Even in the traditionally fast pace of the hospitality industry, essential change can still take time. In her first blog of the New Year, Parminder reflects on the pivotal progress made in improving employee safety in the year just passed and considers a wish list for building on that momentum in this year to come.
It has always seemed fascinating to me that while hotels, correctly, place so much emphasis on first impressions – an attractive lobby, experienced welcoming front desk staff and swift check-in’s, that really isn’t where the important work actually happens during a guest stay. Typically, when we travel we spend more time in the care of people who bring us food after a long workday, or extra towels or toiletries when we need them. It’s those people – who clean, cook, serve and look after our needs – we interact with, and depend on, the most. And it’s those very people, housekeepers, room service staff, servers and bartenders who, ironically, have typically not fared well in our society. Perhaps at the lower end of the pay scale, perhaps juggling several different jobs, perhaps having come to this country with the optimism of building a better life, and, as we’ve discovered in recent years, perhaps working in insufferable conditions of sexual harassment.
If I have one particular wish for this bright New Year, it would be to see the continuation of the amazing impetus we saw in 2019, in a year that really brought the conditions of those workers from the back of house of hotel operations to the forefront of our thinking. Last year saw so many watershed movements in improving working conditions as successive legislative measures, both municipal and state–led, have increased the number of properties now adopting a safety button solution. Literally from coast to coast – from Miami Beach to the Santa Monica City Council (whose ordinance had a particular focus on room attendants), these lawmakers are seeing an incredible need, and enormous value, in not only getting this kind of legislation on the books but also ensuring compliance to it.
But it hasn’t only been the lawmakers who have pushed this moment forward and what’s even more heartening to me is the number of hotels who have joined the hospitality safety shift, not because it’s been mandated, but because it’s the right thing to do. One indelible memory I take from last year was the opportunity to hear Marriott CEO, Arne Sorenson, present his ideas about how to merge profits and social responsibility at an Executives’ Club luncheon here in Chicago. As part of Marriott’s Serve 360 sustainability and social initiative, Sorenson said he recognized the crucial role his employees play and particularly cited housekeepers in representing the brand’s best values, remarking that although we don’t always see them, they embody the brand in the guest’s eyes. Those kinds of observations come from someone who truly understands the importance of those who do such important work, despite not always being recognized, and who wants to change their story to the benefit of not only the work culture but also the guest experience and for the benefit of the brand itself.
At this time of year when we’re all optimistic about the promise of the year ahead, I’m also reflecting on the work we’ve done, the progress of industry leaders and of the actions of our customers who are daily doing amazing things to help shift the culture in the hospitality industry. I’m also proud of the place TraknProtect has taken in spearheading that movement; to our amazing engineering team who power new solutions to individualize the safety solution for our customer’s needs and to the marketing and sales staff who help tell our story and bring that culture of safety to increasingly more employees.
Happy New Year – we look forward to continuing to build a safer hospitality industry in 2020!