What HR can learn from the hospitality sector. Find out in the guest blog of Marjolijn Vlug.
If you ever sat in a bar or restaurant, then you know how nice it is to be served hospitably. Your drink tastes the same as on the terrace next door and the food from the neighbours might even be a little nicer, but you'd still like to come back to this establishment if the staff are friendly and guest-oriented. If you are not treated as a table number, but as a human being.
What's more: suppose something goes wrong, suppose the waiter spills red wine on your clothes or there is a hair in your soup? If the staff reacts with a customer focus and the problem is solved hospitably, research has shown that you'd even rather come back and recommend that specific bar or restaurant to others.
You are welcome here
For employees, HR is the most visible part of your organisation: you serve people, from applicants to managers and from colleagues to the direction committee. You are one of the first points of contact for better or worse. From the employees’ perspective, your behaviour and communication speaks volumes about the organisation as a whole. Warmth and hospitality in HR increases trust in the organisation, especially at the crucial moments in a person's life. Importantly, having such a generous approach is within reach for every organisation.
Hospitality in your organisation is about conveying the message ‘you are welcome here’, ‘we are glad you are here’ and ‘our organisation will run better with you around’. People need to feel this, in every part of their employee experience.
"Just like in the hospitality industry, generosity and warmth in HR is a business smart choice, one that fits seamlessly into being a great employer."
Are you (or do you want to) work(ing) on optimizing the employee experience in your organisation, then this is what you want to know about hospitality in HR.
1. This is the basis: business-like and essential
If a waitress nods at you when you walk in, the waiter brings an unsolicited water bowl for the dog, the barman has remembers your favourite drink or the cook makes a plate of food for you that you can enjoy in spite of your allergy, then you do not think that this is a soft, ’un-business-like’ waste of time on their part. On the contrary: guest orientation is indispensable for long-term business success in the hospitality industry. In a hospitable catering establishment, you trust that you are in good hands. This trust is not a 'nice to have' but an essential part of a successful hospitality company.
What more and more people are starting to realize is that the same applies to every organisation. How you deal with people can make or break you, it makes doing business an exhausting struggle or a smooth and successful process.
2. This is your profit: trust
Most forms of generous communication and warm interactions do not cost much. However, the return on investment is enormous. Because the difference lies in the way you deal with people, within an investment that you would have made anyway. What do you say on the phone, how do you compose an e-mail? How do you look at a person when they are at your desk with a question? You already spend time answering a question - the difference is in the way you do it.
Maybe you have a solid policy document lying on the shelf. But it is the way in which you deal with a colleague who is ill or with a co-worker who has contributed enormously well to that latest assignment, that is what has a real impact. When you make your to-do list and prioritize it, looking through the perspective of hospitality, you will immediately notice the difference in the employee experience. When hospitable interactions with employees becomes the norm, when they are in line with all the other things you undertake to be a great workplace, confidence in your HR department and your organisation will grow, having a positive impact on your business.
3. This is how you put it: positive
Hospitality is to be welcomed with a smile. Moreover, in the hospitality industry, you don't easily get a 'no' and even if you do, then it's usually followed by a 'but what is possible, is...'.
In psychology this is called positive affect. Research has shown, that if you start from a positive perspective, you are more creative, more innovative, more resilient, more emphatic and more open. It makes communication easier. It is also contagious. Imagine the snowball effect this has on your work and also on the way in which you, as HR, deal with the employees in your organisation - and how they react to you.
4. This is how you will find the most important information: listen
A good employee in the catering business has all kinds of things on his or her mind. New napkins on the order list, fresh fish to be sold today, a sick mother at home. But you don't have to notice that when you are a guest. If you are in his or her restaurant, the waiter is interested in you. Do you want to order another drink, does the food taste good, does your nephew want a colouring page and a packet of pencils? If the waiter pays attention to what you need and responds to that, he can easily sell you the fish of the day, which gives the restaurant a nice margin while you enjoying your lunch.
What can help you, in HR, is to clear your head. Make space for the perceptions of your co-workers. Tier yourself away from your own interest and thoughts, think of employee experience prior to your own opinion or judgement, imagine other perspectives in addition to your own. What do you hear and see? And what is it like, in the experience of that colleague? Your colleague will notice that you are listening and will appreciate that. It also helps you to find out how you can respond hospitably to your colleague's needs, within the possibilities that you can offer. You will discover the differences between employees and the diversity of perspectives and wishes. This also helps you if you want your colleagues to cooperate more easily with your own goals.
5. This is what you are investing in: provide tailor-made solutions
Offering a glass of water requires a small effort and is a great pleasure for those who are thirsty or those who love a good coffee experience. Peppermints on the saucer next to the bill will lead to a larger tip. Giving is a good investment. And giving evokes giving back.
The same applies to the exchange between an organisation and an employee. In a small non-profit organisation, it's just as easy to give as it is to give with a large budget. Because we have found out by now that a higher bonus does not have much effect, giving doesn't have to cost a lot to deliver a lot.
Customize your way of giving, depending on the situation: in a restaurant, not everyone needs an extra napkin, a bowl of water for the dog or a colouring page. But for that specific guest, at the right time, it makes a very strong impression. In your staff policy, too, rest assured that you don't suddenly have to budget for everyone else's needs, but make room to respond to individual needs.
What matters most to him is the timing and the tone. Connect with what you know, because you have listened. From a heartfelt thank you at the right time, a friendly letter, a sincere welcome, to more flexible terms of employment depending on their life stage, that's how you make a real impact. Your colleagues will then return to work, with more pleasure and energy.
Real people make you great.
In the hospitality industry, it's abundantly clear that your customers are real people: they do 'real people stuff' in the middle of your company. It's no different in your organisation.
Let your colleague be a real person, with his or her own story, just like you.
Make room for it, think along with it and respond to it by listening to it in a business-like way and setting hospitable priorities. Take it into account in the choices you make, the message you bring, the attitude and tone you choose. This is the basis of a great employee experience, in all sizes. The basis of being seen and building trust. Because all interaction, especially that between HR and employees, helps to build trust and an energetic and resilient organisational culture. This will help you to create a great workplace together. Good luck!
About the author
Marjolijn Vlug advises medium-sized organisations on hospitable HR communication. How do you deal with the people in your organisation? Being a good employer is what you achieve in interactions and communications that are consistent, coherent, clear and authentic. Marjolijn writes, trains and gives workshops to ensure that your HR communication, labour market communication and internal communication match your identity and ambitions as a good employer.
Is your organisation a Great Place to Work®?
We recognise good employers all over the world with the labels Great Place to Work® Certified™ and Best Workplaces™. The strict criteria and the combined perspectives of both the employees and the organisation make this recognition unique.