We’ve all had enough to do the past couple years, so I thought I’d offer some tips to help take a few things off our plates for 2022. While we have reasons to be optimistic in the third year of the pandemic—most of us are burnt out from dealing with market volatility, demand surges, staffing shortages and a satisfaction crisis—and we do need to be prepared for more of the same. The good news is we already have many of the skills and strategies that we need in place.
Here’s your “don’t-do” list:
- Don’t rely on the past as a benchmark for success in 2022. The years 2019 and 2021 were both very different years than 2022 is likely to be. As an industry, we love our year-over-year comparisons. Yes, I know we need some context for performance—and data to prove to owners and other stakeholders how the business is performing against expectations. However, in a volatile market, meeting or beating a year-over-year metric doesn’t indicate whether you identified and captured the full potential of your market. Nothing is the same, so it’s past time we let go of comparing ourselves to the past.Instead, continue monitoring leading indicators and recent trends. Remember, booking windows remain shorter than normal, and market mixes haven’t stabilized. Even though borders are reopening and both business travel and events are returning, your mix of business is still not stable. COVID-19 variants are causing last-minute shifts in restrictions, and you need to be ready. Current trends and emerging patterns will be your best window into the full potential of your market.
Don’t slide back into the old normal. I know “new normal” has again become a buzzword, but there’s reason for that—although its overuse annoys me, too. Market changes alone are not the reason why we say we have a “new normal.” Because of pandemic cutbacks, we have had to reinvent the way we work, and there is a huge opportunity to continue that moving forward. So, our operating environments also can create a “new normal.” This has two important implications:
- Don’t default to your prior way of working. Many organizations cut a lot of activities due to staffing shortages. Do you really miss them? Before restarting paused processes, ask yourself two questions: Does anyone use it or really need it? And, if so, is there a better way to do it? You may find yourself with an opportunity to eliminate things that weren’t adding value and to redirect efforts to something more valuable.
- Don’t just refill your prior organization chart. If you aren’t going back to your prior way of working, then don’t just refill your prior organization chart as you’re able to restore headcount. Take time to think about how the organization should look moving forward and use this moment to bring new skills and new positions into the organization that will allow you to capitalize on new opportunities.
- Don’t let staffing shortages be an excuse. Unfortunately, staffing shortages are likely to affect the industry well into 2022. While only so much can be done about not having enough housekeepers to clean rooms, we can’t let not having enough people get in the way of moving the business forward. Many manual activities in hospitality can be done in other ways. At the property level, companies already are using technology solutions such as contactless check-in and chatbots to replace human interactions. We also have myriad opportunities to automate manual activities at corporate or administrative levels. How many people in your organization are dedicated to moving data from system to system to process invoices, build reports, load rates or respond to RFPs? Do you spend a lot of person-time cross-checking or validating information among various systems? How about responding to emails? Most of these routine, manual tasks can be automated, even the ones requiring human judgment. Instead of waiting until you find someone to hire, start investigating whether you can streamline the number of people you need through clever applications of automation technology. Just as with recent on-property technology innovations, emerging options are out there to automate these manual, high-volume administrative processes.
- Don’t stop innovating. It’s easy to think of the solutions put in place during the pandemic as temporary or stopgap, but, if you take a step back and objectively look at the situation, a lot of interesting innovations came about from being forced to think differently about the business. Just because things might be returning to normal, doesn’t mean we should stop thinking beyond business as usual. You may find that pandemic-driven programs are more profitable uses of space or resources than the prior uses. Keep thinking outside the box—you’ve had a lot of forced practice. See what it feels like to do it on purpose with forethought and planning.
As you can see from this don’t-do list, you can leverage much of what you learned during the pandemic to drive success in 2022. You’re used to looking at data differently, working differently and finding creative ways to move the business forward. Turn these behaviors into habits, and you will be set up for as successful a 2022 as can be expected.
I’ll leave you with a final thought: As humans, we’re good at adding to our to-do list. How good are we, though, at subtracting? Not very. Research from the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science shows humans rarely look at a situation, object or idea and think to remove something as a solution. We almost always add instead. Challenge yourself in 2022 to think first about what you should not do—and maybe build yourself a don’t-do list instead. You may find you’re taking a lot of pressure off yourself while finding more creative and effective solutions to the challenges you’re facing.