Strong leadership has always been the base for building team engagement, but it plays an even bigger role during a crisis. Straightforward? Yes, but especially when navigating through uncertain times, it can be challenging to keep your team engaged and dedicated to a common goal. In this article, three experts share their top tips on team engagement with you.

How to Manage Hotel Staff During Times of Crisis and Unemployment?

Jones Liew, an experienced corporate trainer and facilitator from Singapore, starts with an important reminder: as a leader, you have people following and trusting you as their role model in normal times and also during a crisis.

This can put you in a tricky situation when your hotel has to furlough or let go of employees and you need to manage the whole situation effectively while remaining compassionate.

To handle this situation with the utmost care, Jones suggests offering extra support by creating a safe environment where staff can speak about their situation, feel understood and get meaningful suggestions that help them move forward.

Video: How to Engage, Manage and Motivate Hotel Staff by Jones Liew


Doing this is a great starting point when you know you might have to prepare your employees for the worst. It allows you to build your team’s trust in communication and your ongoing support. This is the key to keeping up motivation and engagement even during a crisis.

This is true for both employees who stay on board, and those you’ve had to furlough or put on temporary leave. Connor Vanderholm, Area Director of Revenue Management most recently with Hersha Hospitality Management, described how his company stays in touch with staff via emails and text messages to show them they are still a valued part of the team. Handwritten notes were sent to those who had been laid off, a gesture which was much appreciated.

Video: How to keep hotel staff engaged with your hotel during COVID-19 by Connor Vanderholm


Connor also highlights the importance of staff engagement in reducing turnover. If you neglect furloughed employees, they will probably start looking for other opportunities and may not come back.

Announcing Redundancies

How to announce that you will have to let staff go? Jones emphasizes the importance of empathy and clear communication of everything that led you to make your decision.

Then, offer as much support as possible to the team members you have to let go by providing relevant information about government assistance and job opportunities.

For a strong example of how to go about this, have a look at the open letter Airbnb founder and CEO Brian Chesky wrote recently.

Making Sure Your Team Keeps Motivated

Keeping your team motivated and engaged is more important than ever. You can do this by encouraging your team to get involved in what you’re doing and what they can do to save your business. That way you give them a sense of ownership of the situation and you may even be surprised by the great ideas your staff has.

Consider launching projects or initiatives that create stronger bonds between associates as well as with your hotel. Think about community support projects, brainstorming ideas on saving costs and improving operations at your hotel or helping team members find ways to support each other, be it at home or in the workplace. Celebrating small wins will boost motivation, lift morale and help you to keep moving forward.

Oaky, for example, launched inter- and intradepartmental improvement projects. They were initiated by the company’s leadership but driven bottom-up. This increased engagement and morale and led to stronger relationships and better communication among team members and between departments.

Use This Downtime Wisely

The author of the bestselling book Uplifting Service, Ron Kaufman, has some good advice on making the most of this downtime.

Video: How to Use This ‘Downtime’ Wisely by Ron Kaufman


He suggests that instead of viewing this crisis as something you just need to ‘get through’ both in your business and personally, focus on growth and transformation during this time.

Use this crisis as a chance to move towards what you want to become in the future. For example, look at things that eat your time and don’t serve you. Now could be the best time to drop them and test new systems and approaches instead.

Think about how you could make the most out of yourself and your business during this time. For example, are there skills your employees could teach each other or is there a skill you would like to learn yourself? Which new tech solutions could help your hotel become more innovative and make your guests more comfortable on their first trip after the lockdown?

Free Resources and Trials

With many technologies and e-learning providers offering free resources and trials, now is the best time to upskill, so you can come out of this crisis better and stronger than before.

Oaky had put together a list of free resources you can use and test in the coming months, to help you navigate through this crisis and get back on your feet.

4 Free Ebooks: COVID Recovery Strategies per Department

COVID brought the global hospitality industry to a grinding halt. To help you get the most out of your property during this rebound phase, you can download 4 free eBooks with more detailed advice and in-depth interviews per department on how to get your hotel through these times successfully. Use the following links to download the COVID recovery strategies per department: marketing, revenue management, F&B and front office.

You can make these uncertain times less confusing and overwhelming for your staff by showing empathy, providing support and communicating new developments clearly and honestly. Remember that we are all in the same boat. Now is the time to focus on what counts – keeping your team close and coming through – together.

More Tips to Grow Your Business is a knowledge platform for the hospitality & travel industry. Professionals use our insights, strategies and actionable tips to get inspired, optimise revenue, innovate processes and improve customer experience. You can find all hotel & hospitality tips in the categories Revenue Management, Marketing & Distribution, Hotel Operations, Staffing & Career, Technology and Software.

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This article is written by our Expert Partner Oaky

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