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Beware of departmental siloing

I want you to think about your day-to-day life as a hotelier, whatever rank or title you hold. What department do you belong to? How often do you chat with members of other units? Are there any people on your team who are particularly tuned into the coming and going of other departments or subdivisions?

“Departmental siloing” is the term I used to describe the tunnel vision that often sets in when there is a lack of communications between different departments. This often happens when an organization has reached a large size, so much so that there are already too many intradepartmental relationships to keep track of, leaving no free time or memory for having stimulating talks with members of another team. This also happens when silos are created through defining departments as profit centers; members of a department are then encouraged to silo their department for personal benefit (that is, a bonus).

At this stage, big doesn’t always mean good. Every great corporate culture requires a certain degree of cross-pollination. That is to say, sometimes you can get too close to a problem, losing sight of the big picture, and in order to alleviate this “silo thinking” you need outside ideas and opinions. Sometimes, it takes a naïve perspective to see things plain as day.

Now that definitions are out of the way, let’s get to solutions. First, you need to eliminate any financial silo that is created through bonus structures. If business demands this sort of compensation, build your incentive to blend interdepartmental success. Next, encourage your team to look at RevPOR, not just RevPAR. In looking at the broader picture, analysis will include ancillary revenue, not just the rooms’ revenue.

Cross-communications between departments also reduces silo effects. The most obvious way is to foster dialogue at mealtime. Lunch or dinner is a time to eat as well as to mingle, and I’m still not sure which of those two is more important for pushing business forward. You should encourage people to sit at tables with members of other departments. Tell your team bluntly — explain what cross-pollination and siloing are as well as their significance for the organization as a whole, and then with any luck they’ll start the process without any further cajoling. And if you do provide meals for your teams via a cafeteria, make sure the food is actually decent, or else no one will be in the mood for problem solving.

Beyond this, I advocate a “Take Your Manager to Work Day” or a “Manager Rotation Day.” They’re both of the musical chairs variety; the former is vertical while the latter is horizontal. A manager taking the place of one of his or her line staff will give said manager new perspective on the grunt work and the actual execution of tasks, as well as what the typical interactions are with guests. Swapping managers will shed light on the rigors of different departments and what bogs down certain operations from proceeding as smoothly as was first conceptualized. To take this a step further, you could perform both a vertical and a horizontal shuffle at the time, moving a manager to a line staff position in another department. The choice is yours.

My last recommendation is the hardest to arrange and also the most expensive, but it nonetheless has its worth. Think cross-team outings or activities. They’re tough as everyone is on different schedules, and to set up something that will actually motivate people to want to attend requires some cash for a marquee event. These are the ones that you only do annually or biannually, with each taking months to properly plan.

Either way, mull over these suggestions so departmental siloing never hampers your organizational strength.

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