Building a New Culture, Post-COVID

Colin Burke

As we continue rebuilding the hospitality, travel, convention, and live events industry, it is essential to take a moment to reflect and see what lessons can be learned from the past two years.

Convincing People to Come Back to or Stay in Our Industry

It's impossible to talk to anyone in our industry who wasn't dramatically affected by the pandemic and its effect on their ability to continue their chosen career. Stories of top performers on furlough for 18 months are just as familiar as top performers who were able to work through the pandemic and are completely burned out, yet never reached the top of the mountain of “managing out of the pandemic.” Extreme workloads, doing more with less, no finish line… these are real things.

My takeaways from this are threefold:

  1. People want stability: Now more than ever, people want stability when making decisions about their employment. Job descriptions, compensation, incentive plans, and career architecture need to be factored into recruiting and retention strategies. People are less willing to take chances that could cause them to slide back into a position where they lack control of their path.
  2. Predictability is critical: Understanding and having control of compensation is critical to recruiting in the current environment. We are working hard to focus our incentive plans around & team performance that is tied to achievable metrics. These metrics will be tied to the effort that drives results, but will be less focused on areas outside of the individual's control.
  3. Offering flexibility shows empathy: The hospitality and live events industry will never be a work from home environment as our product requires being live, face-to-face, in person with other people. This doesn't mean we can't learn from the last two years and offer our teams the ability to continue to manage their life responsibilities in the same manner in which they have been. It is a stance of empathy and caring that while the show must go on, the people behind the show have families to care for.

Understanding that Our Customers are Changed (Possibly Forever)

Currently, hoteliers, sales teams, and customers have to do more with less. Buying timelines are truncated, booking windows are shorter, and pressure is higher to make decisions more quickly. This requires more nimble and proactive communication and partnership. This is still very true and will be valid for a long time, but what can we learn from these dynamics?

  1. Understand quickly how customers need to buy and provide them the solutions to allow them to do so in their chosen manner. Virtually every business had to move online to an e-commerce footing. Our industry will follow, but it needs to be curated and to complement our partners' brand experience. It's about amplifying the unique selling proposition of the hotel and providing flexibility for high-volume transactional purchases.
  2. For as many customers that may need the option to schedule and purchase services online, thereby speeding up their process and making things easier, there will be customers that need additional resources and time because they are in unfamiliar roles and may not feel that they understand the best options. We must aproach these customers with care and an understanding that more education and consultation is welcome.
  3. While I work for a technology company, I think the real power of technology is when it helps create better outcomes or makes things easier—not technology for the sake of technology. We work hard to streamline processes and allow technology to give our teams more time to make human connections. Digging deeper and asking better questions will lead to finding valuable solutions.

Find a way to Make It Fun and Exciting

Let's be honest; there's been a lot of worrying, strategy, and pivoting over the last two years. This has all been necessary; our industry was brought to its knees—but let's focus on the fun and compelling reasons that most of us got into this business in the first place. Walking through hotels lately, one can't miss the renewed feeling of vibrancy and energy that we used to take for granted.

  1. Take stock of the small victories and realize how far we have come. The rebuild has been slow and incremental; we can lose sight by getting buried in today's to-do list. Today's challenges are real, but I am happy to work to solve these rather than the problems we faced previously which we had no control over.
  2. Take every opportunity to be an ambassador for our industry and the power of live events. I challenge myself to try and look ahead every time I tend to look at where we have been. It's human nature to dwell a bit in the past, but I find having the mental discipline to look forward while learning from the pandemic is the best approach. A whole generation of new talent should see this industry as a compelling, challenging, exciting, and rewarding space to work.
  3. Remember that travel and live events are a way to bring joy to people's lives. There is a lot of negativity and challenging situations around the globe. Traveling, being with loved ones, connecting with friends and colleagues, and seeing new things are small ways to celebrate the human experience.

There's no one way to build a company and engage with the industry at this time - but our approach is to work hard, be honest about what we can accomplish, be transparent in our goals, and to double down on being human. We'll manage with empathy, and try not to take ourselves too seriously. We must realize that everyone we speak to, whether customer, hotelier, or team member has a story and is working through the same things we are. We're all balancing family, stress, uncertainty, and a desire to be the best versions of ourselves every day. Accepting that this is enough is the first step… the rest will come.

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