Learning from luxury hotels about how to thrive in a crisis
If a big crisis happens, head to a luxury hotel. These are the people who will be brilliant at taking care of you. That was a surprise message I got from the film Hotel Rwanda - where the staff of the Hotel des Mille Collines seemed to far surpass the area UN Peacekeepers in saving people during the 1994 genocide, and now from the Dec 2011 issue of HBR in the article The Ordinary Heroes of the Taj. It describes the breathtaking level-headedness, creativity under pressure and extreme customer centricity of employees during a terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008, and 4 years earlier in the Maldives during the tsunami that killed 185,000 people.
One of the key elements listed in the Taj Approach to HR is:
“Teach people to improvise rather than do things by the book.”
The article talks about the careful recruitment, thoughtful and timely recognition, extended training, and profound empowerment of staff to put the customer ahead of the company.
Everyone is saying that we are in unprecedented times. We are in the midst of multiple major crises, including:
- Financial (Occupy Wallstreet, Arab Spring, eurozone needing to do some profound changes)
- Environmental decline (most major systems which support life on Earth are in decline, UK about to face unprecedented drought,...)
- Confidence in the fundamental way our political, economic, consumer, healthcare and social systems operate
- Kickings from daily news reports spouting doom & gloom with little focus/coverage on what’s going well
We do not have manuals for what’s going on. So what can organisations outside of the luxury hotels business learn about how to thrive in a crisis?
Lots. Here are three things:
DELIGHT PEOPLE - It’s now more important than ever
- Happy employees who care about customers and who can make collaborative yet decentralised decisions make happy customers and better operating processes. Now is not the time to skimp on recognising innovation, developing vital skills, or appreciating strengths in the office.
HAVE A POSITIVE OUTLOOK
- People respond to genuine connection and value...now is not the time to hold back extraordinary service because you are afraid. Delighting customers in innovative simple ways will make you stand out in the current market of fear and contraction.
SOLUTIONS VERSUS PROBLEMS
- The organisations that thrive are going to be the ones that are clear about what they want, know what’s working well in the context of getting them there, and which are taking small, measurable steps to move towards a brighter shared future.