Unlocking communication secrets


Digitalizing information to keep teams happy and engaged

Any growth-minded executive would be well-served to take Rollo May’s words to heart every day. In today’s new normal, it takes more than just the right balance of culture, service, and technology to grow and manage a strong, multi-branded portfolio. It takes real-time, two-way communication to ensure the employees choosing to remain loyal to the hospitality industry feel valued and appreciated.

North Point Hospitality knows this because its employees said as much.

Upon conducting an annual employee-feedback survey a few years back, NPH’s management team learned just how important top-down communications are to employees. Although leadership thought they were doing a good job on the communication front, team comments indicated otherwise. Employees noted they wanted to be heard outside of an annual survey and wanted their voices to matter to everyone across the enterprise. NPH’s management also learned that its employees value being informed timely about things that could impact their employment lives in any way.

Due to the 24/7/365 hospitality environment, two-way communication is challenging. It’s nearly impossible for the HR team to reach every employee, across every shift, speaking many different languages. “Normal” business hours are subjective, making in-person meetings/announcements a challenge.

Other than hit-or-miss bulletin boards and notices accompanying paychecks, there was little NPH could do to guarantee company messaging was being received and understood. Additionally, in the event of an interruption in operations – weather events, safety issues, etc. – the company felt underprepared to ensure the safety and well-being of its employees. Management needed a way to share important information in a consistent manner so all employees receive the same message. They also needed to ensure mutual understanding and empower employees with information that will draw them into the community of work. It would take an employee communications platform – one with which employees were willing to engage to keep everyone connected.

Thanks to a third-party vendor, Beekeper, the company found the solution it was seeking, but there are numerous options out there for similarly minded companies.

Through digital messages, chats, threads, and individual and group streams, the solution connects NPH colleagues across locations and departments in real time using their mobile devices or computers. It ensures everyone receives information in their language of choice and gives each person in the organization a voice to provide public and private feedback. It also gives NPH a way to show its associates that the company is responsive to their expressed needs.

In the beginning, asking employees to communicate digitally was met with some resistance. Some were eager to try the app, while others were uncomfortable, incorrectly assuming it was just another social media platform. Then COVID-19 hit, and everyone quickly realized that a digital communications platform was an essential tool – not a task – that can do the heavy lifting.

Soon NPH learned that communicating digitally was not an option. Rather, it was an integral part of the company’s culture. Management found that having a culture employees believe in builds retention. The technology is giving employees the voice they requested, and it’s connecting them to the company and its core values.

Here are seven ways that’s happening:

1. Recruitment
From the very first interview, NPH tells candidates about its communication platform as part of the employment package. Employee response is always positive, enabling NPH to be seen as an employer that delivers, and it gives them a significant advantage over the competition. During the new-hire process, when prospects are asked to describe the ideal manager, most speak about communications. Employees say they want a manager who’s accessible, willing to provide training, and welcomes fresh ideas. The NPH employee handbook speaks directly to digital communications. Additionally, since all NPH employees can see activity at any of its locations, it broadens their vision of potential career paths with the organization. This affords employees opportunities for promotion or transfer, especially as it builds new hotels. Having a view into other locations and departments helps employees understand the access they have to new opportunities.

2. Welcome and Assimilation
On their first day, employees are asked to create a digital profile and introduce themselves so they begin their journey with instant familiarity and welcome from co-workers.

3. Daily Health Surveys
During COVID-19, employees were asked at the start of every shift to complete a health survey via the app. It helped NPH get to know how everyone was feeling for their protection and the safety of guests and other associates. The company immediately could see who completed the survey and who didn’t. If someone didn’t respond, management reached out to check in, which kept NPH closely tied to its people, and it let everyone know the company cares about their health and wellness.

4. Ongoing Health & Wellness
Via a wellness stream called “Keeping You Pointing North,” NPH is lifting its employees up and demonstrating care for their physical, financial, and mental health, as well as their professional development. Via this stream, management is having open dialogue about changes in 401K providers, the importance of good posture, and why it’s important to drink water during shifts. NPH shares healthy recipes, provides tips for stress relief, answers questions about retirement planning, and identifies new opportunities for advancement within the company. It also offers a financial training course via the platform that helps its associates earn money by completing training courses. Via the digital solution, NPH ensures benefits literacy by explaining commonly used benefits terms and aspects of its plan designs throughout the year. During open enrollment, the company shares information about benefits offerings and how to access them.

5. Training and Cross-Training
Being a multi-brand hotel operator, different properties have unique standards. To communicate those standards and provide brand-specific training, NPH uses the digital chat feature to provide links to the appropriate platforms so employees can launch training in seconds. The company uses the chat feature to check-in with new hires the day of hire, the day after hire, two weeks after hire, and at the 30-day mark. Group chats are used when multiple people are onboarded the same day to give a sense of community and provide a platform for asking questions. And, because at least half of NPH’s employees have responsibilities at more than one property, required cross-training is easily provided.

6. Recognition and Rewards
Within this platform, managers recognize expected behavior and reward efforts that go above and beyond the norm, and employees receive public recognition for jobs well done. Touches like these go a long way toward making everyone feel comfortable and motivate people to rise above.

7. Guest service
Digital communications enable the entire hotel to learn of VIP arrivals, site tours for potential group business, and an array of other guest needs on a real-time basis. It allows NPH hotels to elevate their level of service to the guest and make a seamless transition from one shift to the next.

Through this digital technology adoption, a company can prioritize employee communication with leadership fully endorsing the solution. And a company’s willingness to invest in technology speaks volumes about its culture and PM commitment to taking care of associates. Attracting and retaining employees isn’t as difficult as it could be when companies find ways to connect with employees across properties, departments, and specialties.

Going into – and coming out of – the pandemic, digital communication has been the lifeline among corporate, management and frontline employees, introducing management teams to a new world of engagement.

christy shapard

Christy Shapard is Vice President of Human Resources for North Point Hospitality, a multi-brand leading hotel development and management company with more than 40 years of award-winning hospitality experience. Based in Atlanta, GA, North Point Hospitality owns and operates 11 hotels in the Southeastern United States with eight hotels under construction or in active development.


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