BLOG HR in Hospitality – Esther O’Halloran – 02/11/17

By Esther

Today was the first time that HR in Hospitality had the opportunity to take a key part and partner with HOSPA at their annual conference held at the Royal Lancaster London. We often hear HR professionals saying they are ‘no good with numbers’ or ‘data is too complex and scary’ but today we heard from the experts who demystified HR data and we had the opportunity to gain insight into how you can use it. Our sessions from the HR experts inspired us and helped us believe that data is good and it is how we use it that counts. Here is a summary of their thoughts and key messages…..

“Evidence based HR, friend or foe?” What came first people or data?”
• Ann Whelan, Vice President HRD @ Jumeirah Europe
• Laura Wigley, Global Talent Director Dorchester Collection
• Emma Jayne, HRD @ Fairmont Savoy Hotel
• Stephen Bevan, Panel Chair, Institute for Employment Studies

Stephen Bevan - What motivates employees to turn up and stay with you? Good people data is critical to understanding and predicting employee behaviour. HR data can make the intangible more tangible (so you do not have to dance slavishly to the tune of the FD!) but we do need to use data intelligently, be able to interpret data and speak the right language. HR professionals need to assert the strategic people dimension more in their organisations. This is an area of untapped potential and challenges of the demand for HR data.

Ann Whelan – Holy trinity of finance, general managers and HR and yes HR language can be different but we need to collaborate. Data has a huge part to play on the HR agenda and provides insight. It is of no use unless you can join the dots of data combine to create stories, predictions of going into the future, labour turnover, retention. Labour productivity is always a challenge so you need to go through an education process of supporting managers to make the links and read data from a cost perspective and support them in managing costs in line.

Emma Jayne – Retaining the Forbes 5 star rating is important to us, this sets huge expectation of guests, there are 600 employees but in effect the employees are relatively new after the refurbishment. Started from a point of not having much data or systems. We started measuring engagement twice per year to champion retention and educating our leaders. Whatever we do if it is not measured it does not get done so this was our starting point we measure everything to do with our people on a monthly basis.

Laura Wigley – Previously worked in a large engineering organisation where data was king and future workforce planning was 10 years ahead and very analytical. In hotels she had to think differently about the data, how to apply the context to make the right decisions so much closer to the team and guests. In hospitality you can apply the context of data and tie everything back to guest engagement scores. Can you show a ROi on training? Yes! But you need to look to the right data.
• Forecasting and diagnostic work – you need to understand the data and link it back to the strategy of the business objectives and be very much aligned.
• Payroll is often the single biggest cost in a business so you need to be able to talk about trends, it is expected and part of HR credibility, talk the language.
• Data should allow you to have the right focus and support direction.
• Data can help line managers manage and engage their team, it needs to be an effective tool.
• Management team have so much data, daily it can be huge almost daunting where do you focus on the data?
• Build skill set in terms of data analysis where do you start, how do you pare it down to one or two key goals and work out the focus. HR needs to build the skills set of analytics in line managers.
• Spotting trends in data is not always a natural skill set for operators so HR needs to develop this. You need to take an individualised approach and consider the diversity of your workforce from millennials who just love data and can read it quickly to older employees who need more time.
Quality of customer data feedback how would HR influence this and deal with it? HR have asked to be present during the feedback sessions with the mystery shopper along with other key managers, asked for photos for evidence to understand how this might work and be more involved. HR are looking at a whole business approach to review guest and employee engagement surveys input from both sides and outputs of the data so pulling different perspectives together into deeper insight.
How can you use data on mental wellbeing in the workplace? What you tend to see more of is trends in absence, take time to have human conversations. Industry is very pressurised, long hours perception, mental health is an important area for us to focus on. It is difficult to put a metric on mental health, it is not specifically measured, but organisations do put in many wellbeing initiatives (doggy de-stress in work day 3 dogs come in for staff to pet them, use an App for our EAP). Thinking about predictive analytics can give you insights where to look but they do not provide you with context, you need to be able to see what is happening and measure other indicators to support and measure wellbeing.
• Sickness absence most organisations will collect data on but mental wellbeing more challenging. How do managers deal with sickness absence and understand the underlying issues and look under the skin of the data? This will be down to the culture of the organisations. Managers are often the squeezed middle.
What about small hoteliers who do not have sophisticated systems or resources? Set up a mentee in the business for your person to go to for support, focus on the Values of your organisation, leaders being effective. You can still make very good decision’s you need the basic demographics and do not forget to look at this and apply your judgement to inform decisions. Keeping channels of communication open for people to talk, this is hugely important in a small business.
HR professionals are strong advocates of business success and have a unique set of tools and capacity to join up the dots, challenge their colleagues and be that critical friend to senior executives and look at different views.

1. HR Session driven by people – How we use Soft ‘qualitative’ data
Ann Whelan and Emma Jayne to speak on the softer side of data and how it can work to achieve that balance. What is soft data?
Gathering of informal communications and information on employees can be so much more difficult to apply vigor. Consider the employee lifecycle and each stage where data might apply. Attraction – salary survey suppliers provide benchmarking competitors data, pay and benefits is an important area. Consider base salary and then added service charge and how we manage data around this, trend has changed in terms of how important this is. Recruit – using social media to send out the message of what it is like to work here, how dynamic and fun, look at the workforce demographics, video clip applications. Recruitment data such as time to hire in the business so use of technology and systems to help you recruit more cost effectively. Record where people (applications) are coming from (source) and what it costs, build on this data on internal talent not just outside the organisation. On-boarding – this can be a costly area but it is key to get it right in terms of impact of process and how critical it is within the first 3 months. Break it down into actual costs build it into your budget, negotiate with finance the benefits of getting it right. Develop – difficult to show the ROi on training, but you do need great platforms for individuals, traditional classrooms have almost disappeared. What systems do you have to support development. Consider not relying on annual appraisals why wait a whole year to find out how you are doing? Consider investing in an App so everyone has their own portfolio for their own development, the more digital you can get the better. Engagement – most organisations have data and surveys, how different are the engagement results and data for senior leaders in comparison to core employees. Looking at this data can help inform decisions around engagement activities. Retain – exit interview data is critical what data are you trying to pull out of this, what questions are you asking when people leave. Look to spot trends and patterns, share the data with department heads and involve them in the outcomes. Do not ignore the data and what people say the reasons are for leaving. Often you can spot trends and correlation with engagement surveys.
From the audience - Solutions to upskill line managers create finance/data internal workshops for groups (disciplines) of employees such as Chefs, Housekeeping etc to help them understand P&L’s and data. Know the core competencies required for each job, use psychometrics and individual development plans to invest in closing the gaps for people as part of the development plan linking data with people to ensure you promote the right people. How do you track and measure the softer skills and training when you hire or develop people? Look at attitudes not skill first, spend time developing skills (90 days) ensure there is a buddy/mentor to support the training and assess.
You need to find the balance between hard and soft data take the senior team on the journey (culture).

2. HR Session driven by data – How we use Hard ‘quantitative’ data ‘Letting the numbers guide the story’ – Laura Wigley Talent Director Dorchester Collection along with Paula Zylia Head of People Systems for Dorchester Collection, present their case study and journey on bringing in HR systems and what benefit it has been to the business.
Go to the numbers first! Influence you to make logical decisions and gain insights. Does HR need to shift the mindset on how much data they need and become more analytical? You need to know what external factors of the future might be, trends that will happen so you can consider what impact this will have on your future workforce and what you might need (people/skills). Use data to challenge assumptions and status quo! Use external data to put context into your challenges or concerns such as is your turnover really high or is it acceptable? Start with a problem then consider how data can help you find the solution (correlation).
Issue – “lots of our team members aren’t interested in completing their personal development plan every year” (older workers with long service assumed not interested) First look at the internal data are the assumptions of line managers correct? Then look at engagement data and benchmark other organisations. Solution - make the completion of self-assessment as optional, saw an increase of completion. This was a simple way of looking at data and finding solutions.
Issue - “Work life balance is an almost impossible factor to get high engagement on in the hotel industry” this was a problem and perception – solution look at the data, ask the direct questions to get the right data rather than go searching through the data to get the answer you want (added in a qualitative question on why people scored the way they had). Able to see the impact once data had been collected and reviewed. Do we have too much data? Consider how do you use the analysis, decide on what you focus on?

Hard Data summary thoughts to take away…….
• Solve questions, don’t look for problems
• Do not lose sight of the context look beyond the numbers
• Continuously measure the impact
• Join the dots (all sources of data, finance, guests etc)
Closing points - Predictive analytics use alongside other insight – do not use it to make all your decisions you may be missing out. Make sure you use the right one (such as psychometric tools), how do you get the wild cards you might need etc? Make sure you data cleanse regularly to ensure accuracy and ensure it can be useful to make informed decisions.