While businesses across every industry continue to reel in uncertainty about their financials, longevity, and ability to deliver during the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is certain: this is the greatest test of the employee experience the world has ever seen. Hospitality organizations can be sure that while they grapple with plummeting bookings, their employees are the ones who will carry their brands through this crisis.
Why should organizations commit harder than ever to the employee experience now? Not just because it’s the right thing to do. If you support your employees during this nerve-wracking time, they’ll deliver outstanding experiences for guests who are in their own state of stress--and those guests will remember that your brand made them feel at ease in a time of crisis. Your staff is almost entirely responsible for keeping customer loyalty in the bag. If you treat employees with utmost care today, they will ensure your customers keep coming back when life has returned to “normal.”
This time of crisis has pulled back the curtain to display how organizations of all kinds are regrouping and responding. In no way, shape or form do I intend to cast judgement on any brand (we’re all working to do our best in this unprecedented time), yet for hospitality organizations, there are some clear lessons to be learned (or at the very least, reminded of).
Stay communicative and consistent
Let’s talk Trader Joe’s. The well-liked grocery store chain has come under fire for its haphazard communication to employees during the initial stages of the outbreak. According to Bloomberg, memos from the company and decisions made by individual managers were not aligned and employees felt unsafe. While it is difficult to place blame in any particular management layer because of the U.S. government’s own flip-floppiness (remember when masks weren’t recommended?) the relevant point here is to do your best to make employees feel as though they are getting a consistent message. Even if that message has to change, if you acknowledge the change in instruction, employees will at least feel as though you are being authentic and honest with them.
This is not much different from the customer experience. Research shows that 85% of customers are more likely to stick by a business during a crisis if it has a history of being transparent. Honesty earns respect, and employees that feel mutually respected will carry out your brand’s mission to deliver the ultimate customer experience.
Review your plan, and make sure everyone knows what it is
Now’s the time that you’re frantically trying to review your emergency preparedness plan with all staff. During this process, go over roles for employees so that each knows how to keep themselves, the organization, and guests safe. Having a plan will make employees feel as though there are approved ways to act during this time, and they will be aware of all communications protocol to act with confidence during a time of uncertainty. Reviewing this plan will not only ensure your employees are all on the same page but that they are providing consistent guest experiences, which is crucial to customer loyalty and satisfaction.
Take a few extra, unprecedented steps
Managers never thought they’d have to figure out how to dole out masks and gloves to every employee, but here we are. Starbucks’ approach of telling employees to bring their own mask and gloves got them some bad publicity. Even if there is no protective gear to be found, this point goes back to the first recommendation to stay communicative. At least letting employees know you’re trying to get them the right supplies will go a long way.
You have the opportunity right now to show employees just how committed you are to their well-being – and the well-being of your community – by taking things a step further. You may not be able to manufacture hand sanitizer at your property to distribute to employees like L’Oréal, but even going so far as to set up charitable donations is a sign that you care. Tiffany & Co., for example, has committed to matching employee donations dollar-for-dollar on top of its $1 million commitment to COVID-19 relief efforts. That’s a surefire way to make employees feel as though they work for a generous brand through which they can easily contribute themselves if possible.
Stay flexible and, yes, consider compensation options
One company we’ve been seeing in the news lately is Starbucks, which quickly course corrected to make its employees (nearly 300,000 worldwide) feel prioritized and valued after word got out that they were feeling less than cared for. Hotel managers that are considering how to go about handling employees that need to stay home to care for children or who may have been exposed to the virus can learn from what Starbucks did next. The company offered employees a full month’s pay if they chose to stay home and offered a $3 per hour raise to those who chose to still work.
The company also offered “catastrophe pay” to workers who have been exposed to the virus and have a doctor’s note saying so. Employees who are exhibiting symptoms can also access catastrophe pay. The bottom line: creating flexibility for employees and making them feel as though they have options should anything happen or their situation change will make them feel valued. When they return to work – or if they stay on – they will deliver that caring approach to customers.
Going all in on the employee experience will keep customers locked in now and, more importantly, when this crisis is over. The connection between the employee experience and the customer experience has never been stronger, and that’s something no pandemic can undo.