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Hampton Hotels: Don\'t Underestimate the \'B\' Players
When leaders at Hampton Hotels wanted to recharge its 100 percent guarantee of satisfaction with every team member at its more than 1,000 hotels, they were concerned.
When leaders at Hampton Hotels wanted to recharge its 100 percent guarantee of satisfaction with every team member at its more than 1,000 hotels, they were concerned. Would people below the leadership level be able to comprehend the details and importance of the information? After all, many team members weren’t college educated, not all spoke English as a first language and few had business training.
“We tested a learning tool at a hotel in Chicago that employed some savvy frontline associates, and it went quite well,” said Gina Valenti, senior director of Brand Program Development and Integration at Hampton Hotels. “But one of our leaders said, ‘Yes, but this doesn’t represent a typical Hampton. It will never work in more rural areas.’
“So that’s exactly where we went next. We tried holding the same discussion about the business in a less ‘savvy’ locale and were surprised to hear the same kinds of conversations, just with a slightly different accent. Our managers at these hotels were a little worried; they didn’t want to set their people up for failure. If anything, the conversations were even more rich, deep and passionate. As we listened to frontline people tell each other what they did every day and why they needed each other, our leaders learned a lot.
“We realized that these team members know more about our 100 percent guarantee than anybody else — even the leaders. As they spoke, they were learning from each other, sharing their contributions. It was like they were singing with one voice, with the same words.”
What Hampton had done was appeal to a higher level of thinking in its employees. When leaders do this, employees almost always respond in kind. When they’re encouraged to think and talk about the business, it quietly raises the bar on their expectations of themselves, and the organization benefits.
“When you ask people a question and just listen to them, you may find that you learn more from the ‘ordinary’ people than from leaders, who seldom see customers,” Valenti said. “And the respect levels were raised notches on both sides.”
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