Engage by listening

3 Essential Actions: Listen, Inspire and Model

Organizations of all kinds can learn from how Hampton Inns built an engaged culture internally and took it externally, unleashing “Hamptonality” across a global brand with 60,000 team members and more than 1,900 properties.

Not surprisingly, communication has been a key component of Hampton Inns’ notable journey – communication with employees as well as hotel guests. The brand clearly understands communication is a two-way process.

Listening, the half that too often fights for attention, has helped Hampton Inns (owned by Hilton Worldwide) distinguish itself in a competitive hospitality marketplace.

“We are constantly innovating, constantly listening to owners, employees, guests and operators,” Gina says.

“We innovate through listening,” she says.

Gina is both VP of Owner Services and Hilton Worldwide and VP of Culture and Internal Communications at Hampton. She spoke this week in Nashville at Engagement University, a three-day training organized by the Enterprise Engagement Alliance.

Hampton executives make time to listen regularly to employees, managers and guests. They sit down with guests at round tables and ask, “What do you like? What annoys you? What do you wish we did differently?”

Out of those discussions came power cubes for guests’ electronics, higher quality, brand-name toiletries, healthier breakfast choices and the industry’s first curved shower bar (to make physical contact with the shower curtain less likely).

Similar tweaks come from chats with team members and hotel owners, including costs of living adjustments in pricey markets such as New York City.

With Hamptonality, Gina’s team has built a brand recognized as an engagement leader. The success is even more extraordinary because very few of the 60,000 team members are employees of Hampton or Hilton – all but one of the hotels is an independently owned and operated franchise.

“The question becomes ‘How to engage team members who don’t work for you?’” Gina says. “It is all about influence and inspiration.”

The organization studied what differentiated high-performing managers from mediocre ones and found nine “game-changing” behaviors. Managers who held staff “huddles,” whether daily weekly or monthly had staff higher engagement and 14 percent higher revenue per room.

So, a recent gathering of Hampton Inn general managers was not called a convention but “The Ultimate GM Huddle.”

Model behavior; don’t preach it, Gina says.

“It is not about preaching and teaching the message. It is about bringing it to life,” she says.

“It is not about the big incentive and bonuses. It is about the little day-to-day interactions and making people feel good when they come to work.”

Listen. Inspire. Model. If Hampton Inn can transform a workforce of 60,000 that doesn’t even work for it, what could you do?

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