Gimme the right environment!

Gimme the right environment!

The despairing cry of many an employee before they eventually look for greener pastures elsewhere has been Gimme the right environment!

A lot has been written about the great exodus. No, I ain’t referring to Moses, or the wildebeest migrations of the Maasai Mara and Serengeti, or even the Pied Piper!

On the topic of the hospitality employee exodus, much water has flown under the bridge, and I will not squander words on the post-mortem of this skill-drain. Suffice it to say, the industry is almost up s**t creek as far as quality of skilled personnel.

While there are numerous possible solutions to tackle these, we are seeing the tried and tested path of talent search challenged by a diminished show of hands for positions that organisations are struggling to fill.

This long-term decay is the result of not listening to the employees crying out, “Gimme the right environment!

The Zoomers (aka Gen Z, born 1996 onwards) graduating from hospitality institutions do not see this industry anymore as the ‘promised land.’ The millennials (aka Gen Y, born 1981 – 1995) are a disillusioned lot after the treatment meted out to them over the past 2 pandemic years. And, the surviving Gen Xers (born 1965 – 1980) are striving for relevance and at times, even retention.

A millennial who works as an H.R. Manager for the corporate office at an international hotel conglomerate was sharing his angst with me recently. Having worked in this company for the past nine years, he has a brilliant future with the group, hence I was startled to note that he no longer felt like continuing with them.

The reason? He feels overworked, underpaid, and consequently, undervalued. His reporting boss, the V.P. – H.R., seems insensitive to a work-life balance and hearing his plaint of ‘gimme the right environment.’ He calls on holidays and weekends, for reports, and clarifications, and even gives assignments. He expects his people to work after hours and also loads my millennial friend with work assignments beyond his scope, as he is highly capable of doing so, when compared to all of his other colleagues. While my millennial friend values the learning he gets by going way beyond his job description, what really irks him, and is akin to rubbing salt on his wounds, is that his organisation, to match market remuneration, is hiring like positions for significantly higher salaries.

The result? Another one bites the dust, and the industry can notch up one more unwilling deserter! My millennial friend is now looking for a job without the industry, as he feels that working in other fields would be more rewarding, structured, and more work-life balanced.

A ‘brain drain’ is what is happening in our industry before our very eyes.

This is something we need to guard against; for, not only does this give us abysmal scores in employee retention, but also in talent attraction.

The culture of commodification and our old ways of operating stand in the way of differentiating hospitality organisations. This sustained traditional culture also does not foster active talent management and the meaningful personalised experiences that create return guests and make our businesses thrive.

While some factors are out of our control, what we can control is the pace at which we can stop, reflect, and feel for the benefit of our team members. They say, ‘Gimme the right environment.’ If we give them this, not only will it result in more engaged employees, but it may also just have the added benefit of helping an organisation stand apart from the pack of commoditization.

In my recent conversation with a senior and retired IHM principal, now heading a hotel management institute in Agra, I was aghast to hear that 40 of a batch of 60 Zoomers (students) who passed out this year, took up jobs in other industries, mainly retail.

The reason? Pretty much what one would expect: Salary not good enough, long working hours, poor work-life balance, and a lack of adequate rewards and incentives.

The result? Hospitality organisations are now going to regular colleges and non-hospitality institutions in remote areas to recruit staff; since they cannot find talent in regular hotel management institutions. Moreover, Zoomers are now preferring only white-collar jobs and refusing to slave it out at entry-level salaries. Consequently, hospitality organisations are now welcome only if they are sourcing for Management Trainees and the like.

We need to introspect on whether we are creating the right environment for our employees in today’s context.

After all, the work environment is now paraded outside of ‘glass doors,’ literally and figuratively. If an organisation’s environment is toxic, it is clearly bared on websites like ‘Glassdoor,’ which host employee reviews for companies they work in or have worked in.

So, how do we create the right environment? Are employee engagement initiatives, perks, work-life balance, and commensurate salaries and promotions the only way?

Along with all of this, employee empowerment is really the elephant in the room. To achieve this, one needs to work on the following, by asking oneself:

DO OUR EMPLOYEES KNOW:

WHAT TO DO: Do they know what is expected out of them, or are they just left at the deep end and asked to swim by themselves? Do they comprehend their Job Description clearly?

HOW TO DO: Do they have the skills and understand the processes (SOPs) to perform their job?

WHY TO DO: Do they understand why they do the tasks and why they need to do so? This defines the purpose for all tasks they are expected to do and is best channelled from the employee’s inner motivation and passion.

ARE OUR EMPLOYEES:

ABLE TO DO: Have they been trained/skilled to perform their tasks? And, having done so does the employee have the capability to perform the tasks. Do they have the Tacit Knowledge, aka Experiential Knowledge, i.e., knowledge, skills, and abilities one gains through experience that is often difficult to put into words or otherwise communicate?

ALLOWED TO DO: Are they empowered in their jobs, and are they given the requisite freedom to do so? The organisational motivation, culture, and ethos are what lubricates their empowerment, rather than SOPs.

Considering the way ahead, where employee-to-room ratios have come down and will now continue to be below pre-pandemic levels, assessing and then reacting to the above will improve efficiencies and effectively support lower employee ratios.

A hotel group for whom we recently did an L&D workshop, had its participants bemoaning the perceived lack of empowerment in the organisation. Having interacted with their ownership and COO over the past 8 years and conducted workshops with their teams, we found a dissonance with the ground-level managers asking for this empowerment. In this case, truth be said, the organisation is keen to empower, but the managers are waiting for some hand-holding for the same.

I say empowerment must also be taken (within reason, by the employees) and not just given by the ownership. So here is possibly a rare example of empowerment on offer, but not taken. Perhaps the management could single out ‘driven,’ self-motivated leaders from within to begin the process of empowerment from the top, by coaching and mentoring these select leaders for empowerment. The trickle-down effect would eventually happen, wherein employees watching these select leaders, would be encouraged to emulate their style.

‘Gimme the right environment,’ is the entreaty of the new age employee.

Hospitality organisations need to sit up and take notice, and consider their employees’ needs in the route given below:

  1. Physiological needs (Food, Hygiene, Mise-en-scène at the workplace),
  2. Safety needs (Emoluments, job security, safety)
  3. Their need to Belong (Diversity in the workplace, respect for all, trust, acceptance)
  4. Their Esteem needs (Workplace Recognition, Awards, etc.)
  5. Having achieved this, organisations would finally reach Employee Self-Fulfillment (an Empowering culture, Creative leadership, etc.), thus helping the employees to achieve their full potential, aka Self-actualisation.

The first four are the D-needs (deficit needs) and these must necessarily be fulfilled by organisations for employee basic needs satisfaction.

The fifth need of Self-actualization is highly individualistic, where the self is ‘sovereign and inviolable’ and entitled to their own tastes, opinions, and values, sometimes coined as ‘healthy narcissism.’ Here the employees pride themselves on their enablement, and this is the stage that an employee feels empowered to the fullest!

Here is an ode to the originator of this theory which applies to our current predicament…

Abe Maslow was a psychologist

A hierarchy of needs did he list

“Physical and Safety needs

Belonging and Esteem needs

Leads to self-actualisation,’ he hissed.

This article appeared in ET HOSPITALITY WORLD.COM Aug 2022

Posted in Human Resources, Leadership | Leave a reply

Where are the Role Models Gone?

Where are the role models?

Where are the Role Models?

A Swiss hotelier, Chef Tim Madl
At work sought a good role model
He looked far and wide
Much in vain he tried
Then fumed off to the Alps to yodel!

Mentor, exemplar, paragon, shining example, star, hero, superstar, epitome, idol, motivator – these are a few words one may find in Thesaurus to synonymize someone worth imitating.

In a freewheeling conversation a few weeks ago, with an industry paragon, the former president of the Leela Palaces, Hotels & Resorts, Mr. Rajiv Kaul talked to me of hospitality industry professionals nowadays in search of good mentors. He likened it to Don Quixote attacking the windmills, mistaking them for giants. Mr. Kaul gently remonstrated, “where are the genuine role models, those industry stalwarts, gone?” He shared his angst at the fact that both domestically as well as internationally, he receives this feedback from associates working in the best of brands, constantly in the hunt for a genuine role model.

This set me pondering… are we barking up the wrong tree and being quixotic when we look far and wide, like Chef Tim Madl (in my limerick above), for a good role model?

Don Quixote, the paragon of chivalry, in the book by the same name, written by Miguel de Cervantes in 1605 & 1615, battles the windmills as he believes them to be ferocious giants. He thinks that after defeating all of them, he will be able to collect the spoils and the glory as a knight. However, when he charges the ‘Giants,’ his lance gets caught in a sail, and he is knocked off his horse.

Many of us hoteliers battle our hospitality demons quixotically, hoping for mentoring and motivation, and leaders to coach us. Along the way, we are knocked off our steeds in this quixotic search. For, the truth is that Hook, Line, and Sinker Role Models (viz. perfect role models) are as hard to find as an ‘ignis fatuus,’ a ‘will-o’-the-wisp,’ or a ‘chimera.’

Is an ideal role model the real McCoy, in the hoteliering realm today?

I have never personally had an ‘ideal’ role model in my 23 years of active hospitality career, and most of us are probably in similar boats. Along the way, I realised I would have to create my role models from leaders around me… a ‘pick and choose’ if you please. Our industry is largely labour-intensive and there is no dearth of leaders to select ‘best practices’ from.

What stops us from identifying the good qualities of our leaders, and then emulating them into our hospitality DNA?

I had European bosses at one point in my career, and I noted them always bending and picking up paper trash while walking around the property… a sight to behold, as both towered over six feet tall. This discipline was wanting in my DNA, and in that of the 650 employees of our resort. Watching this humbling leadership trait, I followed suit, and soon, I noticed many people in my department doing so too! This has become a part of me now, and I do this wherever I go.

Antithetical to simply observing ‘best practices,’ I also advocate identifying ‘worst practices’ by looking to leaders with questionable praxis, to self-learn and pledge to yourself that you will never do what they do, even as you grow up the corporate ladder.

Here are personal examples of the benefit of identifying and utilising ‘worst practices.’

A General Manager I worked under, shunned meeting guests, perennially saying that he was busy. Another General Manager once told me that I could never hope to grow beyond the Head of Department level, as there would always be an expat in that position. These ‘worst practices’ of guest orientation and employee centricity spurred me to excellence, and I always made it a point to meet and make myself available to all my guests; and also, constantly exhort, coach, and motivate all subordinates in my organisation to grow.

Arguably, modelling yourself on your leader’s ‘best practices’ can be easier than modelling oneself by identifying and avoiding ‘worst practices.’

Why? Because at times you may have to go against the flow to avoid doing ‘worst practices,’ more so if your superior endorses these poor practices. Also, avoiding these bad practices is hard work, as opposed to following the right ones.

To illustrate my point, here is an example.

Sajid, an Executive Housekeeper worked at a luxury hotel in Chennai and saw his General Manager always avoiding meeting guests. He noticed that most of the HODs followed suit, and the complaining guest was often left to ‘dry on a hanger.’ He decided to go against the flow after watching this ‘worst practice,’ and made it a point to meet with all guests who wished to share their feedback. This was harder work than if he would follow his General Manager’s example. If conversely, his GM followed the ‘best practice’ of meeting with his guests, the HODs would do the same too, and Sajid would not have had to run from pillar to post, placating guests complaining about the hotel.

Hoteliering is a passion,’ opines Rajiv Kaul, and I concur to this with knobs on!

A manager who is not inspired, I guarantee you the fish stinks at the head,’ says Anthony Lark, who, at one time was the General Manager for Adrian Zecha’s first Aman resort, Amanpuri, in Phuket, Thailand, and who went on to open 3 Aman hotels thereafter. Strong words, perhaps, but the takeaway is that passion is one of the most important things to look for in a Role Model.

A role model Doyen must possess these Dozen ‘conditio sine qua non.’
  1. PASSION – This is underlying, and a must for all successful leaders.
  2. ONE WHO LEADS FROM THE FRONT – Leaders who follow the rules themselves, and who will never ask their subordinates to do something at work that they will not do themselves.
  3. CHANGE LEADER – Champions change, and is ever ready to innovate, especially in times of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity).
  4. RESPECT – Commands and gives respect.
  5. E.S.G. CHAMPION – Cares genuinely and acts positively for the Environment, Social, and Governance guidelines.
  6. DISCIPLINE – Self-care, self-discipline, respect of time (self & others), mastery of thoughts, focus, ability to resist impulses, and one who sees projects through to completion.
  7. COMMITTED – Focused Leaders honour their word, and always do what is promised. If unable to do so, they set re-aligned commitments as close as possible to the original commitment.
  8. ETHICS, HONESTY, FAIRNESS – Strong moral fibre, truthful, straightforward and honest, being mindful of the impact on others, not doing anything one wouldn’t like done to oneself, etc
  9. OWNERSHIP & ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY – Accepts one’s own, or team’s mistakes… Do not try to cover up mistakes or brush them under a carpet.
  10. EMPATHY – Tries to understand another’s point of view, and hears all sides; re-routes wherever feasible, to enhance productivity. More importantly, is caring and gives a hearing ear to others and their challenges.
  11. MOTIVATOR – Enthuses teams, appreciates their work, exhorts them with a vision to grow, and helps employees improve or sustain their performance.
  12. TRUSTWORTHY – Builds trust through deeds and actions, rather than through words. A ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ to people who rely on them.
‘Tis a Tall task worthy of a Tall Leader to have All these Tall Tenets!

Should you ever find such a leader, make the most of your time with them, as the odds are heavily stacked against you finding another such, in your career.

When you do not find the Ideal Role Model in your job, go ahead and use the ‘pick and choose’ option for emulating their ‘best practices,’ along with circumventing and learning from their ‘worst practices,’ to achieve excellence.

For those of you who have read my earlier blog in ET Hospitality World titled What would you like your WORK Tombstone to say?, you will note that the above ‘Dozen to be a Doyen’ leadership traits are what many of us would also want our people to remember us by.

And, as we look for all of these qualities in our Role-Models, remember that we also need to pay this forward, and one day become role models for others too.

This article has appeared in ET HOSPITALITY WORLD.COM June 2022

Posted in General, Leadership | Leave a reply

What would you like your Work Tombstone to say?

What would you like your Work Tombstone to say about you?

What would you like your work tombstone to say about you?

Imagine an epitaph inscribed, ‘I’m glad I gave my all to my job! Nothing else matters.’

Now visualise your life represented as a stove with four burners on it, each burner symbolising a part of your life. The first burner represents your family, the second burner your friends, the third burner your health, and the fourth burner your work. The Four Burners Theory by James Clair says that to be successful you have to cut off one of your burners. And, to be more successful you have to cut off two. The Four Burners Theory reveals a truth everyone must deal with: nobody likes being told they can’t have it all, but we all have constraints on our time and energy. Hence, every choice has a cost.

Which burners have you cut off? Are you aware of the burners you have cut off, and the consequences of the same?

Many of us turn on the work burner to a high flame in our 20s and 30s, alongside perhaps, the friends’ burner. By the 40s & 50s, the health and family burners generally get more active. Thereafter, the work burner largely fades, and the health and family and friends’ burners interplay. While this is not cast in stone, there are exceptions to the rule. Captain CP Krishnan Nair, the founder of the Leela Palaces and Resorts, is a prime example of this exception, who turned up his work burner to the highest level once he crossed 60, an age when most hang up their work boots. To some extent, this also applies to P.R.S. Oberoi, for he became more active in his golden years.

For most people, the perspective on life changes as one approaches the golden years.

Spirituality, happiness, peace, equanimity, a Zen-like attitude, work-life balance, and stress management, are the buzz-words for Gen Xers as they approach self-actualization. While some continue to keep the work burner in a conflagration mode, many begin to realise that time waits for no one, and they turn to their friends, family, and health burners, to achieve a different and more holistic purpose in life. The recent pandemic has also spurred this thinking, as many have lost friends or family over the past two years to this dreadful virus.

Albert Einstein was once staying at Tokyo’s Imperial Hotel when a courier came to the door to make a delivery. The courier either refused a tip or Einstein had no small change, but Einstein wanted to give the messenger something nonetheless. So, on a piece of hotel stationery, Einstein wrote in German his theory of happiness: ‘A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.’ The bellhop saved this note. Subsequently, in an auction in Jerusalem, this note on happiness was sold to an anonymous European bidder for $1.56 million. Einstein was estimated to have an IQ of 160, but his Emotional Intelligence (viz. EQ – Emotional Quotient) seems pretty much to have been up there too, for he realised the worth of the pursuit of happiness over work success.

Whatever the choice one makes, one needs to make peace with it. There is no right or wrong choice, as long as one is content with the decision one makes on which burner to tend to.

However, whatever choice we make on which burner to concentrate on, one day, we will be in the past… whether work-wise or life-wise.

What would you then like your epitaph to say about your work achievements? What should your Work Tombstone say about you?

In the pursuit of this article, I called and spoke to several Vice Presidents, Managing Directors, and Entrepreneurs within the hospitality industry, and asked them what one legacy they would like to leave behind at their workplace, once they would graduate to the next phase of their lives, and what would they like their work tombstone to say about them?

A few wished to be remembered for their tenacity at work, their passion for excellence, or for giving their utmost (100%) to their jobs.

The majority spoke of professional soft strengths and ethical qualities they would like to be remembered for – being a great mentor, a caring leader, or a straightforward, fair, and honest leader.

How many of us can define our contributions to our jobs which are beyond the regular profitability parameters?

While, generating EBIDTA for our owners is important, and it is the primary reason for us being recruited for our jobs; it is the legacy of passion, ethics, impartiality, and mentoring that we will be remembered for.

Even as we are delighted and proud when our son or daughter is successful and seen as a ‘regular chip of the old block,’ we are also thrilled to see our legacies living on and practiced by people we may have mentored in our professional lives. More than achieving our work targets, the accomplishments of one’s mentees, which they duly credit to you, tend to give us much more far-reaching delight than other KRAs we may have achieved in our jobs.

Personally, my greatest joy is being remembered for the work I did, which has benefited my associates, colleagues, and teams. I am gratified when people come up to me and say that my passion and interest in their learning and development far outweigh any other work relationships they may have had with other leaders. And, I am equally elated when people remember me for my ethical qualities, rather than my professional achievements.

So, what keeps you ticking in your job?

What is the reason for your existence? What is it your Work Tombstone would say about you? For which attribute would you want to be remembered most? Your achievements for yourself, or your achievements for others?

On a lighter note, here’s a topical limerick I have composed for the occasion…

There was a hotelier from Boston
Who wrote his own tombstone
“I worked all hours, etched he
Not caring for friends or family
Now eventually, I’m all alone”

This article has appeared in ET HOSPITALITY WORLD.COM May 2022

Posted in General, Leadership | Leave a reply

What’s your BATNA?

What's your BATNA?

A BATNA, or Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement, represents the best option for either party in a negotiation if the talks fail. Known colloquially as ‘Plan B,’ this is your alternate plan when your negotiations begin to wobble out of control. It can also be your trump card to make the deal happen to your advantage. Having your BATNA prepared enables you to walk away from the deal altogether if it is not suitable for you.

In any negotiation, the party with the strongest BATNA has the least intrinsic incentive to come to an agreement, which means it can easily walk away from any agreement that it does not consider adequate. Think about the time you walked away from a street vendor while haggling for a price. As long as you genuinely walked away with no real intention of returning, you would receive the least possible price… but if you walked away hesitantly, the vendor would probably have given you a marginal discount, just to appease your ego.

Consider this example:

Assuming you may need the below products or services, grade the Seller’s BATNA in each of these situations (1 being the highest & 4 being the lowest)

  1. Retailers selling mobile phones
  2. Doctor prescribing medicines
  3. Mortician offering a variety of coffins
  4. Beautician offering a variety of hair treatments

Most would choose option 2 as the answer. However, let me put forth this extreme poser – do you not go for a second and even third opinion if your heart specialist asks you to immediately undergo a bypass operation for your clogged arteries? If so, then can we still say that the Doctor’s BATNA is infallibly strong?

You may have options on Retailers and Beauticians, but imagine option 4, wherein you have to organise a coffin for a recently deceased relative. Would you bargain or walk away from the seller if you felt he was asking too much? Are Coffin sellers available all over to choose from? Doesn’t sentiment take over reason sufficiently enough to override your misgivings over an expensive coffin? After all, time is of the essence, and a decaying corpse cannot be kept endlessly whilst you go from undertaker to undertaker attempting to wrestle a good price!

Peter Drucker was known for stating the obvious, ‘the purpose of a business is to create customers.Harvey Mackay famously wrote, ‘Take care of your customers or someone else will.

The idea of stating the above is to caption that a strong BATNA should never be misused, for the consequences of customer exploitation can be disastrous.

While working for a leading luxury hotel brand, and on a sales blitz to Mumbai many years ago, I met with several Key Decision Makers of corporates who expressed angst against our Bangalore Hotel for overcharging and pricing rates way above the Plimsoll mark. While these corporates were ready to pay a premium for luxury, they felt the rate negotiations were one-sided. Not only were the rates too high, the corporates felt that they received no significant benefits or preferential services while contracting. We were the closest hotel to the airport at that time, and there was no competition nearby. The traffic congestion on this airport road was very severe during peak times, and other hotels took over an hour to drop off or receive their guests. With such a strong BATNA, the hotel milked its customers for several years.

A few years later, the airport shifted to North Bangalore. The Result? Room, as well as F&B occupancies, dropped drastically overnight, and the hotel GM and sales teams had to go out and meet up with their ruffled corporate KDMs, to re-establish a sound bipartisan relationship… a process which took over a year to stabilise.

In the pre-Covid era, some hotels sacrificed their goose for its golden eggs, at the altar of instant gratification; by squeezing the client dry as long as their own BATNA was strong. After all, didn’t the clients squeeze them dry when their BATNA was high? Not anymore though, as all has changed over the past couple of years. With corporate travel just beginning to open up, hoteliers are busy vying for a share of the minuscule, but growing pie. With supply being far greater than demand, the obvious BATNA is firmly in the Client’s camp, for the nonce.

So, what must a Salesperson do to improve his/her BATNA?

  1. The first possibility is to strengthen one’s BATNA. The second way is to weaken the BATNA of the other side, or at least affect the other team’s perception of their BATNA.
  2. Ask what other options you might employ that could improve your bargaining position. Brainstorm the situation with all the key players in your organization. Your planning must also factor in the other negotiator’s priorities, interests, and options.
  3. Improve Your BATNA: Endeavour to expand your options. One possibility is to consider bringing more vendors or buyers into the mix. If you weaken the other side’s best alternative by adding valuable new terms to your offer, the game takes on a whole new slant.

The answers for the above lie in today’s reality, wherein hotels may strengthen their position (BATNA), by considering the following:

  • Most employees consider corporate travel a perk, millennials consider business travel an enriching experience, and frequent business travellers also feel more empowered and engaged. Can hotels use this nascent customer mindset to strengthen their BATNA?
  • Companies are desperately wooing their employees to prevent attrition in today’s scenario, where many are not keen on returning to offices. Companies will offer more flexible travel policies to their employees and even support blending business with leisure travel – Bleisure or workcations.
  • Work-from-home (WFH) will encourage localised corporate business.
  • Consider ESG Travel (Environmental for carbon footprint, Social, and Governance).
  • Pay attention to the Quality and Safety of Technology (Wi-fi) for online communication platforms.
  • Look at Immersive technologies, Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality – AR/VR technologies where people will be able to take a virtual tour of their hotels, for reassurance before travel.
  • Safety Initiatives – Travel managers will assess Travel Risk Management and see if the travel is essential, assess if the employee is fit to travel for their age, evaluate risks & business ROI for each trip, and do robust scenario planning. Apart from this, they will need to give employees the autonomy of managing their business trips
  • Travel patterns are resetting globally (leading to more international corporate travellers to India).

The battlefield landscape has changed and only the fit and adaptable will survive – Darwinism at its best! So, what’s your BATNA?

This article has appeared in ET HOSPITALITY WORLD.COM March 2022

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Felix Culpa

Ancient legends recount the tale of the immortal phoenix, a marvellous bird that rises from the ashes of its own funeral pyre.

According to these legends, when the bird senses that it is close to death it builds a bonfire from scented woods and myrrh and takes its place amidst the flames. After its body is consumed, a new phoenix emerges from the ashes of the old one.

Now that we seem to be done and dusted with the severity of the pandemic, it is time to rise like a ‘phoenix from the ashes.’

For this, we have to understand and accept ‘Felix Culpa’ with pragmatism, both from an individual and organisational perspective.

Felix Culpa is defined as an apparent error or disaster with happy consequences. Colloquially this may be condensed to a ‘Happy Fault.’ This is the Yin and Yang of Tao. The principle of Yin and Yang is that all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites. The pairs of equal opposites attract and complement each other.

While I am loathe to crown the pandemic as ‘happy,’ it most certainly has been an aberration (aka fault) in our lives over the past two years

Can the pandemic, having wreaked its havoc, now open our minds to see the world differently? It already has!

From AI (artificial intelligence) to ML (machine learning), from IoT (internet of things) to VR (virtual reality), from digital wallets & payments to cryptocurrencies, from working formats to holiday formats, and from the value of life to the meaning of life itself, Felix Culpa is revealing its hand in the fastest-changing era ever seen in the history of this world.

Many of these terms may be paradoxical and even borderline oxymoronic… AI, VR, ML, working holiday. These have been in existence pre-covid19, yet they have all been accelerated by the pandemic.

Consider this ludicrous, whimsical, and oxymoronic statement: “The ‘tragic comedy’ is that the last couple of years has been ‘pretty ugly’, a ‘fine mess,’ and in fact ‘clearly confusing’ as to whether working in my ‘unpaid job’ was better than ‘doing nothing,’ and instead, existing as the ‘living dead;’ ‘silently screaming’ away while we were ‘social distancing’ ‘alone together’ and ‘peacefully battling’ Covid-19.”

Oxymorons may seem illogical at first, but in context they usually make sense.

  • The oxymoronic phrase of ‘working from home’ has opened a new vista of business for hotels. While leisure hotels benefit largely, this phenomenon is no stranger to city hotels either.
  • Business-leisure,’ another oxymoron, more popularly known as ‘Bleisure,’ is another oxymoronic trend, heightened now, thanks to the pandemic.
  • VR (Virtual Reality) has opened doors to more distanced, or even hybrid events… a new business segment birthed by Covid-19

What this tells us is that the newer oxymoronic-named business segments birthed and home-grown by the pandemic are not just ‘definitely possible;’ they may actually be paving us a ‘near-future’ path. That’s Felix Culpa working overtime!

In the hospitality industry, the last two years have enlightened and prodded many stakeholders to the potential and need for change.
  • For 5-star hotels, no longer is 1:2-2.5 the gold standard for employee to room ratios. Closer to home, in India, hoteliers have realised that they can work with far less… the bets are high that acceptable ratios will range between 1:1.5-2.0 once business kicks in. Even uber-luxe hotels will drop from 1:3.5 to 1:2.8. Felix Culpa at work!
  • Decreasing touchpoints with the customer for their comfort and ease has changed processes in most departments. Simpler and uncomplicated processes, often using technology, provide for fewer windows of interaction. The challenge here for hoteliers, of course, is how to keep the human element still contemporaneous for guests to enjoy the nuances of luxury service, while adequately ensuring non-invasive privacy and social distancing.
  • Guest needs and segmentation have changed. While certain segments have been hived into hibernation for the nonce, new potential business trends arising from this Felix Culpa are significant. Thus, for example, hybrid versions of weddings and MICE will keep business ticking, while hotels continue to innovate with the other new segments.
Ferrucio was a successful tractor manufacturer of humble origins in Northern Italy.

He was constantly irked by the poor clutch of his expensive 250GT Ferrari car, and tired of having to travel to Maranello to have it constantly replaced. He pursued his complaint to the point of meeting Enzo Ferrari – the founder of Ferrari. Here is where the story differs. Some say that Enzo never really respected any of his customers and dismissed Ferrucio’s complaint lightly. Others argue that it was Ferrucio’s agricultural background that offended Ferrari who couldn’t accept the idea that the tractor manufacturer knew more about cars than him. A third version of the story suggests that Ferrari simply didn’t see the problem with his car and insisted that the problem was in his thinking rather than in the 250 GT.

In every version of the story, Ferrucio Lamborghini was affronted, and this Felix Culpa led to him deciding to create a superior product that addressed all the flaws that Enzo Ferrari wouldn’t acknowledge.

And, just like that, Lamborghini was birthed from this ‘happy fault!’

Whilst we have had a tough 2020-21, and we may still need another year to recover, the phoenix is ready to rise from the ashes, and we can be optimistic of better days ahead.

Let this Felix Culpa give birth to a new age-hospitality phoenix, with enhanced and professional hospitality standards, systems, and processes!

This article has appeared in ET HOSPITALITY WORLD.COM February 2022

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