A global hotel chain made a major strategy shift to growing by developing stronger relationships and intimacy with targeted customers. This shift was followed by significant investments in reaching out to target customers informing them of the new value proposition through advertising and brand messaging. Since there was not much impact from the advertising campaign, the business senior leadership team invited RBL to help diagnose the problem. Our insight was that, while unintentional, the new brand rhetoric was strongly aimed at customers, but had not been clearly defined or connected to what employees needed to do in order to make the brand real to them. Little investment was made on the employee and leader side to act differently based on the new strategy. The CHRO challenged her peers to invest equally in employees (including leaders)— informing them of changes, building new skills, and hiring different people that would make sure the promises being made to customers would be experienced when they came to the hotel’s properties.
To support this shift and make it show up in ways that employees and external customers would feel, the business leaders, led by the CHRO, commissioned RBL to help them define the new behaviors. The research looked at what behaviors and personality traits were associated with customer outcomes. Financial results, employee, and cultural outcomes were also included in this analysis.
Using the results of a sophisticated analysis and based on the outcomes they needed to achieve, the client and RBL collaborated to create a results-based leadership model unique to their business. RBL translated that model into a customized 360 assessment the client used to assess all property leaders and provide coaching that helped them identify development priorities that would improve their performance.
The model was also integrated into other people processes. Learning programs aligned to the model and addressing the most critical (and impactful) needs were rolled out across the organization. A selection tool to more effectively screen candidates for the right leadership behaviors was developed and has had widespread adoption. Performance management, succession planning, and long-term incentive programs were revised to include strong elements of “how” results are delivered that aligned with the new leadership behaviors.
This analytical, data-driven approach highlighted a significant difference in financial performance at properties led by leaders who demonstrated a high level of performance in the critical behaviors the research identified. High performing general managers generated over 3 times the fees than base performing general managers—a potential impact of hundreds of millions of dollars each year as they continue to close the gap.
Equally important, the client was able to establish a clear relationship between leader behavior and demonstration of brand promise—high performing general managers were more successfully making the brand promise real to customers. As they built the leadership capabilities of the GM population, they had confidence they were improving the realization of the brand promise.
While the evolution of leadership behaviors is ongoing, there are some significant gains. More than 800 leaders in more than 50 countries have gotten a better understanding of both what behaviors matter for performance and how well they are doing on those behaviors. Development plans are in place and leaders of leaders are following up and having conversations about how to behave in ways that support the strategy and deliver results for customers...and investors.
While only tangentially related, the process HR used to define leadership behaviors in a data-based way has shifted internal perceptions of the function and seeded new initiatives that are fueling additional growth.