Change is inevitable but it’s all too easy for businesses adopting hospitality technology to get it wrong – research tells us that 70% of change management programmes fail to achieve their goals.
In an era when constant technological evolution means change is never far away, the most common barrier to successful change is staff adoption, with 18% of employees saying they would consider leaving their job if there was a large organisational change (Oak Change Report 2023).
So, what’s the answer and how can you put your business in the best position to succeed?
Change management is not a side project — it's a fundamental company-wide initiative. To effectively steer an organisation through change, the CEO's unwavering commitment is essential.
The CEO's role extends beyond mere endorsement. It involves active engagement in driving the narrative of change. When the CEO champions change, it sends a powerful message to the staff, emphasising the importance of the transition and encouraging active participation.
Middle managers and team leads also play a pivotal role in this process, translating the high-level vision into actionable steps for their teams. Their role isn't just to communicate change, but to empathetically address concerns, offer support, and foster an environment where learning and adaptation are encouraged.
Hands-on involvement is crucial in guiding and motivating employees. In fact, Mckinsey reports that when people are truly invested in change, it is “30% more likely to stick”. So, delegating change champions can be another great tactic. In a hotel setting, these champions could be leaders from revenue management, operations, front desk, housekeeping, and other vital departments.
Change management often involves the introduction of new technology, and in those cases, businesses will need to put product champions in place. These employees should be experts and advocates for the change, using a train-the-trainer approach to ensure knowledge transfer, training and adoption.
Effective people management ensures change resonates at all levels of the organisation. Businesses may consider leveraging frameworks like the Six Thinking Hats which address the diverse perspectives and emotions that arise in a period of change, enabling effective collaboration and, ultimately, success. Other well-known examples include the McKinsey 7-S model, Kotter's change management theory and the Kübler-Ross change management framework.
When introducing new technology to your organisation, it's not just about ensuring the technology is up and running. It's equally important for your team to understand the impact the technology will have on their daily tasks and responsibilities.
A successful transition to new technology requires open communication channels. Employees need to understand why the change is happening, how it will improve their work, and what support they can expect during the process. It’s crucial you involve your teams so they have buy-in from the very beginning. You can do this effectively by providing support and training from the early stages, and allowing them to help select potential solutions. What do they have to say about usability, compatibility and workflows?
Before you embark on the journey of vendor selection, make sure you’ve got a clear understanding of your business requirements. What specific challenges are you looking to address? What goals do you aim to achieve with the new technology? These questions form the foundation of your vendor selection process.
The next step is translating them into system requirements, outlining the functionalities and features that the technology needs to meet your business needs. This alignment prevents unnecessary features from complicating your workflows and mitigates the possibility of coming up against issues with staff adoption.
An onboarding plan is like a roadmap that guides the organisation through change, and ensures a smooth transition, but its success is largely dependent on the proactive work of a project manager with in-depth technical knowledge.
Success is aided by a staged approach to onboarding — don’t try to change too much all at once. Start with critical categories, such as guest communication, distribution, accounting, and reporting, and gradually expand into hotel-specific areas like upselling, housekeeping, and spa applications. An approach like this ensures a gradual learning curve and can go a long way to minimise disruption.
After that, it’s down to staff adoption. Comprehensive training sessions serve as the foundation for success here, and it's important to address the unique needs and concerns of various departments. Transparency and open communication means employees can voice their questions and concerns, paving the way for an easier transition.
Regular check-ins and milestone reviews are also vital components of any onboarding plan, providing opportunities to assess progress, address challenges, and celebrate successes. They reinforce the commitment of the leadership team towards the change initiative and demonstrate both support and dedication.
When any organisation is going through a period of change, it’s important that overall success and staff adoption are measured continuously.
Implementing performance metrics, like employee engagement surveys, error rates, guest satisfaction ratings, and ROI assessments are all good ways of judging how the change is being received. Data-driven adjustments, feedback loops, and ongoing training can also help refine the change management strategy if things are not going as planned.
The Swiss hotel group, Tailormade Hotels, is a great example of how to monitor and adjust the technological change process. Friederike Werner, the company’s Distribution & Sales Manager has described how she made sure that at least 80% of the change process was implemented before the high season to avoid disruption to the business and guests. The team implemented a series of workshops where common mistakes and problems were examined, with the lessons identified inspiring improvements to the change process and avoiding the same problems in the future. “You need to trust your people, then you have to change the processes and then you need to make sure that everything gets into a routine,” said Friederike.
Similarly, Illuster & Banana City Hotels reduced manual inputs and simplified things for users so it became easier to onboard staff. Within two months, staff were happier and training time was massively reduced by 1.5 months.
Ultimately successful change management requires more than just strategic planning – it calls for a leadership approach centred around people, fostering collaboration, engagement, and improvement. As the hospitality industry continues its journey of transformation, continuous improvement, training and reviews of current technologies will prompt the biggest changes. It’s the way organisations choose to manage that change that will be key to their success.
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