What can healthcare leaders learn from hospitality?

What can healthcare leaders learn from hospitality?

I have been associated with the hospitality sector nearly all my life. I came to know the industry through the family business, where I worked up through the ranks before moving on to work in the capacity of a consultant, trainer and coach.

My first experience of seeing effective hospitality processes brought into use in the health and care sector was when I worked in the United States with Belmont Village, which develops and operates dozens of assisted living communities. The stakeholders that garnered the most focus were the care company’s clients, and thus Belmont Village focused on the experiential aspect. When it came to training, the emphasis was firmly on customer engagement, teamwork and leadership development.

These days, I work primarily outside of the United Kingdom, and over the years I continue to see how much weight is placed on education and development for leaders and managers in hospitality, where holding the customer in mind at all times takes precedence.

Conversely, the guest experience is based on the memories and touchpoints throughout the customer journey, and thus extensive training is given on how to deal with the customer while also ensuring that the team is supported. Let’s not forget, they work in an incredibly stressful environment.

Almost every brand I have observed and worked alongside places considerable weight on the development of leadership and management, often going so far as to include emotional intelligence in their frameworks. If there is one thing leaders have learned over the years, both the guest experience and a positive workforce are tantamount to success. What’s not always clear, however, is the route to achieving this.

The Six Pillars of Customer Experience Excellence

KPMG has developed a great framework called The Six Pillars of Customer Experience Excellence. It acts as an example of the work that goes into training and development in these sectors and serves as a reminder of vital forces in achieving said excellence in customer experience.

In an article by Saylor Academy, they state that there is a growing recognition of the importance and relevance of compassion to patient outcomes. “Perhaps more pertinently,” the article states, “to the damage and suffering that ensues when it is absent or attenuated in the health care setting.”

Many health and care providers consider the importance of weaving in the principles of hospitality, but it is taking time. Healthcare professionals spend time on skills that are important, such as leadership development. However, I often notice that training given to the health care sector is very much focused on compliance according to CQC standards. Although this is very important, the focus then is centred around safeguarding, as well as health and safety.

Healthcare vs Hospitality

The pandemic has taught us how resilient people can be, while also driving home the need for companies to reflect on what stress can do to a person.

Care homes and nursing homes have dealt with a deluge of changes over the past eighteen months, so it’s pleasing to see that for the most part they are keeping their residents safe and learning to pull together. This has helped business owners and leaders really see the need for greater empathy and compassion, and how they might best foster that within their teams and also for the resident’s family and overcome the barriers that held them back.

The barriers to compassion

In a questionnaire-based study by Saylor Academy that sought to explore the barriers to compassion, responses showed four factors that interfered with compassionate practice.

They were as follows:

  1. burnout or overload – time pressures were central to this,
  2. external distractions, including bureaucratic requirements,
  3. “difficult” patients and families, and
  4. complex clinical situations, including uncertainty and failure of treatment.

The principles of Human Touch Leadership can be embedded to overcome these previously mentioned barriers. But what is Human Touch Leadership? Well, it can be summed up like this:

  • Human – Maximising the potential of the human mind
  • Touch – Navigating our emotions
  • Leadership – Unpacking empathy and compassion

Simply put, attaining a high level of human touch leadership comes through transforming leaders’ mindsets towards one that prioritises the above framework. It means going back to learn more about oneself and others and partnering towards providing the best experience for residents, patients and clients.

It also requires developing emotional intelligence and conversational intelligence in the way we recruit, orientate and onboard, conduct meetings and supervise staff, and also how we converse with external contacts, like the emails and conversations that we have with the resident families and social services.

Embracing change in 2022

People are the most vulnerable when they are at the mercy of someone else. If we are able to give them an experience that is positive and heal their journey through understanding the human mind and its potential through the conversations that we have, we can fundamentally change the energy, and thus the end result.

We all know the feeling when we are energised with positive thoughts and emotions. On the flip side, we know how draining negative thoughts and emotions can be. The chemicals in our brain play a big part in this and when we learn to navigate our emotions and choose our words carefully, we find we motivate others and feel better ourselves. This does take skill and practice and some relearning of old habits, but everything is possible.

One thing to remember is, if we work in fear mode and are spoken to in a negative way, we limit the capacity of our human potential. When we work together towards solutions, the chemicals open up the human mind and we gain cooperation.

It is so easy to judge and criticise, losing trust quickly when this is the case. However, at times, try to listen, learn and build solutions together and see if this changes the outcome.

In this rapidly changing world, we need leaders to step up, and now is as good a time as any to give health care professionals the tools for great leadership.