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How One Hospitality Company Connected Employees to Maintain a Collaborative Company Culture


At the core of every successful company is a positive and genuinely derived culture. It is not one that can be imagined by the marketing team or implemented by operations. Instead, it grows organically based on the visions, values and behaviors of the people making up the organization.

We are very proud of the culture we have built and grown over the years at Concord Hospitality. A couple of years ago, the company’s mission evolved from being an employer and manager of choice into being a great workplace for all, with a keen focus on fostering an inclusive workplace. Concord’s leadership team is excited about our purpose and the “whys” behind what we do, and we wanted to get our teams excited, too! The key to a successful business is to have your people invested in it. One of the ways to make that vision into a reality is to communicate frequently through a variety of channels.

Concord has many ways in which we communicate with associates, including but not limited to:

  • “Daily huddles” or face-to-face meetings at hotel properties and in our home office in Raleigh, N.C.
  • A company-wide internal email, “Weekly ON CUE”
  • Monthly celebrations
  • Quarterly news posters
  • Semi-annual radio addresses from the CEO
  • Annual leadership conference
  • Numerous awards and recognitions given across the organization
  • A company-wide intranet where information is regularly shared and stored
  • Global committees focused on a wide range of topics including diversity and inclusion, wellness, safety, charity and sustainability that drive initiatives in those areas and frequently communicate with associates interested in each subject

Even with all of these tools, we were still not reaching everyone. A majority of these systems are driven by email despite the fact email is not widely used beyond leadership. This meant we were consistently missing the opportunity to communicate with up to 70% of our associates. To uphold Concord’s thriving culture, it became clear we also needed a broad reaching and inclusive communications vehicle to reach associates across North America and keep them connected as we continued to grow.

We began researching the best way to reach all of our people across the company – from associates located in hotels, at the corporate office and in the field – and quickly determined no matter what their position, everyone is connected to a cell phone. This insight led us to embark on a mission to find a mobile phone app that could be used for associate communication.

The following attributes were determined as top priorities when researching mobile communication applications:

  • Free to participate
  • Easy to use
  • Language translation capabilities
  • Compliance with all laws
  • Ability to do more than connect socially, including training capabilities, distribution of important company alerts and survey tools

Through our research, we found Beekeeper, an employee communication and social app which does everything we wanted it to do and more! In January 2019, Concord rolled out the app to its corporate team and conducted two pilots with hotels in Raleigh, N.C. The company-wide rollout was scheduled for the summer, but the pilots were so seamless and well-received the new social tool was implemented across the company in early April. Less than six months later, more than 75% of our 5,500 associates are activated and engaged, utilizing the platform daily.

Associates stay connected via “streams.” Each person in the organization is part of one or more of the following streams:

  • Concord Hospitality News Stream – Shared with all associates across North America, this stream includes news around major company initiatives, open enrollment for health plans, the semi-annual radio address, Share Day (annual volunteer and day of giving), new hotel openings or acquisitions and promotions, as well as associate surveys and training materials.
  • Hotel or Corporate Team Streams – These streams are specific to each hotel property, as well as the corporate office; each features:
    • In-office corporate events, meetings, celebrations, scheduled maintenance and/or emergency alerts.
    • Hotel events, celebrations, shift scheduling and emergency alerts, as well as information that needs to be communicated from shift to shift, associate accolades and even guest requests.
  • Regional Streams – All associates in a certain region can contribute to these streams highlighting regional initiatives, updates on metrics/performance, celebrations and best practices.
  • Culture Stream – This stream is open to all associates and is a place to share and celebrate anniversaries, birthdays and new babies, memorialize associates who have passed away, discuss hotel events and organize charitable giving, among other conversations and initiatives.

Beekeeper has allowed Concord associates to align, engage and celebrate across North America on a daily basis, as well as a collapsed hierarchy in order for associates to feel that they know their fellow colleagues on a personal level regardless of title or position. Associates feel connected to senior leaders and know them by name. Both our COO and I have experienced situations in which Beekeeper allowed us to interact with associates at the property level before getting the opportunity to meet in person, creating a greater sense of teamwork and trust amongst our properties and home office.

Through this tool, Concord has realized the importance of keeping in touch with and connecting employees across different levels and roles in order to nurture a thriving and collaborative company culture. Communication is key to a building and maintaining a company’s culture, which is the catalyst for growth and success.


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Debra Punke joined Concord Hospitality in 1994 and has made countless contributions to the company throughout her career. As Senior Vice President of Human Capital, Punke oversees the company’s culture and organizational growth strategies and champions human capital initiatives in the areas of technology, talent acquisition, training, benefits, risk, and compliance. Punke also leads the company’s public relations team as well as efforts around sustainability, charitable giving, and wellness. She sits on advisory boards for Marriott, Hyatt and AH&LA and leads peer companies in an annual benchmarking conference. Punke holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration with a specialization in Marketing from West Liberty University in West Virginia.

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