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Hospitality Leaders: Take a Page Out of the Emergency Management Playbook

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In a crisis, the nuances of a situation changes fast. Emergency managers operate in a constantly evolving landscape, always trying to anticipate, identify, understand, and solve problems before they’re untenable. They rely on people who are distributed across the region to see and solve the problems they’re facing.

This is the same dynamic the hospitality industry is facing today. The landscape is changing rapidly – employee concerns are shifting, customer purchase intent is fluctuating, unexpected gaps are emerging, and the people who have insights into the changes are working remotely.

Situational Awareness Is Critical

Emergency managers gain situational awareness by extracting insights from people in the field, in the form of real-time data, so their extended team knows exactly what’s happening as it unfolds. Collecting real-time data from your extended team can be applied to any area of business. For example:

  • HR leaders extract real-time employee insights from frontline managers such as concierges and housekeeping to understand how workplace concerns are changing in real-time. They capture employee concerns every time one is raised, remote work challenges every time one emerges, and employee feedback to get a glimpse of what is working. 
  • Sales leaders extract real-time insights from sales managers after every guest call to understand how the pandemic might impact consumer behavior.

When data is captured in-the-moment it delivers added benefits. Employees stop spending meeting time on reports and instead focus on solving high-priority problems. Situational awareness gives employees the opportunity to step up in the moment to help deliver results.

The Situational Awareness Struggle

Traditional strategies and technologies don’t deliver situational awareness. Effective situational awareness in hospitality requires an easy way to collect real-time insights from the extended team, real-time direction so people know exactly what to report, real-time data collection so insights are easy to share, and real-time visibility so everyone knows what’s happening as it happens.

Here are five steps hospitality leaders should take to stay ahead and lead through crises:

  1. Form an extended team. Enlist the people closest to the problem so that you tap into their valuable insights in real-time. Bring them together into a dedicated, mission-focused online workplace.
  2. Identify problems with real-time data. Decide which problems you need visibility into and ask employees to surface them immediately. Don’t make your team decide when to escalate an issue, how to write an email about it, or choose who needs to know. Instead, make it easy for the team to capture data about a challenge and flag the type of problem, location, and urgency as it emerges.
  3. Look for progress. Don’t narrow your focus to only the problems at hand. Ask the extended team to look for what is working by surfacing positive employee or customer quotes, a best practice, a redesigned business flow or activity that is important. You define what counts as progress and by asking people to report that progress consistently, the team will start to see what yields results.
  4. Make the data immediately visible. Don’t collect the information behind-the-scenes in a survey and put data in a shared spreadsheet or email. Make sure as much data as possible is immediately visible so team members can instantaneously step up to offer their own observations, solutions, and encouragement.
  5. Build a contribution habit. As the work environment evolves, leaders will want to accelerate their understanding across different topics. Don’t create a new process. Instead, create a repeatable process for employee insights and use it time and time again to build a habit of contribution. This capability will allow you to deep dive into any topic with the extended team and get the real-time data needed in the moment.

It’s time for hospitality leaders to take a page out of the emergency management playbook to solve problems amidst crises fast.


About the Author

Tammy Savage is founder and CEO of Groopit who spent decades leading extended teams at Microsoft. She studied some of the world’s most complex problems including crime & terrorism prevention, crisis recovery, and infectious disease outbreaks. She is an expert in the breakdown of extended teams and what keeps us from doing our best work in some of the most challenging situations.

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