Retrospective on the 2015 HR in Hospitality Conference

Andrew Hazelton |

Buzz words like bench-strength, engagement, alignment and strategy have variously served as HR mantras and mission statements over the years. The recent and industry-leading 2015 HR in Hospitality Conference (Las Vegas) is now a memory, but it left a “new” buzz word with all attendees… innovation. From the keynote address to the bulk of the various breakout sessions, the theme of innovation dominated the discussion of the roles and value-add propositions of HR professionals at all levels. There were two main take-a-ways from the conference:

  • HR can be a critical strategic role: Traditionally, HR has been perceived and treated as an administrative cost center versus a strategic business partner. In order to be given a seat at the executive table, HR must adapt to learn, speak, and think in business language. Some organizations have adopted more forward-thinking types of titles – like Chief People Officer — for their top HR positions. But focusing on human capital is only half of an equation that involves both people and business practices. A more accurate and impactful way to think of lead HR roles is as Chief Culture Officers – subject matter experts who know how to align an organization’s performance culture to its brand promises. In short, the most effective HR professionals will be those who can actively support business goals rather than merely maintain compliance with legal obligations.
  • Innovation does not automatically mean technology or change: This will be a difficult lesson for many to learn, as our society equates innovation with sales and marketing concepts like “new and improved”. The conference made the point well that innovation is the mindset of constantly challenging assumptions and expectations around people and operations and make changes only as needed, but not make changes if it is not warranted. That is to say, the most effective HR professionals will be those who can pinpoint and actively support the principles of calibration and evolution in business, as opposed to blanket revolution.

Indeed, sometimes businesses must quickly adapt to disruptive technologies, social trends, or laws such as we have seen with the advent of the Internet, mobile technologies, social media, and new IT infrastructure to protect against cybersecurity threats. HR professionals should be on alert to respond in bold or necessary ways to these occurrences, akin to any business leader. But, refining and tweaking existing people and business practices that do work for one’s organization is arguably more the norm that will bring cumulative and lasting value to the enterprise.

The panel discussions and other networking sessions at the HR in Hospitality Conference made it sufficiently clear that “innovation” is the hot topic everyone is now talking about – the difficulty for all of us now is to actually prove that we care and that we are committed to the cause. It is time to ‘walk the talk’ – so, what are you doing to help your organization make targeted steps forward or even  quantum leap in HR and Talent Management?

An upcoming study by Aethos Consulting Group™ will focus on this subject matter. It will investigate how the HR function is positioned within leading hospitality organizations, whether it is being given the necessary attention and resources to better serve the business needs of an organization, while at the same time looking into the specific strategies and actions pursued by HR professionals to lead innovation and drive meaningful change. Stay tuned for further updates.