Crafting Company Culture at Your Property

By Cloudbeds, March 17, 2016
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A positive culture at your business makes happier employees. Learn the hallmarks of a positive company culture for accommodation properties.


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Brandon: Ah, what happened? Is it going?

Alex: We froze for good. I don’t know what happened.

Brandon: Okay, let’s try this again. I clicked Broadcast Meetings so…

Alex: People are here now. Hi.

Brandon: Hi everybody. Sorry about this. Is this recording or not? You could tell if it’s recording.

Alex: Yeah, we’re on.

Brandon: We’re live, okay. Well that’s great. Sorry for this irritable hiccup there everybody, and we’re recording, great. So for some reason, my broadcast software got a little mini reboot right as I hit the record button, which caused me to be a little confused for a moment there. But I’m back, we’re all good, and we are live and recording.

So thank you everybody for coming to this week’s webinar on Crafting a Company Culture for your Property. My name is Brandon Dennis. I’m the VP of Marketing here at Cloudbeds and we’re joined today by Alex Gaggioli. He is our marketing coordinator. He did the research for this piece and put together a lot of the content. So many props to him for putting together such a great presentation for us today.

Thank you so much for joining. It’s good to have you all here today. As you know, we do these webinars every other week, so two a month, and we try to have some unique and interesting viewpoints every single time. So this week, it’s on Crafting a Company Culture, and the topic of Culture at your Company is going all over the place, especially in startup culture and smaller businesses like that. But we haven’t seen a lot of content like this devoted specifically to hospitality businesses, small inns, B&Bs, and independent hotels. And so we wanted to do some research and put together a presentation that can help independent innkeepers and hoteliers mold and shape the employee culture at their properties.

So let’s talk a little bit about what you should expect from this webinar. Also before we go any further, we do want this to be an interactive webinar. So there is a little Q&A button at the very top of your screen if you’re using the Zoom interface. Click on that button if you have a question at any time, punch it into the box there, and Alex is going to hop on in and interrupt me and ask your questions for you, or if you want to save it for the end, that’s fine as well.

Additionally one more thing, if for some reason the screen isn’t fitting correctly on your monitor, it could be that you just need to click the button that says “Fit to Screen.” So in the Zoom interface, click the button that says “Fit to Screen” and it will all shrink to the appropriate size for your screen.

Right, so expectations for this webinar. We’re going to take a look at some examples of what other hotels and hospitality businesses do to craft their culture. We’re going to take a look at some examples of the words that they use, the kind of things that they like to identify with, and then also how their employees respond, and these are going to be great ways to see what other companies are doing so that we can mold our own company culture.

And you’re going to walk away with some packaged tips that you can take directly back to your business and implement them as soon as you want. Additionally, we’re going to be sending out an ebook version of this webinar tomorrow. So be sure to check your email tomorrow where you’re going to get a nice portable PDF ebook that you can download so that you can refer back to this webinar if you want. We’ll also be publishing a recording of it, which we’ll send the link of it to you as well.

Vision. This is the first section on your company culture and we wanted to focus on it first because we think that vision is a very distinct notion from mission. So what does your property care about most? Your mission statement is going to be a little bit different, right? It’s going to be about the actionable steps that your business is taking to achieve its vision. What is your property embracing as a cultural thing? So for example, we’ve got four different ideas here. Maybe you’re a customer service based property where the vision of your property is to provide the best customer service ever.

That’s how you want to be identified, that’s the culture that you’re drilling into your employees, that, “We’re about customer service. We’re about making sure that the people who come to our property get the best service ever and there’s never a situation where a guest feels that someone has been rude to them or that our service wasn’t top-notch.” Or maybe it’s about adventure. Maybe the vision of your property is to seek out the world’s greatest adventurers to not only have adventures for our guests but have adventures in the workplace, right?

What are these unique ideas that you can grasp, that you can embrace as part of your vision? And a vision will lead to a mission statement, and Forbes had a great way of talking about this, that your mission statement may change many times over the lifetime of your business as your business strategies change, but your vision should never change. When you found your business, when you first put your ideas together as to what the vision is of your property, that little nugget of an idea is kind of the soul of your business that will never change, and that soul of your business is something that you manifest as the business owner or the business manager. That’s something you broadcast and something you train into your employees, and this goes into hiring as well. When you hire people, you hire people that embody your vision or whom can at least embrace that vision and it becomes a part of them as well, at least when they’re working.

The mission statement is simply it’s how you’ll get to that vision, how you’ll achieve the vision, the mission or the steps that you take to achieve the vision, the path that you and your employees go down to fulfill that vision.

So let’s take a look at three examples here. We’re going to talk about the Hard Rock Hotel, The Ritz Carlton and the Four Seasons, three established brands that have unique company visions. Hard Rock first. So here’s an actual quote from an employee and they’re really proud about this. They’ve got it listed on their website. This is one of their employees and she says, “I consider myself incredibly lucky to wake up every day and to go to work in a place that embraces individuality.”

So for this employee, individuality is an important part of her work experience. It’s an important part of giving her the motivation to go to work every day, and if you check out, yes, the Hard Rock Hotel’s all about music. They love music but when it comes to their employees, when it comes to their vision, they go far beyond just music. Music is one of the avenues through which they express that vision but they talk a lot about philanthropy. They talk about honesty and integrity and professionalism. They talk about an individual employee’s potential to achieve individuality and greatness at their property.

So the employees of this Hard Rock Hotel, they like being unique. They like standing out. They like being recognized for being the individual that they are while also going through all of the things that they’re passionate about, like philanthropy. So that’s the focus of how they craft culture. So they’ve got an outward-manifesting brand. We all understand the Hard Rock brand. It’s all about music, and rock & roll, and cars, and all of that, but their culture is very different. Their culture is focused on individuality and integrity and honesty and professionalism and all of that, and that is one thing that their employees can embrace.

Ritz Carlton is a little bit different. Their motto, if it is a motto, is, “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen,” and we instantly realize that they’re all about service. The employees of this company are less concerned with being able to express their individuality or making sure that their causes were supported and they’re more concerned with service. They want to be known as the best customer service experience in hospitality, and they take great pride in that. An employee for the Ritz Carlton is going to wake up every morning, get himself or herself dressed, knowing that they’re going out to work at the Ritz Carlton, an established brand where customer service is their vision, where customer service is what they’re known by. They take great pride in being a part of that type of greatness.

Their highest mission is to foster genuine care. They not only want to have the brand appearance of having luxury and service but they want their guests to feel like they genuinely care, and they want their employees to feel that they are genuinely cared about. So it’s a little bit of a mentorship thing there as well. The Ritz Carlton is mentoring their employees and caring for them and making sure their employees grow within the company while, together, they provide excellent customer service.

The Four Seasons has a similar philosophy. They’re also committed to customer service as well and they talk a lot about integration, making sure that the other people’s contributions are recognized. They talk a lot about pride in what they do and the level of service and success that they attain. And if you ever go to their website, you can check out the employees section, and they talk a lot about their employees. They talk about how their greatest success is their employees and their employees are such an important part of the success of their company brand.

And so they bring that in with the recognition that they give their employees, and we’re going to go into this a little bit more, but it goes far beyond monetary compensation. The way that they recognize their employees is more than just money and more than just benefits and perks. It goes into the way they treat their employees and the way that they embrace their employees as part of the Four Seasons family. That’s the kind of warm, loving mentorship-type culture that they’ve established at the Four Seasons.

So we’ve taken a look at some examples of what certain companies are doing to foster strong, healthy culture at a property. This begins with the hiring process, and so we’re going to talk a little bit about hiring, and one of the major things that one needs to bear in mind is that, yes, a resume is really important. But more important than a resume is a person’s personality, a person’s character.

On paper, you can have all of the qualifications for a job. You can have all the right degrees, all of the right work experience, all of the right accolades, a list of references from previous employers, but the reason we still do one-on-one in-person interviews is because you need to fit the personality of the business. The person you’re hiring needs to be able to embrace the culture, embrace the values, embrace the vision of your property in order to successfully work there. If they don’t, even if they agree to be hired, they may do so but gradually they may not give their best and it could end up harming your property, and we’re going to discover later that poor hiring, people who are wrong cultural fits, can do great damage to the overall culture of your property.

So this comes into the interview process. The person doing the interview really needs to know the position and understand the personality type that that position is going to require. So for example, what are the functions that that person’s going to have to do? If that person is in front of other people talking on the phone, sitting at the front desk, interacting with people, or maybe carrying bags or giving directions, or having a really on-hands experience with other guests, then that person is going to have to have great bedside manner, for lack of the better term. They’re going to have to be able to be very congenial and have conversations and have a temperament that is slow to anger, a temperament that does not get frustrated very easily, because sometimes, as we all know, any of us who have worked in the service industry, it can get quite taxing dealing with certain types of customers, and so we’re going to have to hire the type of personality that is mature enough to be able to handle that and also eloquent enough to calm somebody down off the ledge, so to speak. And that’s a completely different personality type, that’s a completely different character type than someone who doesn’t deal with customers on a day-to-day basis, somebody who’s working in the kitchen, for example, or somebody working on accounting, or the books.

Now all of these people are, of course, going to have to get along with each other. It’s important that you don’t hire lone wolves in the hospitality business. Lone wolves can definitely have their own place in the professional world, but in a hospitality business, in a team-based environment, lone wolves tend to not get along quite as well with other people. But you do understand that personality type is going to be different between the person who is working on the accounting books all day and the person that is actually dealing with customers on a day-to-day basis.

So here’s something. I believe this was Forbes that put this together. WETCO. This is an interesting acronym that you can use to identify key personality traits that are particularly useful in the hospitality industry. When it comes to hotels, inns, hostels, B&Bs;, these personality traits are what you need to look for during the interview process.

WETCO stands for warmth, do they have a high level of emotional maturity? Can they project warmth? When you talk to that person, do they genuinely seem interested in you? Do they genuinely appear to like the fact that you’re there? A person who has a high level of warmth is going to be able to project those traits, which is going to make somebody instantly comfortable when they arrive at your property, and it’s going to make other employees much more comfortable to work with them.

Empathy. Is that person always talking about him or herself, or is that person a listener? Does that person sit down during a lunch break and chat with the employee and express genuine interest in his or her teammates? Is that person empathetic with another person’s struggles, or is he or she only concerned with the work that he or she is doing at that moment? Empathy is important because in a team-based environment, you have to understand where your coworker is coming from. Otherwise, you get so preoccupied with your own tasks that you have to get done that you can sometimes bulldoze over other people that you’re working with, trying to get your stuff done at the expense of others. But empathy ties into the next thing, which is teamwork.

The T in WETCO is teamwork. You have to be able to work as a team. This is why I was talking earlier about lone wolves. Lone wolves tend to have a bulldozer mentality if they’re trying to get something done, and they see other people as obstacles to that. In a team-based environment, that doesn’t work. In a team-based environment, which is how hotel properties work, you have to be able to work with others. You have to be able to empathize with their needs because they’re going to work every day too. They’ve got their own tasks to complete too and it’s much better for the culture of the company if you can work together to achieve the similar goal, the success of the property, making sure that the guests are happy, than to be a lone wolf, than to be a bulldozer, to lack empathy because you’re only focused on yourself and your own tasks.

Conscientiousness. Just being a polite individual, being a polite human being, being able to put yourself in the shoes of the other person to be able to visualize how you would act if you were that other person, and then, of course, empathize and go on into teamwork.

And then optimism. Nobody likes…well, what’s that Saturday Night Live girl called Sad Sally or something? I forgot what she is, but nobody likes it. Debbie Downer, that’s what it was. It was the Debbie Downer character from Saturday Night Live. The reason that sketch is so funny is because you’ve got all these optimistic people who are eating lunch and then you’ve got Debbie Downer, who always turn it into something dark and sad, and nobody likes being with a Debbie Downer. Nobody likes seeing all of the negative that’s going on at your property instead of being optimistic for the future.

Yes, sometimes there are negative things that need to be addressed. Yes, sometimes it’s important to address these things and not pretend that they don’t exist, but having that laced with optimism is extremely important. If your culture lacks optimism, then people dread going into work every day because nobody wants to work in a dead environment. Nobody wants to work in a place where they feel like there are lead weights attached to their feet because they have entered a culture of doom and gloom. They’ve entered a culture where their fate is sealed and their history is written before them and it’s all they see, is a ledge before them that they will all eventually fall off of. That, of course, is not something that you want to be a part of if you’re an employee or a business owner. So having a sense of optimism is extremely important.

So when you’re hiring people, you can look out for these things. WETCO, remember that acronym, warmth, empathy, teamwork, conscientiousness and optimism. Look for those five character traits when trying to hire somebody in the hospitality industry.

And then, of course, be hospitable yourself. You, as the owner or manager of your property, are setting an example for the people whom you’re bringing into your fold. If you’re hiring people, the interview process should itself be hospitable. Maybe offer a coffee, maybe offer cookies, but more importantly, of course, project warmth and empathy and all of the themes that you’re going to expect from your employee. That’s going to make them much more comfortable in the interview process. You’re going to get a better idea of what their personality is like, if you’re hospitable yourself, because it breaks down their barriers and allows them to kind of flower and bloom and show off who they really are. You’re going to get more out of them is you’re hospitable yourself.

And then interview consistently. When you’re hiring people, it’s really hard to compare apples to apples. And if every single interview process is different, if you’re asking a bunch of different questions, if you’re kind of throwing things up a little bit so that it’s more interesting to you each time. The important thing about consistency is, if you do have a lot of applicants or if there are so many qualified candidates that you’re having a really hard time picking a good one, it’s really hard to pick the right one if you don’t have a foundation upon which to level the playing field, upon which to rule against all of the others. So having a consistent interview process, whether it’s questions or the same people who are doing interviewing, so that you can accurately compare them is important.

And then think long-term. I don’t recall if we’re going to be getting into this later in the webinar or not but an employee’s productivity does not actually kick in until, I think, it’s between six or eight months after being hired, right? It takes a really long time for an employee to reach 100% productivity, if ever. Employees need to be able to grow with your property. It’s really hard to expect perfection right out the gate. As anyone who has ever worked with other people understands or as anyone who has hired anybody understands, it takes a while for somebody to warm up to the culture, to feel like they’re part of the team, to understand how the job works. Whether you’ve had years of experience or you’re fresh out of college, it takes a while to acclimate yourself to a new company culture.

So when you’re hiring, it’s really important that you’re taking a look at the long-term prospect of that person. Does that person look like they’re just a seasonal employee where this is something they’re doing for some quick cash and then they’re going to be going into their main career later? If you’re a small property where it’s really expensive to get a new employee up and running, that might not be the kind of person you’re wanting to hire, like somebody who’s in dental school and this isn’t really their focus. They’re not wanting to be a part of hospitality for their career. Other properties might be able to take that gamble or take that risk, but smaller properties might not. Smaller properties may need to think long-term, to think about finding people who are going to be able to stick with their property for a very long time, who are going to be able to take the investment that you’re putting into them, and then letting that flower, letting that blossom a year down the road, when they become a fully productive part of your company culture.

And then make team decisions, right? So we talked earlier about teamwork, and then showing employees, during the interview process, that teamwork is an essential part of this, is great. You can bring in people from other departments, heads of other departments, or maybe even people that these new employees are going to be working with on a daily basis, and have them be part of the interview process.

This is great for many reasons. Number one, the employees that you bring in to the interview process feel like their opinions really matter. I mean, they’re looking at people whom they’re going to be working with every single day and it’s really important that you get an idea of how they’re going to perceive this new employee, how they feel like they’re going to be able to work with this new employee. It empowers your employees when they feel like their opinions are really valued. Plus, it’s great for the person who is being interviewed because they get a chance to meet the people whom they’re going to be working with for the next year, two years, three years, four years, ten years of their lives and it kind of gives them a glimpse into what their daily life is going to be like. So it’s overall just a really good decision.

All right, so now we’ve gone through the hiring process. We understand how to get new employees into your culture to make sure that the new inductees into your team are going to be fitting your culture. Now that we’ve got a great team, let’s talk a little bit about culture nurturing. Let’s talk a little bit about the steps that we can take on a daily basis to make sure that our company culture stays healthy, and if it’s not healthy yet, ways that we can plant seeds for positive growth in our company culture.

And we’re going to approach this tactically. We’re going to take a tactical approach here with individual steps that we can use, and this is going to be a great way to break this down. So let’s take a look at the first one. Communication and transparency. These are some really important parts of positive company culture because if people don’t think, if your employees don’t feel like they can communicate without suffering consequences, then they let that bottle up. They keep that bottled up within them and it leads to bitterness and resentment if they don’t feel like they can communicate openly.

And then, of course, transparency. They don’t want to feel like all of the big decisions are happening far above them. They don’t want to feel like they don’t understand what to expect from one day to the next. So in terms of communication, check in with them on a regular basis, how are they doing, whether it’s just sitting them down to coffee, maybe once a week taking them out for a coffee, or once a month. Maybe it doesn’t have to be once a week. Maybe it’s only once a month.

Hold temperature-reading meetings, and by temperature reading, it’s sort of like getting an idea of how other people in the company or on that team are viewing the company culture, and sometimes when you’re in management, it can come as a surprise that you may have an idea for where your hospitality property is going. You’ll have an idea for the season that’s coming up and you’re busy managing the future, but you may not be there in the now, experiencing what your front desk staff is experiencing [inaudible 00:24:46] they’re talking to guests who are coming in. And so being able to get a glimpse of what everybody on your team is dealing with at that moment, how they feel at that moment, where they see the team culture going, is going to be really important for you to understand as an owner or manager.

Making sure that communication is important so that they understand what’s happened. So if you’ve got a big team coming in to town or if you’ve got a big event coming in the future, the worst thing is to make all of these plans and to have the rooms reserved and to have buses on standby and then let people know the weekend of, right, or the day of. This is something that we all deal with every day, so I’m very sure that I don’t even need to say this but keeping everybody into loop so that they can adjust their schedules accordingly so that they can understand where the company, that they’ve already invested so much of their time and energy and passion into, is going. It helps people from feeling like they’re not important because that’s how you feel if suddenly all of these big things are going on and you weren’t consulted or you weren’t told or it comes as a surprise. It kind of strips you off your own personal power and makes you feel like you’re just incidental to the process. Nobody wants to feel that way. People want to feel like they’re instrumental to the process.

So embracing open communication is important. And that goes back into where we were talking about empowering your employees, making them feel like what they do every single day at your business makes a difference, and we talked a little bit earlier about Ritz Carlton and how they’ve got an employee-focused culture on service. Their employees wake up every day with a great sense of pride and dignity with what they do because they know what their mission is, they know what their value is, and their value is to present themselves as the best service brand out there, and they get up every morning realizing that the way they greet a customer makes a difference. The way they talk to a customer on the phone, that makes a difference because that is the outward manifestation of that company’s value. That is how their brand is perceived.

So empowering your employees to be able to make a decision that can benefit the brand is great for them. So here’s an example. The Ritz Carlton, as we talked about earlier, they have a policy, and their policy is that if there’s ever an incident at the property, if a customer is in anyway disgruntled, every employee has up to $2,000 that they can spend to make that customer happy, and that’s very extreme, right? Not all of us have pockets quite as deep as the Ritz Carlton. So we can’t come up with plans that give $2,000 in incidental damages to employees to spend just to make customers happy, right? The Ritz Carlton can get away with that, but we can’t.

That said, there’s a great principle there and the principle is that Ritz Carlton is opening up the way their hotel does business to give the people who have boots on the ground much more freedom and much more power. This strips away levels of bureaucracy from the process. Managers who are micromanagers, who want to have their hands in every single pie before it goes out, who want to make sure that they can take the range to every little thing, they strip everyday decision-making power away from their employees and wrap it up in one person. One person has the stamp of approval on every little thing that goes out, which leads to bureaucracy, which leads to everything slowing down until that one person can make a decision.

But your company is going to be much more nimble, your employees are going to feel much more empowered and they’re going to be much happier. They’re going to feel like they more greatly make a difference if you delegate that authority from one manager to a lot of people, so that everybody feels like they have a say in the daily goings-on of the property.

So while $2,000 for every single guest is quite an extreme example, excuse me, you can have a contingency plan in place for when situations arise, so that even the driver or the door greeter can make an important decision that is going to better your property and approve your property’s brand.

So let’s say that you didn’t watch this webinar when you hired some employees with your property. You didn’t realize at the time that hiring people from a culture-based viewpoint instead of a resume-based viewpoint was really important, and you may have some employees at the moment who are not the best cultural fit. There are a couple of ways to go about this. Maybe it really is all about the person. Maybe the person is just, for lack of a better term, unredeemable.

You’ve talked with that person. You’ve tried to embrace them. You’ve brought them into team events. You’ve compensated them fairly. You’ve taken them out for coffee. You’ve talked with them. You’ve tried to nurture them, and then everything you get is negativity, negativity, backbiting, or just lack of will and desire to be there. They’re not optimistic. They don’t have a bright future. They kind of drag their feet. There are some moments in your professional lives. There are some moments when you’re managing people where you just will come across individuals like that and it is tough to fire somebody. It really is. It’s tough to let somebody go. It’s really tough to scold and to kind of be that guy.

But it’s really important for the health of the culture of your property to cut them loose sooner rather than later because one bad apple can ruin the entire pot, right? If you’ve got somebody who’s dragging their feet, then other employees are going to say, “Hey, this person is getting paid the same as I am but they don’t really do anything.” Or if you’ve got somebody who is constantly backbiting about other employees, then they’re creating a culture of gossip, a culture of negativity that other employees are going to have to go to work in every single day. One person who’s a gossiper, one person who’s constantly talking about others, whether it’s management or other people on the team, or constantly berating other employees or, I’m sorry, other guests and mocking them, can just make everybody else…it can ruin the culture of your property, and sometimes it’s just really important to cut them loose sooner rather than later.

But you know, sometimes it’s not the person. Sometimes it’s the process. Sometimes the best of employees can feel bogged down by a bureaucratic process because the process has stripped everyday basic decision-making power from them. They get dressed. They go to work every morning ready to make a decision, ready to foster a great work environment, ready to give excellent customer service and then they get thrown in a loophole, like something big happens, or a big celebrity is coming and they weren’t told, or the thing, the plans that they had made suddenly have to change and they get thrown for a loop, or the process has gotten in the way of them being the best employee that they can be.

And yes, you do have to be nimble, especially in a startup environment or especially in a hospitality service based environment where things can change from moment-to-moment. So having a sort of nimbleness is expected of employees but if every day all of the plans get thrown away or all of the requests that your employees have get bogged up in bureaucracy and they’re never getting the answers, that can take a toll on any person’s humanity basically. It can take a toll on your humanity and that bad process can really darken a culture.

So identifying the bad processes and changing them to make sure that inclusiveness and openness and transparency is fostered, is equally as important as making sure that you squash the bad seeds or pluck the bad seeds. I don’t know if squashing seed works unless this is like a really mushy seed, but anyway.

So let’s talk a little bit about rewards and appreciation, and this is a great slide that was put together by Richard Sanderson, our designer here, and I think it’s really nice. There are four approaches to employee engagement. These are the four things that employees look for when they’re joining a company. So if you’ve got a culture filled with employees and you want to know the secrets to making them happy, these are the four things.

Number one is compensation. This is something that almost everybody gets down. This is the first thing you talk about when you’re hiring somebody. It’s how they compensated? What is their salary? Usually, if they’ve accepted the job, then the salary is probably going to be fine. Now if it’s been 10 years and they haven’t gotten a raise or they haven’t gotten a bonus or somehow their hard efforts have not been recognized, then yes, maybe you should be taking a look at the compensation again, but nine times out of ten, compensation is usually set appropriately.

And the second one is benefits. Most companies, hospitality companies, have a laundry list of benefits that employees expect, whether it’s healthcare or paid time off, or vacation days, or any number of things that come with benefits. Making sure that the package is appealing is going to reduce resentment and it’s going to reduce turnover.

Now, those two things tend to be addressed by many different companies, many different hotels. The other two things, recognition and appreciation, those are the things that most properties need the greatest work at because those are the things that many people don’t think they have to deal with, right?

“Well, he comes into work every day. Of course, he knows that he is appreciated,” or, “Well I don’t get recognized all the time. Why do I need to recognize him? This is what he is paid to do. This is the basics of doing a good job. I don’t need to recognize it.” Obviously not everybody has those opinions but sometimes they do and sometimes they think these things or act in such a way that people perceive that’s the way that they think, but we really don’t.

Employers tend to forget about recognition and appreciation. Now, let’s talk about some types of recognitions. Let’s talk about three types of employee recognition. Number one is day-to-day recognition, and this is simply…this goes back to conscientiousness. Remember, we were talking about the character traits of somebody in the hospitality industry and one of them is conscientiousness.

Day-to-day recognition is just polite. It’s just a conscientious thing to do. When your employee does something amazing or even just fulfills a daily task, recognizing it and saying, “Hey, awesome work!” Or, “This was very well done.” It does wonders to the mood and morale of the employee. Being recognized for the work that you’re doing, even if it isn’t amazing, even if it doesn’t go beyond what you normally would have done, still feels great, right? Who doesn’t want to be recognized for their work?

So taking the time, energy and effort to just step out and notice that your employee has done something great and say, “Hey, this was very well done. I’m appreciative of it.” That is an important part of that. Then number two is informal recognition. What’s an example of informal recognition? So let’s say you’ve got a big team roundtable every week. At the end of every week…I’ve worked at companies where at the end of every week we all got together and it was 4:00, the day was about to end, we did a little bit cheer about how great the day went and what to look forward to in the next week or so.

And at that time, you could do an informal recognition, “Hey, does anybody have any shout-outs? Well, so and so who works in the café did this wonderful thing,” or, “Here’s the struggle that she had with somebody who came and was really a tough customer. And here’s how she handled it, so major recognition informally to Suzie at the cashier counter for taking care of this tough customer,” and then everybody applause, right? That’s an informal way of recognizing, and it just highlights an example of what you want your culture to be, and that’s what you can look out for in the day-to-day goings-on at your property.

When does somebody shine, when do somebody step out of and make an example of what you want to see at your company culture? And when you find one of those moments, make sure that you recognize it, especially informally, and that’s going to set an example to everybody else around, who’s going to be able to say, “Wow, this is how our bosses are impressed. This is the culture that this company is going to be and this is how people are recognized.” And of course it’s going to make the person feel great as well.

And then, of course, formal recognition. Now, this is going to be during like the end-of-year Christmas party or during an award ceremony or any sort of formal activity that your property has to recognize its employees, and this could be in the form of a bonus, or an award, or maybe even just a gift card. For a piece of formal recognition, like maybe you’ve got an award system set up at your property, where you hand out an award in terms of stock bonuses or something like that for people who are outstanding, people who shine in terms of broadcasting company culture. And you can have at least one of those once a year.

Alex: Hey Brandon, we have a quick question. Grant asks, “Wouldn’t this also be appreciation? It seems like recognition has major overlap with appreciation, same same?”

Brandon: Very similar. We’ve got a different slide on appreciation. I’m glad you asked that question. They are very similar but there’s a slight nuance to it, which I’m going to get into now. Let me know if this isn’t crystal clear by the time I finish. But appreciation can be a little…it’s less obvious than recognition.

So recognition is, I’m vocally saying something to you about the work that you’ve done or I’m visibly giving a public award to you. You are being recognized publicly before your peers for the excellence that you embody. Appreciation is a little bit more subtle. It’s the everyday dignity and respect that you give to your employees in terms of how they live their lives.

So flexible hours and schedule can be a part of appreciation. If you’ve got an extremely rigid schedule where you are inflexible, then it kind of makes an employee feel unappreciated. They feel like a worker drone. They feel like, “Well, this company isn’t really accommodating towards me. I don’t feel appreciated,” whereas if you’ve got flexible hours and schedule, you’re saying, “Hey, I appreciate you and I respect your work enough that I want you to be happy. Go do the thing you need to do and I’ll see you next week over there.”

Paid time off. Everybody needs a little bit of time off every single year but sometimes people don’t want to take it because they really need the money. I’ve been in companies where I’ve been offered time off but it wasn’t paid and so I didn’t take it. I just went to work that week because hey, I needed the paycheck. I’m in college or I just graduated from high school and a vacation is now, what am I going to do? Sit and play videogames in my basement alone? No. I’m going to go to work and I just will go to work.

Paid time off kind of alleviates that problem. They not only get their paycheck but they get to own their vacation and they feel appreciated by their company. “Oh, these guys paid for my time off. They really like me. They really want me to stay. I like that. That’s nice. That feels great.

Another thing is supporting professional development. There are some companies who really go above and beyond and they’ve got strategies in place where…let’s say that you’ve got a new hire and this new hire is fresh out of college and he or she is just learning, they’re just getting her feet wet, and you want to mold and mentor this person. This is going to not only pay off in your business but you’re actually investing in their future because some day that person is going to leave, whether it’s three, five, ten years from now, they’re going to go and join a new company or start their own company, or start their own hotel and do something, and just because you appreciate them, you want to show them how much you appreciate them by mentoring them and giving them professional development, so that by the time they end their tenure as an employee at your property, you’ve been able to invest enough wisdom and experience into them that they are a much more solid professional. It just shows how much you appreciate that employee.

Team lunches. You don’t have to buy them food. This isn’t elementary school, but sometimes it’s great to take the team out for lunch. I used to work in a company and what we would do is we would go to team pie-baking sessions, where we would all get these instructions and once a month or so we would go to this café and we’d go in the kitchen and we’d all sit down and make apple pies or pumpkin pies, and it was silly, and it was fun, and we all had pastries, but it was great. And it just let us feel not only like part of a team, like we could all come together as a team and do something besides make software or work in hospitality but we felt appreciated by our bosses.

And of course, surprise parties, whether it’s a birthday or whether it’s a, “Congratulations on your new baby,” and then, as we talked about just a minute ago, mentorship programs. You can find somebody at the company who is a seasoned professional and has been in the industry for 10, 15, 30 years or something like that, and that person can be an individual mentor for some of your younger employees so that they can grow in the company.

So those are ideas that kind of convey a difference in terms of appreciation. So recognition is an outward public manifestation of your appreciation, whereas appreciation can be the everyday little things that you do that impact the daily work lives of your employees. Both of those together can lead to an improved company culture.

Let’s talk a little bit about organizational structure. So there are two ways that a hotel company can be organized. The first is flat and the second is pyramidal, and the pyramid version is what we’re most accustomed to. You’ve got the CEO or the owner at the top of the pyramid and below him, you’ve got some of the major executives below them, some middle-level executives below them, some minor executives, and then you’ve got a series of major managers, and the minor managers, and then sub-level managers, and then…you get the idea. It just goes down in this big hierarchical bureaucracy.

And the problem with the pyramidal organization is that, if you’re at the bottom of the pyramid, it’s really hard to talk to the top. And sometimes you’ve got a question that needs to be answered by the top, especially in a smaller company. Smaller companies that are set up in a pyramid tend to be really unnecessarily slow.

Now, larger companies, larger hotel properties, sometimes it’s almost unavoidable to have at least a minor pyramid structure just because there are so many people. But it’s unnecessary when you have a smaller property because a lot of these decisions need to be made quickly, they need to be made at the moment. And if you’re a front-desk operator and you’ve got a major question that only the owner or manager or CEO can answer, but you have to go through a minor manager first, who must then go to their manager, who must then go to their manager, it’s going to slow things down to a crawl and you’re not going to be nimble like a small property should be. It just adds unnecessary bureaucracy to the way a business operates, whereas flat organization takes that all away.

Now, this isn’t to say that everybody has the same level of authority or that there’s no distinction between an owner or a driver. Obviously there is, but a flat organization makes people feel like they can talk to anybody to get their question answered. If I’ve got a question about this particular process, maybe my channels are…maybe I need to understand where my OTA channels are coming from or where this is going. I can talk to whomever is nearby. I don’t have to go through proper chains. We’re just going to slow things down. I can fire it off to the CEO if necessary. I have a confidence that that’s going to be answered or that that kind of behavior is appropriate because the organization in this company is flat. The hierarchical structure has been stripped away. This adds to a much more nimble work environment, things can get done a little bit faster. People feel like they’re part of a bigger team, instead of feeling like they’re at the bottom of a pyramid. Two different ways of running a business that have a deep impact on the culture of your property.

And then lifelong learning. Having a great culture is not something you get done right the first time and then you’re done, and then you’ve good to go, and you don’t have to tackle this again, and it just kind of takes care of itself. That’s not the way it works. It’s a lifelong thing. It’s something you’ve got to constantly tweak, especially as employees are coming in and out, hiring a new person, wrapping your arms around them, and embracing them, and saying, “Welcome to the team. You’re part of this culture now. Let’s get started on a mentor program. Let’s get started on…here’s the schedule for our team events and outings that you can join this. This is the game plan for how we’re going to compensate you and the benefits in the future.”

It’s something you’re constantly tweaking and dealing with as employees age and grow with your company. Additionally, technology changes particularly. I mean, the industry changes but technology, in particular, changes all of the time incredibly quickly, especially in hospitality, and making sure that learning opportunities are available for your staff is great for your company culture. It’s really sad to have a great understanding of how something worked in 2013 and then a guest comes to your property and asks the question and you’re like, “Well, the last time I checked, in 2013, it worked like this.” That’s less useful. Making sure that your staff is educated and that they understand the latest news in hospitality or the latest events that are going on in the industry or the latest technology that’s available.

Texting, for example. There are many millennials who are wanting to check in via text these days or they’re not wanting to call and talk to somebody on the phone or walk in and set up a reservation in that way. They prefer to text. Having a situation at your property that isn’t set up for the modern world is not only going to make things more frustrating for your customers but it’s going to make things more stagnant for your employees and they’re going to feel like they’re not growing with you, which may, in turn, cause them to think that they need to go somewhere else if they want to grow.

And then you could have non-specific trainings that don’t deal directly with your hospitality business, like something that just cultures your employees, that makes them more well-rounded individuals, like maybe going on a wine pairing course. It doesn’t have a lot to do with the day-to-day workings at your property but it’s an interesting thing to know. And who knows? Maybe it’ll pop up in conversations sometime at the property when someone comes up and says, “Hey, we’re going to have a big feast in our room. What kind of wine goes well with cod?” And I have no idea, but your staff would, because they went on a wine pairing course and they’re well-rounded human beings. Non-specific things like that make things a little bit more interesting. They add to the culture at your property and make people just happier.

So conclusion, and then we’re going to get to your questions. Feel free to pop up in the Q&A box and then we’ll get your questions at the very end, but the conclusion of this webinar, the things that I really want you to walk away with are, vision foremost. The vision is the most important thing that one needs to nail before he or she enacts all of the different steps that we talked about to build and nurture the culture at their property.

What is the vision that your property is trying to achieve? Do you really idolize customer service? Is that what you want to be about? You want to be the B&B that is renowned for their customer service or is it something else? Is it philanthropy? Is it tourism? What is the unique nugget that is going to make your property different, the unique thing that you can sort of embrace as the vision for your property? Find out what that is, write it down in one true sentence, one true sentence that explains your company vision, embrace it, and then drill that into the staff because that is going to be the totem pole around which they all link hands, for lack of a better term.

Number two, hiring the right people, making sure that people fit into the culture that you have created, that they’re able to embrace your vision, is really important, as we’ve talked about. And then making sure that the way you treat your employees once they are hired builds upon your culture instead of dragging them down slowly over time. Instead, they come in every day, they get recognized, they get awarded, they feel like they’re part of the team and they feel appreciated.

Continually checking on them, making sure that the temperature at the property is still nice and lukewarm, unless cold is better, I’m not sure, probably lukewarm, not too hot, because hot doesn’t feel good but probably a lukewarm temperature would be good. Making sure that the temperature is appropriate, that everybody is feeling comfortable and then adjusting your tactics over time. As the outside culture changes, as time goes on, as technology changes, as the people grow up and new generations start joining the workforce, the culture of your property will have to change.

The professional business culture of, say, the ’50s and ’60s obviously probably would not work as well today as it did back then. So making sure that your company culture does evolve with the times, as the world evolves, is also important for keeping your employee culture healthy.

And that’s a wrap, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for joining us on this webinar. Let’s take some questions, if you have any. I’ve got Alex here. He’s going to be reading your questions live. So if you have anything you liked, whether you want to share with us examples of how you foster good culture at your properties or examples of team-based events that have really worked well for you in the past, because we’ve all been employees before, even if we’re all managers or owners now. So what are some of the things that your bosses have done in the past that really made you feel appreciated, that really made you feel like you’re part of the culture? You can share those with us so that we can all learn.

So if you have any questions, click that Q&A button at the very top, and Alex will ask.

Alex: There’s one question kind of regarding what you just said, “What are your favorite aspects of company cultures you’ve been a part of?”

Brandon: Well, that’s great. I’ve had the pleasure to work in a number of great places over the years. Some have been not so great and some have been pretty wonderful. So I feel like I have a good contrast. I went to work at a company where we had lunches brought in every single day. I remember where we would all eat a big team lunch together and that’s probably not appropriate for every single business out there, especially if they’re small properties and independent properties, but at the time, it felt really great because lunch time came, the lady came in with the trays of steaming rice or whatever, and we would all take a break for 30 minutes or 25 minutes and chat about the day. It was great for team-building. It was great for feeling like it was almost a family. That’s a little bit of a cliché that your team feels like family, but it really did feel like a familial environment. We were all sharing the meal together and then sharing our thoughts and we had a unified purpose for being there. Those were fun times.

And in one company where I worked at, the owner had a friend who had a yacht. And he would sometimes, at the end of a quarter, for the people who were doing really well or to give great recognition, would take you out on the yacht. And it didn’t cost them a lot of money. They already had the yacht. They bought a few beers and a few snacks and we would go out on the yacht and chat and just enjoy the sunset and it was a really simple thing but man, it felt nice. That kind of appreciation and recognition, as a middle-level employee, to have that happen to you, and you’ve never been on a yacht before, you go, “Wow, this is really nice.” You can enjoy the sunset, drink a beer with the CEO of the company. It’s just a warm, wonderful feeling. That kind of stuff, you remember it. You remember it, so that 10 years later, you talk about it live on a webinar.

Alex: Grant just asked a question. “In all of your research, did you find information around a company culture who all lives and works together, owner, manager, employees working with seniors at a small hostel B&B opposed to a more traditional workplace environment?”

Brandon: Alex, do you want to pipe in on this one?

Alex: Yeah, I’m just reading through one more time.

Brandon: I can…go ahead.

Alex: I personally haven’t come across something like that, but did you, have you?

Brandon: Well, not at a hostel specifically, but one of my very first jobs was at a family-owned business, where people lived together and worked together and ate together and it was a 24/7 sort of thing, and those kind of company cultures, that really leads to a more family feeling. It goes beyond just appreciation or recognition and teamwork building to really being part of the family, and it’s not for everyone, I can tell you that. It’s definitely not for everyone. It takes a lot for somebody to kind of throw themselves in fully to a family-based team environment so that every single day they’re seeing the same people, they’re having the same conversations. The thing that really adds spice to that kind of team environment is the guests, the guests that are coming in, that are new every day and that, I think, is part of the magic of working at a hostel. You get to see and work with the same people, adding to the sense of family and you get to interact with new guests who come in every day.

The kind of people who’d fit well into those environments are people who love people. The adventure for them is not necessarily the benefits and the money that you get from working there. It’s being able to talk with new people and share new experiences. So giving them time to have lunch with somebody who came into the hostel or take a new guest on a tour of the hostel or having more time to meet and talk with these new people that have their own unique experiences, that have come to see something maybe you didn’t know was in your town. That, I think, is going to make the culture at your property even better.

Alex: Great. Those are all the questions we have for now. Last chance for anyone to ask.

Brandon: Last chance for questions, and again, when we’re done here, I’m going to be working on uploading this and publishing the ebook. So be sure to check your email inboxes tomorrow for an email from me with a link to the videos so that you can re-watch this if you want, and a link to the e-book that you can download. And of course, if you have any other questions about this topic or any others, you can always email us at support or info at, and we’re more than happy to share with you.

So if that’s it, is that it?

Alex: That’s all we’ve got.

Brandon: That’s all we’ve got, all right. Thank you ladies and gentlemen for coming to this latest webinar on Company Culture. This was a really fun one to put together and I hope that everybody is able to have walked away with something that they didn’t know beforehand.

As always, check your emails tomorrow for the content and this is Brandon and Alex from Cloudbeds, signing off. You guys have a good rest of the day and thank you so much for coming.

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