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People On People: Highlights from NYU

Updated: Oct 27, 2020

Following the 38th Annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference there was significant coverage of important industry insights coming out of the event. However, for an event and industry that starts and ends with people, there were no highlights shared about...people.

Recognizing the critical people component, I share some of my favorite take-aways from the conference related to people:

You know people should be highlighted when Jonathan M. Tisch, Conference Chair, begins his opening remarks describing his father as "A man who understood the humanity of hospitality".  Mr. Tisch went on to speak about the huge skilled worker shortage over the next ten years with an emphasis on diversity to meet the global requirements of our industry.  This set the "people" tone for me at this investment driven event.

In "A View From the Top" Christopher Nassetta, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hilton Worldwide shared in a discussion of leadership style that at our core we are a business of people serving people.  Sums it up nicely, people.

During the same session, Stephen Joyce, President and Chief Executive Officer, Choice Hotels International observed that "Ideas win, not rank".  Those ideas come from all types of...people.

The "Blurred Vision:  Understanding the Hotel Tier Differences" panel moderated by Jonathan Nehmer, Chairman and Founder of Jonathan Nehmer & Associates, had some lively discussion surrounding the idea that the power of keeping people loyal across tiers within a brand comes from being able to meet the needs of a person all of the time.  Focusing on people over time vs a single moment for the best outcome.

Day Two of the conference kicked off with "The Leaders Check In" and Mark Hoplamazian, President and Chief Executive Officer, Hyatt Hotels Corporation observing that at Hyatt it is "people, people, people" as their mantra vs. "location, location, location".  People are their purpose and they are encouraging their people to take away the scripts and be yourself.  People being people with people.

"A View From the Owner's Seat" provided a platform for Kirk Kinsell, President and Chief Executive Officer, Loews Hotels & Resorts to share an observation that carries over to all industries.  Mr. Kinsell discussed how young people are not happy coming into the current work place and the need for corporations and government to respond and do business differently.  A significant people based discussion.

Listening to these knowledgeable hospitality leaders, coupled with my own people centric professional background, motivated me to attend the next workshop: "Human Capital: Driving Corporate Culture and Successful Recruiting Strategies in an Ever-Changing Environment for Talent". I close with my highlights from an impressive panel of people responsible for people:​

David Rodriguez, Executive Vice President and Global Chief Human Resources Officer, Marriott International summarized their leadership tenants that focus on people feeling good about self, workplace and company mission emphasizing that if you can maintain that focus all else follows even in an ever-changing environment.  Three people based tenants worthy of examining personally and in our business.

The mandate that the best people lead to the best results was shared by Matt Schuyler, Chief Human Resources Officer, Hilton Worldwide along with the observation that five generations of people are in the workplace for the first time.  Taking a serious look at the reasons for high industry attrition rates can make a huge difference to the bottom line.  Acquiring and keeping talented people is more important and challenging than ever.

"Start With Why" by Simon Sinek, Author and Optimist, made my summer reading list as a result of his comments on this panel.  His list of highlights includes, as one panelist described it, a "mini-MBA" on Millennials in the workplace.  However, my favorite was his discussion on the definition of leadership:

Simon discussed the anthropological approach that leadership is not about being in charge, but rather taking care of those in your charge.  This is an important people centric approach that taking care of employees in hospitality creates a full circle of those same people taking care of the guests in their charge.

As an investment based community of people in hospitality, remembering that it all starts and ends with people is worth highlighting and investing in any day.

About the Author

Catherine Savoca is a Principal at Alternate Resources providing purchasing and design services specializing in hospitality and contract markets.  Celebrating 25 years in business, the firm takes pride in providing outstanding service to every client. Cathy is highly collaborative in her work and brings decades of diverse experience to every project.  She also enjoys setting a beautiful table and filling it with great food, wine and people.

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