How Millennials are Redefining the Hospitality Industry

At a time when the industry and the nation are becoming younger and more diverse, embracing and empowering a more diverse workforce is critically important. As more and more attention is directed toward Millennials (defined as those born amid the 1970s to the 1990s), there’s a legitimate danger of losing sight of the fact that this demographic group is more than just a potential source of income or a prominent, influential and expanding part of the national consumer base.

As of 2017, Millennials already make up nearly a third of today’s workforce – a percentage projected to grow up to 75% by 2025. There are a myriad of benefits to connecting with and understanding the long-term value that this demographic brings to the table — not only for your bottom line, but also for the future of your business. For hotel owners and operators, accommodating Millennials in the workplace and addressing priorities and perspectives that might feel new or unfamiliar is an important first step in developing a more diverse and dynamic workforce.

Millennials tend to be excited and inspired by opportunities to work with a diverse group of fellow professionals. The benefits of employing millennials and building a more diverse team are unmistakable: a more diversified work environment fosters new ideas, creative solutions and inspired innovation. In addition, it lends itself to growing a culture is more flexible and adaptable, tends to have a higher morale, and is better equipped to deliver a compatibly diverse set of ideas and perspectives. In an increasingly competitive and youth-driven marketplace, these are assets that will prove to be invaluable.

As today’s workforce continues to adapt and change, we recognize that to remain the competitive organization that we pride ourselves on being, we need to do more than keep up—we need to lead.  Today’s increasingly youthful and diverse workforce is both inspired and empowered—they are capable of contributing more, but they are also well aware of their value, and they have certain professional expectations that need to be met. Becoming an organization that cultivates and celebrates different skill-sets and cultural and professional perspectives isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s smart business.

The bottom line is that diversity isn’t just an industry trend, it’s the narrative of the nation. Hospitality organizations that want to write a new chapter in the volumes to come would be wise to keep that in mind.

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Making People a Priority: Face-to-Face Team Building as an Investment

One voice can sing a song, but many voices create a symphony; a symphony is far more reaching than just one voice. A symphony takes out the silence and replaces it with words, feelings, and thoughts.

Back in July, Team FHG assembled in Downtown Chicago for the event of the summer. Our hotel and regional staff embarked on a “Flash Race” (similar to the Amazing Race on CBS), tasked with using their resources and collaborating with one another to capture the essence of our city. In this digital age, it has become crucial that we as leaders make fostering valuable, human connection a priority. Creating a company culture doesn’t happen overnight, but once you have that culture in place sustaining it becomes a much greater challenge. It’s essential that face-to-face communication and collaboration never become a secondary objective – ESPECIALLY in an industry like hospitality where we thrive on it.

This year, our summer event was all about the people. I didn’t want to just schedule another meeting. While meetings are informative and idea-sharing is valuable, there are times that pure connection outweighs those benefits and simple fun proves to be more valuable. What we envisioned for this event was an opportunity for collaboration and camaraderie – pure enjoyment from the moment you landed. A day like this repeats itself in many ways.  It engages and heightens the feeling they have for their company, team and own self-worth; that carries with them. This energy engages others who then don’t want to sing their own song…but become part of the greater symphony.

When employees are happy and engaged, they are up to 12% more productive than their unhappy counterparts. As a result, companies with happy employees tend to outperform the competition by 20%. In addition, it supports longevity and tenure within the company. When an team member is a part of something big and energetic and results oriented, they can’t see themselves anywhere else. So, at the end of the day, having an engaged team translates to your bottom line.

Spending an afternoon in a big city like Chicago, seeing our team members walking down the street in their blue FHG shirts only reminded me of what a powerful force we are. I firmly believe that a field of great people motivates leaders to be better and if people see that their leaders care, they are given all the more reason to invest themselves in our vision and objectives. You get what you’re willing to give. If you want people to care, you’ve got to start by showing them that you care too. The proof is in the very people I am surrounded by every, single day…they inspire me to work harder, shine brighter, and be the kind of leader that they want to follow.

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Creating a Winning Culture Earns Forbes #1 Rank (Two Years Running!)

For the second year in a row, I am very proud to announce that First Hospitality Group has been recognized by Forbes as the #1 Midsize Travel Employer in the country. This is a huge honor for Team FHG not only because it provides a great snapshot of the culture we strive to create, but because we are one of only 25 companies to ever place on the Forbes list two years in row. Taking home this unbelievable accolade for two consecutive years only affirms that we have created a culture that is both unparalleled in the industry and actively embraced by our team members. This is no beauty contest – we put our money where our mouth is!

At FHG, fostering a winning culture that allows people to be their very best has always been a key focus. The objective is to create an environment that allows top performers to excel and celebrates the people that really make it happen. To have been recognized by Forbes as America’s Best Midsize Travel Employer not one, but two years in a row is as high an honor as our team could be paid. We should all be incredibly proud that a company of our size is able to achieve best in class.

For those fueling our success: celebrate generously, because honors like this don’t come along every day!

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The Starters Guide to Tech Innovation in Hotels

With the way individuals leverage technology now – constantly having access to smart phones, tablets, and computers – everyone has come to expect things at the touch of a button. We are constantly reaching to be on top of the next update and the newest technology, yet we have to remember that technology can’t completely take over our business. This is hospitality – we can never entirely eliminate the human element by which it’s characterized.

The world of technology changes fast, so being first is not necessarily always being best. When we’re talking about an area that can change overnight, we have to systematically sift through all of the options to find those that are truly worth focusing on. Time and resources are valuable commodities and we want to ensure our investors are sinking their resources into opportunities that are worthwhile.

Identifying those worthwhile opportunities can be a process. At First Hospitality Group, we’re always continuously testing new programs and systems to figure out whether or not they are a good fit for us. We learn the technology as we go and become educated on how to better implement these technologies in the future, as well as building the insights we gain into pre-planning for our pipeline hotels.

We are constantly asking ourselves how to best meet the needs of our operations teams, guests, and vendors. To identify these needs, we’re required to drill down and identify our demographic, building a strong database along the way. For that reason, a key objective in establishing a solid foundation for us is collecting more enhanced, better quality data.

For example, new updates in forecasting systems allow us to obtain more analytics on our financial reporting, forecasting, and industry trends. To lead the industry, we first have to lead ourselves. Solutions like HotSOS and REX help to reduce guest incidents, optimize requests, support preventative maintenance programs, and gather data on housekeeping (to name a few benefits), which both support our operations teams and help create a consistently positive experience for our guests.

To be on the cutting edge, we start with a strong foundation. Right now, our team is focusing on innovations to streamline processes that have the most potential to be conducted more efficiently. At First Hospitality Group, our vision for strategic growth includes a significant transition from primarily select to full-service management and development over time. We see where we want to go and we’re working to build that infrastructure.

Accommodating these shifts takes more time and deliberate action – we can’t just assume it’s going to work. We want systems that prove to be reliable and support not only the needs of today, but those of tomorrow as well. So that, as technology changes, we’re equipped to keep pace with the speed of innovation.

As we continue to develop new projects, like Hotel LeVeque in Columbus, Ohio, the implementation of systems like Miracasting and fiber to the room (only available in a select handful of hotels in North America as of 2017) equip us to handle any technology upgrades slated through the next 50 years.

First Hospitality Group has continuously been on the cutting edge of all things hospitality for its entire history; technology is no different. By consistently working to maintain a strong foundation we are able to prepare for and embrace whatever comes our way next.

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Live Free, Drive Free – A Win That Lasts a Lifetime

All in all, 2016 was a phenomenal year for recognition within Team FHG. Our hotels took home some pretty remarkable wins, but the closest to my heart will always be our Live Free, Drive Free Award. This incentive is presented to one finalist among our line-level associates for their dedication and commitment to showing up and positively representing their hotel every, single day. To win an award that either pays your rent or puts a car in your drive for a whole year is pretty great in itself, but it’s truly the stories behind the wins that make it an incredible thing to be a part of.

One Live Free, Drive Free win that I will never forget is an occasion in which we had an associate who was in danger of losing her home. It was an incredibly difficult time for her and her family and we were able to step in and help turn things around. In cases like this and so many others, being a Live Free, Drive Free winner has the ability to make a profound and lasting impact on someone’s life. In celebration of that, we decided to up the ante this year and hand the keys over entirely to make for a win that will truly last a lifetime.

Check out how 2016’s Live Free, Drive Free recipient, Lionel Cuevas, reacted to his big win:

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Promoting from Within: Front Desk to VP

As the lingering energy from our recent Conference & Awards Banquet dissipates and we close the book on another successful year for First Hospitality Group, our team reflects on all of the hard work that went into creating those victories – both big and small. Hands down and without argument, one of the most impactful moments of the entire event was the reveal of Jenna Smith’s promotion to Vice President of Revenue Management. The energy present in that room when the announcement was made is unlike anything I’ve experienced in my 15+ years with FHG; for those that know and care about Jenna, there could be no one more deserving of that outstanding recognition for their hard work and dedication to our success.

In the last year, the number of internal promotions within First Hospitality Group more than doubled – something that we are very proud of. Why is it so important to promote from within? It’s not that we’re opposed to hiring externally, however, there is immeasurable value in knowing that someone is committed to your vision and can be relied upon to execute successfully. We want to ensure that our top talent not only has the genuine desire to grow with us, but also possesses a strong understanding of our culture and embodies it in everything that they do.

Our people strategy is designed around retaining top talent, while simultaneously moving those in the middle of the pack up to the top tier and positioning them to operate successfully when they get there. We are very conscious about creating a clear path for those eager to grow with #TeamFHG, as well as the best resources and environment to develop that success.

This includes assembling a dynamic team that complements one other and plays to each person’s genius; leveraging the individual’s natural talents and tendencies. The thought here is that we all do what we love much better and with greater frequency than anything that feels forced or doesn’t align with our personal strengths. It’s the people that love what they wake up and pour their energy into each day that are most invested in the culture and collective success of their team. At the end of the day, it’s the best people that yield the best results. Devoting your time and resources to those people, those that have the potential and desire to grow with you, is the smartest investment that you can ever make.

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5 Essentials for a Successful Company Conference

FHG is truly a people-centric company…and it’s not something we just say. Between all of the recognizing, connecting, and sharing that went on at our recent annual conference, it was easy to see (veterans and new rock stars alike) being inspired. Thanks to our dedicated regional teams and the unending enthusiasm throughout #TeamFHG, we were able to call this year’s event a smashing success. There is clearly a lot that goes into planning an event of this caliber, but there were a few things that I would consider absolute essentials:


  • Come up with a theme

A dedicated theme helps keep focus and is easy to put energy behind! While playing “rock star” for a day is a lot of fun, it also enabled us to promote a much grander message. By weaving our theme throughout the every component of the event, our rock star attendees were part of an immersive experience – not a typical corporate conference.

  • Build energy/momentum far in advance 

You know you’ve succeeded with this part when people arrive not knowing what to expect but knowing whatever it is they want to be a part of it….THAT is a great place to be at the start of any event like this.

  • Let others rock their genius

Leveraging the strengths of those on your team just makes sense. When everyone understands the vision it’s easy to divide and conquer all of the tasks that need to get done. The most organized people can help with logistics, creative minds can infuse the theme, your training experts can oversee breakout session planning, etc.

  • Engage at ALL levels

There’s no question that an engaged, passionate teams drive better results. By the same token, energy generated at the top, like anything else, trickles down to the rest of the company. At an FHG Conference, you might find that vested interest and excitement created through air guitar competitions or a live performance by our very own leadership team, which ultimately made for an unparalleled team building experience.

  • Reward the behavior you love to see

There’s more to great results than numbers on paper; no – truly great results demand drive and dedication. It’s important to actively reinforce and reward the behaviors that you want to see. We see that our teams are passionate about what they do and that, in the end, that passion translates into phenomenal results. Through programs like Live Free, Drive Free and the coveted Inner Circle (life-changing incentives unlike anything else in the industry), we are allowed to openly communicate just how deeply we appreciate the efforts of our rock star associates.

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Thirty Under 30: FHG’s Top Rising Stars

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Over the last 30 years, First Hospitality Group has made a reputation as a company that’s consistently on the cutting edge. We’ve risen to meet the changing climate of the hospitality industry, achieving results that speak for themselves along the way. It’s among the many aspects of our business on which we pride ourselves most – surpassed only by the extraordinary group of people that we’ve developed to build #TeamFHG.

In October, one of our own, Alyssa Poniatowski, was nominated for Hotel Management’s “Thirty Under 30”: a measure of the industry’s top rising stars. The FHG Marketing team, where Alyssa is a key driver, is known for keeping up with the demands of today and the trends of tomorrow, collaborating with Sales and Revenue Management to offer the best support to our hotel teams. In her first two years at FHG, she’s become widely recognized as part of the regional staff for her role in challenging and streamlining our processes. It’s players like Alyssa that make our success, present and future, possible. Young professionals bring energy and new ideas into the workplace, revitalizing not only that for which they are directly responsible, but inspiring (and sometimes challenging!) those around them.

Our hiring initiative around bringing more millennials into the fold is rooted in the life that they breathe into our company. As a mom, I’ve experienced the effect that being surrounded by youth can have; it brings excitement and keeps you on your toes (did somebody mention being challenged?). We bring young people like new Accountants, Irais Cortes, Peter Piatek, and Jason English, into our business to infuse that energy into our culture. We work closely with others, like Development associates, Sam Schwartz and Dorothy Bukowinski, who were both internally promoted, to open the door to the potential that’s alive in them and so many other exceptional young people like them.

Congratulations to Alyssa on this show of excellence. We’re proud to have you on our team, paving the way for future “Thirty Under 30’s!”

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Comeback Kids Take Super Bowl Win

At First Hospitality Group, the Super Bowl Award is our highest recognition for outstanding performance in Guest Satisfaction and GOP. For the team at the Hilton Garden Inn Minneapolis Downtown, it means so much more. To say that it’s been an uphill battle doesn’t begin to cover it, but under the leadership of Ryan Caldwell, Sylwia Oak, and Andrea Krawczyk this key asset has made a remarkable turnaround. We are so proud to be able to celebrate this team’s first ever Super Bowl win!

Despite inheriting a property that was underperforming to budget with guest scores that continued to sink further and further, Ryan and his team have been able to spin their circumstances into gold. They’ve increased GOP by over $600,000 since last year and grew sunken Guest Scores to +2.7 above the brand. It just goes to show that nothing – no amount of time or money – can take the place of a truly strong leader. My pride and appreciation for this team swells when I think of how far they’ve come and how far I know they will go. Hopefully, “better late than never” applies to this deep congratulations from us to all of you.

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FHG Does National Drink a Beer Day

Last Wednesday, September 28th, Team FHG took to their markets to celebrate National Drink a Beer Day and ring in our seventh consecutive companywide sales blitz. As we continue to carry this new tradition through its first year, I couldn’t be happier to see participation rising to an all-time high out in the field. From Minneapolis to Columbus, our teams have taken a genuine and active role in making these sales events truly their own, while celebrating the success of their colleagues as one, big FHG Family.

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