Every day at Homewood Suites by Hilton properties throughout North America, hotel staff members gather for what the brand calls “huddles.” Huddles are morning (or evening, in some cases) meetings where managers go over the upcoming day or shift. They talk about expected occupancy for the day, daily goals, special services that may be needed, new initiatives and ideas, and recognition and rewards for employees. In short, they communicate, collaborate, and celebrate, says Bill Melton, brand performance support for Homewood Suites by Hilton.
Huddles are a key part of the service culture of Homewood Suites, and they are intended to make that culture increasingly better. As Homewood Suites brand managers and executives like to say, it’s a catalyst for the guest satisfaction success the brand has enjoyed—Homewood Suites has been recognized with J.D. Power Awards in eight of the last 10 years.
But the brand isn’t taking those accolades and sitting on its laurels—something it has spent a great deal of time ingraining into its associates. And, that was a primary theme of the AGM/FOM Summit at the Embassy Suites Philadelphia Airport last week. Lodging had a rare front-row seat into the inner workings of brand management training when the summit—a “super huddle” if you will—hosted assistant general managers and front office managers from Homewood Suites properties from around the Middle Atlantic Region.
Part training, part pep rally, the summit, led by Melton; Jim Wogsland, director of brand support; Frank Saitta, senior director, hotel performance support; Judy Webb, director of hotel performance support; and Lisa Webb, pre-opening manager; covered everything from brand goals to guest service to employee recognition. Among the goals of the summit were to discuss leadership skills, training insights, team building, rewarding performance, growing loyalty, and sharing resources. The brand held similar events in Orlando, Las Vegas, Chicago, and Richmond; and will be in Dallas later this week. A series was held last year with executive housekeepers and chief engineers.
A largely interactive event of approximately 50 managers from Homewood Suites properties, participants learned the importance of guest service and employee satisfaction to the bottom-line of the brand and consequently Hilton Worldwide. “People will pay more money when they know they’re being taken care of,” Marlton told the audience.
At the heart of improving guest service is the quality of leadership present at the brand’s properties. Saitta reiterated the brand’s core pillars with the group, imploring the managers to realize that they are all part of a bigger organization. However, they are a vitally important part. “The brand doesn’t grow without the tireless work you do,” he told the managers.
He explained seven “breakthrough behaviors” the managers could perform to make themselves better leaders. “They can be done by anyone and you don’t have to be an over-the-top personality,” he said. The behaviors include: reviewing SALT scores everyday with the staff, holding staff meetings, walking the property every day, instituting a system of employee empowerment, involve everyone in sales, recognize good work, and celebrate personal milestones of employees.
Meanwhile Webb took the concept of involving everyone in sales a step further as she described the brand’s “I Am Sales” initiative. The official program is designed to make every employee of a hotel part of the overall sales effort. The program actually measures the number of sales that are made via the program. Webb pointed out that through April, the properties of the attendees at the summit had contributed $551,623 via the I Am Sales program this year.
The summit wasn’t simply a stale seminar. Several breakout exercises put the managers’ brains to work, and helped them enter into collaborative relationships with each other—another theme to the summit. Those breakout activities included: training exercises, revenue optimization, insights into the CRM system and HHonors recognition, dealing with service and property issues, and idea creation.
During a “Speed Ideation” exercise, led by Hailey, the managers took turns quickly coming up with new ideas for better guest service and employee relations. Included in those ideas were ways to better recognize and service the 32 million HHonors members, who drive more than 40 million room nights annually throughout Hilton Worldwide.
Hailey also led another exercise in which attendees learned how to better communicate instructions by building a paper boat (not as easy as you may think.) In addition, team building exercises included collaborative efforts in building vessels to drop eggs from the hotel balcony without breaking them.
In addition, to the training exercises, Wogsland let the inquisitive and engaged attendees in on many of the brand’s numbers and performance successes. Included in those numbers were gains in occupancy (5 percent), ADR (2.6 percent), RevPAR (7.75 percent), and extended-stay occupancy (1 percent). It also included significant brand performance gains loyalty, service, and problem resolution.