The Importance of Corporate Culture and Values in Finding New Talent

By Karen Wollard, Ed. D., CHDM, HSMAI Research Manager

As we look toward post-pandemic recovery, corporate culture will dictate how teams can function and thrive. This is even more important now that four generations are in the workforce for the first time ever.

Human resources issues moved to the forefront in March 2020 when the world shut down. HSMAI held global chief human resources executive roundtables in Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and North America in summer and fall 2020, finding that experiences were eerily similar around the world: People were doing more with less, managing low team morale, quickly implementing new technology for virtual communication and more. One of the bright spots was the way HR leaders were quickly elevated to C-suite levels as the pandemic unfolded. The quick handling by capable HR teams who had the support of senior management was a huge differentiating factor in the outcomes of massive furloughs and layoffs.

As corporate commercial teams shrank and began remote work, they had the monumental tasks of maintaining communication, enhancing teamwork, and ensuring wellness. For those associates who remained, flattened decision-making hierarchies made quick and nimble responses to crises possible. Silos crumbled and everyone pitched in to keep whatever business was available booked. Resilience and flexibility became essential, traits that were more easily adopted in organizations that valued teamwork. Transparency and compassion proved to be key factors in reputation management.

Communication and consideration mattered enormously to those who were laid off, those sent home to work remotely, and those who stayed. Organizations with people-first cultures made impossible decisions without betraying employees’ trust, while those who felt they were treated unfairly lost the faith. Hospitality organizations have long considered themselves to be in the people business, and this belief was put to the test. As one employee offered, after nearly three decades working with one organization, they were terminated (in writing) with “no advanced planning, no crisis prevention of any sort, and no care or concern for [my] well-being and long-term status of [my] leadership.” Transparency in the face of unforeseen events was most effective in organizations where leaders were trusted to take employee and guest well-being into account. Empathy will be remembered long after the rebound occurs.

Across the HSMAI C-level roundtables in 2020 and 2021, executives consistently reported that few (or fewer than other departments) commercial professionals were furloughed or laid off, or they were among the first to be recalled. FAU’s hospitality research found that even among these departments, less than 13% felt the industry had protected its workers better than other industries.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion & Intergenerational Collaboration

Two corporate culture issues of particular importance to commercial professionals are likely to return to the forefront as employment rebounds: DEI and workplace collaboration among four different generations.

DEI efforts were moving forward in many organizations as the pandemic arose. For sales, marketing, and revenue management professionals, women represented nearly half of all VP- to chief-level positions and were well represented at the director levels, holding more than 60% of current positions in 2021, according to the Castell Project’s 2021 Women in Hospitality Industry Leadership study. Yet, 57% of all those laid off in the pandemic were women, so it will take time to see what the ultimate impact might be.

In 2021, a task force of the HSMAI Americas Marketing Advisory Board surveyed more than 70 sales, marketing, and revenue management leaders from a range of organizations and found that nearly 55% had an existing DEI initiative or committee. These efforts ranged from executive education to comprehensive training for all colleagues. The HSMAI Foundation continues to work with several organizations who are researching, making recommendations, and fostering success in addressing DEI efforts, specifically across the commercial professions.

The reality of four generations (baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z) in the workforce for the first time in history adds a new dimension to the challenges of corporate values. In sales, marketing, and revenue positions, senior managers tend to be baby boomers and Gen Xers, both generations that have spent most of their working lives in offices, with clear work and leadership policies. Millennial and Gen Z professionals seem more interested in fluid structures and policies. The need to recalibrate existing logarithms, adapt existing systems to new realities, and the enormous changes in social media and big data challenge many commercial professionals, particularly those who aren’t digital natives. This is a consideration for managers as they work to navigate these challenges.

One highlight in developing supportive cultures among different generations has been the concept of “reverse mentoring,” which pairs more experienced workers with new professionals, often with the intent to work together on technology challenges. The Foundation will be watching for success stories and best practices with this approach, as well as other learning, development, and teamwork solutions.

Aside from DEI and intergenerational collaboration, the pandemic has heightened awareness of the importance of accommodating employees with familial responsibilities, supporting those with heightened risk factors, and addressing varying levels of need for job security. As workplaces redevelop, organizations will have to work with their employees to determine their needs and foster an environment of inclusion and understanding.

Corporate culture will dictate how teams will function and thrive. “Companies that aren’t aligned with the work-life needs of their employees will continue to see a migration of talent,” wrote author Connie Steele in her book “Building the Business of You.” The days of celebrating those employees who are best able to tolerate the pain of overdemanding days, burnout, multiple jobs, short staffing, and unending demands may soon be over.

As we rebuild, there is an opportunity for a cultural reset and renewal. Honest assessment of organizational values, the actions of its leaders, and the future expectations of guests, employees, owners, and other stakeholders are crucial. Organizations must ask: What does it take to be extraordinary? How can we listen and connect more? One leader told us that the future is about more than just booking rooms; it is choosing the mix of guests and ensuring purpose and kindness are shown throughout the property. There is a renewed commitment to mentoring and growing the next generation of hoteliers who know how to drive the business and are intensely passionate about the guest experience.

This is an excerpt from the HSMAI Foundation’s State of Hotel Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Optimization Talent: 2020-2021 special report. To learn more about the HSMAI Foundation and its mission, visit the Foundation website.

Categories: Sales, Talent and Leadership Development
Insight Type: Articles, Reports