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Ready for the Future? Five Leadership Trends Reshaping Hospitality

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NATIONAL REPORT—To lead people and organizations successfully in the coming years, leaders need to have a clear understanding of these trends and how to implement them while considering the specific needs of their organizations and the context of their market.

In this article, we’ll discuss the top five trends influencing global hospitality businesses, and their leadership, today. And we’ll offer some suggestions for how to get started in these areas, whether with your own ideas and initiatives, or some upskilling and education to get a boost.

Digital Leadership & Technology Integration

As technology continues to play a significant role in the hospitality industry, leaders who are tech-savvy and adaptable to new technologies are in high demand. The ability to leverage technology for operational efficiency, guest experience enhancement, and data-driven decision-making is a crucial leadership skill. In hospitality, leaders must also seek to be equally high-tech and human-centric in implementing these new digital tools and techniques.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning: The automation of repetitive tasks is revolutionizing hospitality and the service industry with AI and machine learning technologies used for many purposes: personalized guest recommendations, chatbots for customer service, revenue management, predictive analytics for demand forecasting, voice-enabled devices and virtual assistants, and voice-controlled room features.
  • ChatGPT & Virtual Assistants: Natural language processing tools driven by AI technology can act as a virtual concierge, providing guests with information about local attractions, restaurants, transportation options, and answering their queries regarding their stay. They can also assist in analyzing customer feedback, reviews, and surveys.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR): These are being employed to enhance guest experiences by offering virtual tours, immersive marketing campaigns, and interactive elements that showcase hotel amenities and destinations.
  • Contactless Technology: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, contactless technologies like mobile check-in/out, digital room keys, and mobile payment solutions have gained prominence. These technologies minimize physical contact and provide a seamless guest experience.
  • Internet of Things (IoT): is being used to create smart hotel rooms and connected guest experiences. This technology allows for automated control of room features, personalized preferences, and energy management systems.
  • Robotics and Automation: Service robots, robotic concierges, and automated room service delivery systems, are being used to streamline operations, enhance efficiency, and reduce labor costs.

Employee Wellbeing & Satisfaction Initiatives

The well-being mindset in leadership is of utmost importance in a hospitality business for two main reasons: Firstly, many recent studies on employee wellbeingconclude that you need happy and healthy employees for your company to be competitive and provide excellent customer service. And secondly, employee absenteeism and resignation is particularly damaging in this sector. The hospitality industry has one of the highest turnover ratesamong private sectors, even prior to the pandemic. The leaders of global hospitality businesses must understand this paradigm and lead with a well-being mindset that takes care of

  • Employee Satisfaction and Engagement: Prioritizing well-being in the hospitality industry means creating a positive work environment that promotes employee satisfaction and engagement. Instilling practices of open communication and creating more flexibility and a better work-life balance for employees is a great place to start in this area.
  • Guest Satisfaction: Happy and engaged employees provide better customer service, creating memorable experiences for guests. Leaders can encourage this by creating a culture of celebrating good service and success, setting SMART goals for this area, and recognizing a job well done.
  • Retention and Talent Attraction: When organizations prioritize employee well-being, it creates a positive reputation as an employer and increases the likelihood of retaining talented individuals. Leaders must understand what makes this a good place to work (or not), and how to make it better. Employee surveys and HR data analysis can help discover areas for improvement.
  • Health and Safety: The hospitality industry often involves physically demanding and high-stress work environments. Prioritizing well-being includes promoting health and safety measures to protect employees from physical and emotional harm. Start by working proactively to reduce workplace accidents, injuries, and stress-related issues, and to create a healthier and safer work environment. Employees often have the best ideas for how to improve their work environment, so don’t hesitate to get them involved and empower them to make changes.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is one of the leadership styles gaining prominence in the hospitality industry. As the industry is constantly adapting to new technology and consumer trends, leaders who inspire and motivate their teams, foster innovation, and drive positive change are highly valued. Transformational leaders create a vision for the organization and empower their employees to achieve their full potential.

Ethical, Inclusive & Sustainable Leadership

With the ever-growing focus on environmental and social issues, leaders need to prioritize responsible business practices, sustainability initiatives, and social responsibility to ensure their business has an ever-improving impact on all stakeholders, especially people and the planet.

Currently, many global hospitality organizations are striving to implement initiatives that support greater Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity. This starts by creating more diverse leadership teams that reflect the multicultural nature of their guests and employees. This trend of inclusive leadership, which embraces different perspectives and backgrounds, is seen as a key driver of success.

In hospitality, improving gender equality is top of the list. A recent whitepaper done by the Hospitality Industry Pipeline Coalition shows that 70 percent of employees in hospitality are female, yet only 20 percent of executive officers and 8 percent of directors are female.

From a talent perspective, the best businesses to work for often prioritize inclusion. According to the Inside Hospitality Report, 76 percent of job applicants analyze workforce diversity before accepting a job in the sector. Indeed, recruiters from global businesses must deploy smart talent acquisition strategies that support DEI growth.

And from the customer side, businesses that prioritize inclusion are also perceived positively by consumers, making inclusion a highly important corporate responsibility and a competitive advantage.

Collaborative Leadership

Everyone participates, and everyone’s opinion matters. That is the essence of collaborative leadership. It is a practice that draws on the vision and experience of different team members for problem-solving and decision-making.

Collaborative leadership is significant in today’s dynamic and interconnected business environment. In global hospitality businesses, collaborative leadership has a special importance. To enhance your collaborative leadership style, you must:

  • Foster Innovation: Collaborative leadership encourages the sharing of ideas, knowledge, and expertise among team members. By promoting open communication and collaboration, you can create an environment where innovative solutions can emerge.
  • Build Stronger Teams: Collaboration strengthens team dynamics and relationships. Aim to foster a culture of collaboration where team members feel valued and included. This leads to higher levels of employee engagement, improved morale, and increased productivity.
  • Enhance Decision-Making: Collaborative leadership allows for collective decision-making. Try to involve team members in the decision-making process, so they can tap into their wider range of expertise and perspectives.
  • Encourage Learning and Growth: Collaboration provides opportunities for continuous learning and professional growth. Encourage team members to collaborate and share knowledge, so they learn from each other’s experiences, skills, and expertise.
  • Build Trust and Relationships: Collaborative leadership fosters trust among team members. Demonstrate your own openness and trustworthiness to create a safe and supportive environment. It will build trust and strengthen the relationships within your team.

How to Strengthen Your Leadership Skills?

Embracing emerging paradigms such as digital leadership and a focus on well-being requires more than just a decision, it requires know-how. Luckily, the leadership competencies and skills mentioned throughout this article are not unique personality traits or natural talents, they are all behaviors, attitudes, tools, and techniques that can be learned.

A quick upskilling course or certificate program can go a long way towards helping you get the foundation of knowledge and skills to manage these trends. It can also save you from wasting time and energy on initiatives that miss their mark or worse. Therefore, training for leaders on these paradigms is a great way to start.

While some skills can be easily acquired through traditional training and courses, leadership skills are a different matter. Unlike technical skills that can be learned through lectures and theoretical exercises, leadership soft skills require hands-on experience in real-world situations. This doesn’t necessarily mean on-site courses, it can also be done in a digital learning environment, if the course is designed correctly.

Experiential learning simply requires that individuals be exposed to real-world situations that enable them to apply their skills in innovative, creative, and adaptive ways. It encourages individuals to take risks, make mistakes, and learn from their experiences in a safe and controlled environment, ultimately leading to better outcomes.

This article appeared in EHL Insights, a central source of actionable insights into the world of hospitality, business, and education.

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