Case study: Waldorf Hilton

Our three month programme

Significantly improved employee engagement and kick started a process of cultural change

Contributed to marked improvements in customer feedback scores

Created a system of continuous improvement within front-line teams that managers used to improve customer service and deliver additional revenue

Who we were working with

The historic Waldorf hotel is one of Hilton’s flagship London properties with 300 rooms and 170 employees. We worked with the hotel’s General Manager and her team to implement new management practices that would make employees happier and more engaged, while also drawing on their strengths to improve the service provided to guests.

What we did

We started our 15 week programme with a short diagnostic exercise to help us understand the business, its strategy, brand proposition and operational constraints. We spent time shadowing and talking to team members to understand their roles and to hear their views firsthand. We also took the opportunity to benchmark levels of employee engagement, customer feedback scores and business performance.

Having identified the cultural challenges and the opportunities to improve both engagement and customer service, we designed a 12 week programme that focused on three main areas:

1) Changing leadership behaviours

We set the Waldorf leadership team a series of weekly challenges to get them to adopt different behaviours that would improve their influence and impact across the property. Each challenge responded to a specific issue we’d identified in the diagnostic and our approach was informed by insights from positive psychology and behavioural economics studies. Over time, employees recognised and commented on the dramatic changes they saw in the way leaders were behaving.

2) Creating a system for continuous improvement within each department

A key component of our programme was to create a system for managers to facilitate iterative behavioural change and performance improvement in their teams. We worked with the heads of department and their supervisors to implement a simple, consistent format for daily team briefing conversations. Now, everyday at the Waldorf, employees are challenged to improve service and operational performance. 

To support this process, we worked with managers to develop their practical facilitation and coaching skills. Over the three months, there was a noticeable shift towards a more positive and empowering management style across the property. Waldorf managers are now able to facilitate short daily conversations with their teams that prompt new ideas and help their team members to discover and deliver service improvements. We have helped the managers to understand how to influence the emotional energy of their teams, how to draw on the strengths and experience of their team members and how to use the example of their pioneers to teach others in a way that drives iterative, continuous improvement. 

The Waldorf leadership team believe that the system of daily team conversations and the positive coaching style of managers has played a critical role in improving customer feedback scores. We also know of several examples where departments have used the new approach to get team members to identify and implement ideas for driving additional revenue and profit.

3) Improving cross-departmental collaboration

The final piece of the jigsaw was working with cross departmental groups to help spread good ideas and emerging best practice more quickly across the property. We also worked with the support functions to help improve the relevance and quantity of management information made available to front line teams so they could judge for themselves the success of the new ideas they were testing.

What we achieved

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What did they say about us?

Alison Palin, General Manager“The Pioneers became valuable additional members of our team enabling an intense focus on improving team member interactions, managerial communication, motivation and recognition. This had a direct impact on the performance of our team and consequently improved service for our guests, giving a strong base for us to continue cultural change across the hotel.”

Matt Clohessy, Finance Director: “The pilot helped us to recognise the potential in our team members and in the course of the 12 weeks, we were able to identify new and interesting ways of using their strengths to improve the performance of our business. What I liked about The Pioneers was they helped develop our Managers and Supervisors by improving their understanding of how their people work and how to facilitate change in their teams. Although we’re in a people industry it is often easy to overlook what is right in front of you and The Pioneers helped us to improve through refocusing on our greatest resource – our people!”

Nicola Wilton, HR Director: “The Pioneers have given us a refreshing, unique approach to guiding the cultural and service agenda at The Waldorf Hilton. Their energy, intellect and dedication meant that we were able to focus on improving service and employee engagement when it would normally be extremely difficult to dedicate resources in this way.”