What is it that immediately pops into your mind when you hear 'Hotel'?
For me, even before joining the industry, from childhood, the word hotel meant 'socialising' - a place where there'd be lots of people.
Growing up in Bombay-India, my early experiences around hotels were attending glamorous birthday parties and weddings in my dad's business circle or entertaining relatives who visited from abroad or even just leisurely Sundays by hotel poolsides with my cousins during summer holidays.
That brought me to the conclusion that a hotel was (and still is) a 'social' place where people come together to connect, have fun, create memories.
Many years on and after being in the industry since the '90s, my mind still connects back to staff at hotels with whom, we, as guests, had some very interesting 'social' conversations...one very specific one that comes to mind is when my husband and I were on our Xmas holiday at one of the leading luxury hotels in Jaipur with our then 2 year old.
The restaurant staff who waited at our table was particularly charming and interacted very freely my toddler. He had a peculiar way of gesturing with his hands (not something that would have been taught at a hotel school for sure); and my son found this gesture most amusing and laughed really loud and continuously each time the waiter did that.
My son was most happy to socialise and interact with him thereafter even stretching his neck out from our dining area to catch the waiter's attention when he was serving other tables.
From an industry professional's perspective, the hand gesture was not the body language suited to luxury hotel mannerisms, but as a mom, I remember this staff member more than really well trained ones only because of how he interacted with my son and that created the memory.
This leads up to the fact that hoteliers and hotel staff create more engagement with their 'social skills' as compared to their job skills.
Now anyone who owns, runs or works at a hotel knows that social skills aren't there in all our teams as we would like them to be. These are skills we all carry to work from home, in our backpacks (some large, some small, some empty)
As is talked about in this New York Times article, we aren't really taught HOW to interact with people in different settings, make friends, resolve conflict, navigate groups and the likes. This is the key reason why so many of us grow up with different types of discomforts in social environments.
Now imagine the scenario at a hotel where only about 10% of the staff has acclimatised to social interactions after years of experience and 90% of the staff may still lack the skill or comfort or confidence to 'show up'.
In fact, our first ever Hotelier Excellence™ training was for a hotel where the owner wanted his ALL of the staff (housekeepers, maintenance and the ones who didn't need to meet guests in their jobs) to get rid of their self consciousness (as they were all local while the guests were foreign) and create the ability and confidence to just 'wish' their guests confidently when their paths crossed.
So while we don't necessarily have these social skills, they can be learned and taught to our hotel teams through 5 easy steps.
Step 1 : Self Awareness - just being aware of how one is feeling in the presence of guests or just about having to have an easy conversation.
Step 2 : Self regulation - the next step...so not just being aware but being able to flip the negative or uncomfortable feelings and handling them as they come up.
Step 3 : Motivation - generally related to one's level of anxiety, stress and reward (money, KRA, appreciation) at work.
Step 4 : Empathy - an understanding of another's emotions and sentiments.
Step 5 : Social Navigation - but understanding how to get where you want to be with other people...generally involves effective and 'empowered communication'
More than JOB SKILLS, it is the social skills that contribute to winners and success.
How has the experience been for you at your hotel?