification from AHLEI and will give preferential opportunities for promotion within the organization. To qualify for the recognition, the HTMP course must be delivered by instructors who are certified by AHLEI as Certified Hospitality Instructors (CHI) and the exam must be proctored by AHLEI's provincial partners in China.   

    "Marriott International is glad to have more cooperation with AHLEI in China, just as Marriott International and AHLEI already have long-term cooperation in the USA," said Lu. 

    "AHLEI is honored to cooperate with Marriott International as a remarkable leader in the industry. Through working with Marriott associates, I am deeply impressed by Marriott's commitment to developing people, which is what AHLEI and Marriott have in common," said Shi. "We appreciate Marriott's support in recognizing the CHTMP. AHLEI will continue our endeavor of helping the industry in pursuing hospitality education excellence."

    Academic Spotlight

    AHLEI Team Welcomes I-CHRIE Conference Attendees to Orlando

    CHRIE logo This year's I-CHRIE Summer Conference is in Orlando, Florida, and the AHLEI team is ready to welcome hospitality educators to our home base with a number of formal and informal events.

    AHLEI will host a Mix and Mingle on Thursday, July 30, from 6 to 7 p.m., in Panzacola H1 at the Rosen Shingle Creek. Join us for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres-RSVP by July 24 to Becky Sumption at rsumption@ahla.com .  We will also have a meeting room available for one-on-one meetings with our team throughout the conference, in St. Johns 22. Feel welcome to just stop by, or arrange an appointment by contacting Sumption at rsumption@ahla.com  or +1.407.999.8168.  You can also find us at Booth #207 during Marketplace hours on Wednesday, July 29, 7 to 9 p.m., and Thursday, July 30, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

    On Thursday, July 31, from 12:45 to 1:15 p.m., Scott Chapman, AHLEI's vice president, training and development, will present a new 3-D Virtual Hotel Experience as part of a panel discussion, "Enhance Student Engagement and Understanding through Game Simulation." You can find this program in Sebastian L3 (Rosen Shingle Creek).  

    Also on Thursday, July 31, from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m., AHLEI team members will lead a panel discussion, "Creating a Competitive Advantage for Students through Industry Certification," in Sebastian 14 (Rosen Shingle Creek). You can learn more about how select AHLEI professional certifications can be incorporated into a hospitality management curriculum in order to provide graduates with industry credentials at the start of their careers.

    AHLEI and STR will also be offering certification workshops for the Certification in Hotel Industry Analytics (CHIA) and Hotel Industry Foundations and Introduction to Analytics (HIFIA) before the conference. For more information or to register for these sessions for educators, contact sharecenter@str.com

    University of St. Martin Sets Big Goals for Hospitality Department

    University St. Martin

    Three faculty members of the University of St. Martin (USM) Hospitality and Tourism Management Program in Philipsburg, Sint Maarten, have earned the Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE®) designation.  Dr. Natasha Gittens, CHE; Erwin Wolthuis, CHE; and Jan van Beek, CHE; participated in a CHE® workshop in April at Antigua & Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute and passed the certification exam.  Earning this certification is part of an overall plan to boost the quality and status of the school's hospitality department. 

    "USM is growing and expanding at record speed and we fully understand the value and benefits of the CHE® certification. Therefore, receiving this national recognition is in direct alignment with our overall USM mission," said Gittens, a Hospitality & Business Division faculty member, who has also been selected for the mentorship program to become a Master CHE® Trainer. 

    Wolthuis, head of the Hospitality & Business Division, said that having lecturers who have earned the CHE® proves the quality of the school's HTM program and is another step toward USM's goal of having a fully-accredited HTM program. 

    Founded in 1989, the University of St. Martin has 400 full- and part-time students, and offers a number of career-oriented degree programs, including an associate of applied science in hospitality and tourism management and bachelor of science in hospitality and tourism management. The school was created as an annex of Johnson & Wales University, and offers students the opportunity to continue their education at that school and many others with whom USM partners in the United States, Canada, and France. 

    Dr. Francio Guadeloupe, USM's president, explained how hospitality education-through USM-fits into the socio-economic profile of the Caribbean as a whole and St. Maarten in particular. 

    "It goes without saying that the dominant political mapping of the Caribbean-Dutch, French, English, Spanish-does not fully coincide with the social and the economic one. Sint Maarten may be part of the Dutch Caribbean and Saint Martin part of the French Caribbean, but this knowledge helps us little if the University of St. Martin (USM) wishes to best serve the island's population and cooperate with the hospitality sector," Guadeloupe stated. 

    "The USM thinks of the Caribbean in three socio-economic categories: 

    • White Gold: sugar, salt, and other agro-based plantation societies;
    • Black Gold: oil and other industrial based societies;
    • Visa Gold: hospitality tourism dominated societies. 

    "Sint Maarten & Saint Martin-it is after all one island-belongs to the third category. Visa Gold societies have a multicultural make up. More than 100 nationalities inhabit our 34-square-mile Caribbean heaven, and we serve a multicultural clientele from the wider world: The USA, Europe, Canada, and Latin America. Service on Sint Maarten & Saint Martin is King. As such, everyone has to cultivate the art of hospitality," he said. "The USM is embarking on making hospitality the flagship of our university. For this we will be working closely with businesses on the island that have the practical expertise necessary to improve our Visa Gold society."

    According to Wolthuis, USM's hospitality department is working closely with the St. Maarten Hotel and Trade Association (SHTA) to establish expected educational standards for the local hospitality industry.  

    "It is our job, with the help of our experienced and qualified faculty, to exceed those expectations," he said. "It has become our goal to take the provision of hospitality services in St. Maarten to the next level; the CHE® certifications are a great first step toward reaching the goal." 

    Gittens added that USM's mission is twofold-to enhance professionals currently in the hospitality industry and to provide newcomers to the industry with the tools they need to succeed. 

    "The CHE® has equipped our hospitality faculty with the tools to achieve our goals, in additional to modern-day best practices and advanced instructional methodologies," she stated.  "I am confident that as a USM faculty member and CHE® instructor, our team of experts will increase enrollment in our hospitality programs and increase our high graduation rates, while simultaneously producing skilled, real-world-ready professionals for the hotel and lodging industry."    

    Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry

    Implementation of the11th Revised Edition of the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry

    Chris Garland The 11 th revised edition of the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry (USALI) was published in the spring of 2014, with an implementation date of January 1, 2015.  The responsibility for revising the USALI lies with the Financial Management Committee (FMC) of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA).

    Throughout the implementation process, the FMC received a series of questions from the worldwide lodging industry. To answer these questions, the FMC has created a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section on the USALI resource portal page of American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute's (AHLEI) website accessible exclusively to purchasers of the book .

    In an effort to assist hotel owners and operators with their implementation, the FMC is presenting a series of monthly articles that address some of the most frequently asked questions. Some of the topics to be discussed include gross versus net revenue reporting, service charges, the change from cover to customer counts, mixed-ownership facilities, and operating metrics. 

    For this month we present the results of a survey conducted by the FMC to gauge the degree of acceptance and implementation of the 11 th edition of the USALI.  The article was prepared by FMC committee members Christopher Garland and Robert Mandelbaum. 

     * * * * * * * * * * *

    The Acceptance and Implementation of the 11 th Revised Edition of the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry  

    By Christopher Garland and Robert Mandelbaum 

    As stated by fellow committee member W. Peter Temling in the March 2015 article of this series, USALI updates are needed to, "keep pace with the ever-changing hospitality business environment."  When deliberating the changes required for the 11 th edition, FMC members reviewed the evolution of the lodging industry during the period 2006 (the publication date of the 10 th edition) through 2014. Over these eight years hotel owners and operators saw some dramatic changes in the areas of technology, sustainability, globalization, cluster services, distribution channels, and statistical analysis.  In turn, this required the introduction of a significant amount of new, or enhanced, guidance regarding the revenues and expenses influenced by these transformations. 

    In an effort to gauge the degree of acceptance, and implementation, of some of the more significant changes found in the 11 th edition, the FMC conducted a survey in early 2015.  Purchasers of the USALI document, along with members of the Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals, were contacted.  A total of 169 industry participants responded to the survey. Roughly half of the respondents were property-level Controllers or Directors of Finance.  The remaining respondents were accounting or finance professionals at the property, regional, corporate level, or owners.

    Industry Acceptance

    In general, the survey respondents agreed with the 14 significant USALI changes they were asked to assess.  Based on a scale of 1 to 5, where one equals strongly disagree, three equals neutral, and five equals strongly agree, the 14 significant changes received an average rating of 3.86.

    The change receiving the greatest level of agreement was the introduction of a new undistributed department for Information and Telecommunications.  The survey respondents, like the FMC, believe that the technology is a significant expense that requires increased exposure, and today's systems cross over multiple departments making the allocation of these costs difficult.

    The enhanced importance of revenue management has also had an influence on hotel operations that required a change in the reporting of this expense.  Today's revenues are being tracked on the basis of the channel used to book the revenue.  This was the leading influence behind the establishment of the new rooms revenue and demand segments, and the survey respondents agreed.  The role of the revenue manager is also being viewed as a sales and marketing function by both the FMC and industry participants.

    Strong agreement was also evident when evaluating the need for more equitable ADR and RevPAR comparisons.  This was a driving factor behind the decision to move resorts fees, which previously were either other operated department revenues or rooms revenue, to miscellaneous revenue.  Further, increased exposure of labor costs (the single largest expense for hotels) was viewed as a very favorable change.

    The survey respondents were less decisive with the enhanced guidance provided for handling revenues and expenses at mixed-use properties, and the additional guidance on reporting foreign exchange gains and losses.  These two items only apply to a small portion of the lodging industry, which helps to partially explain the relatively low ratings.

    A third area that scored on the lower end of the acceptance scale was the change cover to customer in food and beverage.  Although seemingly not popular, it now mirrors the statistics used by the restaurant industry in the Uniform System of Accounts for Restaurants (8 th Edition) and will facilitate better comparisons.

    Industry Implementation

    While the survey respondents were fairly uniform in their acceptance of the major changes contained in the 11 th edition of the USALI, the degree to which they had implemented the changes by January 1, 2015 varied to a greater degree.  The best "full implementation" rate for any of the 13 changes addressed in this section was 61 percent (additional guidance on reporting surcharges and service charges).  Of note is the fact that this was one of the more contentious discussions during the FMC deliberations.

    Other changes that received a relatively high degree of full implementation were the enhanced reporting of salary and wage expenditures, along with the movement of the revenue management and catering sales functions to the Sales and Marketing Departments.

    The three items that scored the lowest level of implementation can be attributed to the fact that these changes only impact small sub-sets of the lodging industry.  These changes address mixed ownership, foreign exchange, and resort fees.

    While there was great agreement for the need of a discrete Information and Telecommunications Department, only 45 percent of the survey respondents had fully implemented this change as of the beginning of the year.  Historically, these costs were assigned, or allocated, among various departments.  It appears to be a challenge to consolidate these technology related costs in one department.

    Overall Assessment

    Overall, the FMC is very pleased with the levels of acceptance and implementation of the 11 th edition of the USALI.  It was a challenge to reach a consensus given the diversity of the industry.  Despite the great variety of property types, ownership and management structures, geographies, and price categories within the lodging industry, it does appear that there is commonality when it comes to day-to-day operations, and the proper way to account for revenues and expenses. The FMC is committed to continue to monitor the evolution of the industry in preparation for the next edition of the USALI.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    Christopher Garland is the Senior Vice President of Operations Finance with Four Seasons Hotels Limited.  Robert Mandelbaum is the Director of Research Information Services for PKF Hospitality Research, a CBRE Company.

    * * * * * * * * * * *

    To purchase a copy of the 11 th edition of the USALI, view the nearly 100 questions and answers on the FAQ, or submit your own question for the FMC, please visit www.ahlei.org/usali .

    Social Media

    Employee Advocacy in the Hospitality Industry

    Woman sitting at laptop By Casie Shimansky

    Recently I had the opportunity to attend Social Media Today's Social Shake-Up Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Before the main event, I participated in a half-day event known as the Employee Advocacy Shake-Up. Employee advocacy has become one of the leading focal points of our digital age, as many companies are striving to empower their workforce into becoming brand advocates and influencers within their dedicated industry.

    Why is this important?

    For starters, as a Weber Shandwick study points out, it's crucial to realize that a majority of your employees (about 88 percent) are already active on a variety of social media channels and more than likely 50 percent of them have posted something positive about your company on these channels as you read this. Laura Lee from Nestle Purina stated that having 135 advocates in your employee advocacy program is far greater, and more beneficial, than having 1,000,000 Facebook Fans. That's huge!

    Here we are fighting our way to the top of Facebook Mountain for fans when one of our biggest assets throughout social media is right in our own backyard. 

    What are a few key take-aways for the hospitality industry from the Employee Advocacy Shake-Up?

    It starts from the top. Leadership in employee advocacy makes it vastly more effective.  Having your leadership team become actively involved in championing an employee advocacy program makes the employees feel that it's accepted within the culture and "okay" to embrace. It's a comfort to them knowing that the president, GM, or area manager is also active and wants their team to succeed on social media.

    Within any customer/guest service roles (in other words, all of hospitality) understand that the best marketers for your brand are your employees, as they are on the front lines of guest relations daily. They're the people who are consistently face-to-face with your customers - trust them to talk to your customers through social media just as they would at a front desk counter or restaurant.  

    Social media also opens the doors to creating "Wow!" moments buy monitoring and listening to your guests needs throughout these channels. Being active in this space can also help your brand with reputation management .

    Employee advocates recognize that their efforts are not only good for them professionally, but are also a great representation for a company they're proud to work for as you all strive to build brand awareness on social media.  Know how your employees are engaging in content, and use this to fuel what they share.  Some additional training and tools will likely be necessary. Use this time to train your team to be digitally literate in this new age, and encourage them to be active members of a community on social media vs. drowning them with a list of "don'ts".  

    Look into the legal obstacles your brand may or may not face with having an Employee Advocacy program. I know it doesn't sound like fun, but it needs to be done.  Don't use this as a tactic to scare your employees away from the program, but use your findings to ensure that it is done right. Use encouraging words and examples to showcase your vision for the Employee Advocacy program. 

    Carlos Gil from LinkedIn said it best when he said, "People trust other people, they want to be engaged and not sold to on social media, which is why employee advocacy matters."

    How is your brand initiating your Employee Advocacy program?  We'd love to hear more about what you're doing on Facebook and LinkedIn