Hospitality and Leisure Practice Update | July 2017

Reflections on the First Half of 2017

As many of you may be experiencing, things have been extremely active. Companies continue to upgrade talent, acquire hotels, sell off assets, and spin off divisions. At RSR Partners, we see some increased activity in the timeshare and hospitality REIT sectors. These are industries we have been studying and paying close attention to for more than a decade. In the past 18 months these sectors have heated up. We attribute these findings to a few things. First, activists have started circling in the REIT world and companies can no longer say this was due to timing of the cycle. Second, private equity has taken a keen interest in the timeshare space, and the success of the IPOs within the space (e.g., Marriott Vacation Clubs and Hilton Grand Vacations) has stimulated change and activity.

While we predicted things would be quite active in terms of the movement of senior executives, we are pleasantly surprised by the diversity of our recent work: branded hotel companies, REITs, timeshare, hotel management companies, restaurants, etc.

We think this could be a good time to take a moment to reflect on your career. Are you satisfied with your role? Do you feel challenged? Do you feel appreciated?

To learn more about our Hospitality and Leisure Practice, click here.

Recruiting Against Cultural Fit: Critical to Successful Search Work

Working on a search for a specific role in an organization sounds straight forward. But is it? Having a candidate attraction strategy which speaks to the opportunity and company culture is critical. It will increase the likeliness of appealing to and engaging talent who will thrive, and stay. Every single day, the behaviors and interactions of employees within an organization can create, sustain, or even change the company’s culture. Every e-mail, meeting, and communication is an opportunity to help craft the culture of a company and drive engagement. There really is no magic to creating great culture. The key is to treat your employees like you would like to be treated. While the Golden Rule sounds simple enough, it turns out not everyone needs or likes to be treated the same way. This is why we encounter so many different cultures and must adapt our search strategy to fit that culture.

From the very beginning of a search, we, as search consultants, need to be able to convey our clients’ functional needs as well as describe their cultures. Brand recognition can create initial reactions to perspective candidates and sources which can be biased in one way or another. Those biases are usually reactions to personal experiences and/or influenced by outside sources; they can be unconscious and we can educate around that view — or even misperception.

Here at RSR Partners, when we meet with our clients — from the initial meeting to a successful completion — we keep learning. Every exchange between the hiring team, the candidates, and our internal team provides an opportunity to learn how the client operates and why. We need to be able to derive insight from those experiences and convey them to our candidates to ensure they are ready to meet, impress, and be hired! We need to dispel any opinions which are not based on facts. We need to appreciate differences, build understanding, and ask clarifying questions to better assess fit with our candidates.

All About the Guest 

In February 2016, one of our colleagues and her family went to the Caribbean for spring break, and they stayed at a major hotel brand. Upon arriving at the resort, they lingered around in line waiting to check in, despite having an “elite” status which should have meant no, or little, wait time. While a frustrating experience started their vacation, they had an amazing stay on a beautiful island in a lovely resort staffed by some of the nicest, most gracious people they have ever met.

In March 2017, they went back to the same island for spring break, although this time they stayed at the same hotel brand’s vacation club. Their first few minutes in the same lobby where they lingered around the year before had a completely different feel. Upon check-in, they were presented with a personal concierge, glasses of rum punch (yes please!) and a delicious little fruit cake the island is known for. After a warm and welcoming start to their stay, they had another amazing vacation on a beautiful island in a lovely resort staffed by some of the nicest, most gracious people around.

Guest experience. It is what can make or break a hotel. Happy guests help build loyalty to a brand, encouraging repeat business and involvement in rewards programs which often generate greater profitability. This family’s first experience at this Caribbean resort could have, in the grand scheme of things, been worse (lost reservation, dirty room, etc.), but it also could have been better, amazing even.  Given their “elite” status, they could have been engaged by the hotel before they checked in – a call, text, or e-mail – and then recognized on-site. There is something to be said for feeling like a VIP before you step foot in the door and then to be treated like family once you do.

Most marketers consider the customer experience to be a primary differentiator when it comes to choosing one thing over another. Hotels, like airlines or even retailers, want to generate customer loyalty, and it only takes one bad experience to have customers defect to competitors. In this day and age, the bad experience does not even necessarily have to be yours. With social media, it is as if we are all living vicariously through each other.

What can the hotel world do to differentiate themselves? Outside of having the right property, start with the staff – most people want genuine, friendly, knowledgeable, approachable, and engaging front desk agents. Get to know the guests, especially frequent guests, and if you do not know the guests, fake it. With all the capability around gathering data and insight, this should not be a challenge. Consider the right technology, all the way from pre-check-in to inside the room. By appealing to Gen Ys and Millennials, you make a play at capturing the loyalty at the beginning of the lifecycle.

Customers are not a forgiving bunch, and why should they be? There are plenty of options out there. Make the customer experience a top priority because a happy customer will lead to happy revenue.

Who We Are

Here at RSR Partners, our Hospitality and Leisure Practice works tirelessly to help solve complex talent issues for organizations involved in the gaming, lodging, restaurants, travel, and leisure sectors. Our dedicated team of domain experts serves its clients in search of senior leaders who can develop new strategies, strengthen brand loyalty, and improve the customer experience. Our capabilities include board recruiting and board advisory, chief executive officers and other C-suite executives, and functional experts in human resources, marketing, and finance, among other roles.

At RSR Partners, we are passionate about creating impact for both our clients and our candidates. Successfully recruiting the right talent to the right organization results in the executive we recruit unlocking tremendous value and soaring professionally. That is what drives our work, every day, and on every assignment.

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