New Work as the finger on the pulse of time
The transformation of a hotel chain
24. February 2023
by Svenja Kendik
In this first post, we share with you what Seminaris once stood for (classic hotel chain, shirt and apron), what it stands for today (agile, self-directed, houses) and what happened in between (transformation, transformation, transformation).
Reasons for the Transformation
Our world has been in a state of permanent flux for some time now. Changes are more radical, faster, more unpredictable. Within seconds, we have access to information through images or text, via tweet or YouTube tutorial. We learn, revise our opinions, change our attitudes and our expectations. Everything seems tangible and possible, only to appear completely different a moment later. And ourselves? We react, adapt to the new situation, become more and more agile.
The hotel industry is stuck
The hospitality industry is barely making much-needed headway in this ever-changing world.
Employees want fair working conditions, such as duty schedules that take their individual situation into account. They do not want to be bound by a set of rules, but rather to be able to thrive freely.
Hotels do not react, the employees quit and the hotels have to close due to the shortage of personnel.
Companies are looking for innovative venues for teambuilding or barcamps, where they hold Murmur Groups or Retrospectives. They want to workshoppe new ways of working, explore concepts like New Leadership in a creative setting.
Hotels offer classic meeting rooms with parliamentary seating. Companies are looking for alternatives and hotels are losing customers.
Seminaris Hotels face the situation
When Jochen Swoboda started working as Director of Operations for Seminaris Hotels in 2018, it was clear to him that something had to change: “For hotels to endure in the long term, we have to break with rigid rules and react flexibly. We have to redefine values in order to be able to develop personally and professionally.” In short, the change had to be holistic, taking place on an internal and external level.
The external level. What do customers want?
First of all, our houses were to be completely redesigned. We wanted them to remain attractive for our existing customers and also appeal to a new clientele.
We knew of a few hotels that had their rooms renovated in a creative style. But the customers stayed away.
So we asked the customers directly what they were missing, what they wished for, what they liked, what annoyed them. One statement in particular stood out: creative spaces are insignificant if the atmosphere is not right, if the processes are subject to outdated, rigid constructs, if no spontaneous exchange can take place, no sparkling idea can arise.
Creating spaces with style and purpose
Based on the answers, we took action on several levels. We gradually initiated renovation work, created multifunctional spaces for Agile Meetings, Design Sprints, Speed Geeking and other innovative events. We established a network of trainers that we can refer to at any time for workshops or masterclasses, on topics such as Growth Mindset or Change Management.
“From the first consultation on possible New Work formats, to booking the right location, to finding the most suitable trainers. We can now cover every conceivable need of our customers and tailor their event to fit,” says Sabine Brinker, Area Sales Manager MICE.
But we wanted to do even better justice to our customers’ desire for an inspiring atmosphere. This includes the mindset of the people on site.
The internal level. What do the employees want?
This led to the plan to train the supervisors in the respective houses on New Work. They, in turn, were to take what they had learned to their teams and, in this way, initiate change throughout the company.
However, a modern way of working cannot function in a socially outdated (hierarchical) structure. The probably most important element, we did not consider in the plans until then: The employees in all their different positions in the company!
The atmosphere is created by the people, or more precisely, the employees at the reception desk, in the service department, in the sales team; they enrich the exchange with suggestions and creative approaches.
When we are satisfied, we enjoy coming to work, we are healthier, more balanced, more resilient. For this to happen, we need to have a say.
The beginning of a transformation by and for employees
At the end of 2020, we decided to reorganize ourselves and, together with all employees from all areas, to question what is important to us and how we can meet all of our needs. Our goal: a working environment that we create collectively and with which we are satisfied.
To initiate the internal Change Process, we established Transformation Teams made up of employees with different positions and from different houses. Together, these Transformation Teams developed values to which we would henceforth orient ourselves and towards which we would work:
These values still apply today.
To ensure that we keep an eye on the values and that they do not get lost in the demands of everyday life, we are supported by the Wecreation GmbH team. With them, we scrutinize what has changed and what should change more, in regular feedback rounds in New Work style.
Everyone practices Work 4.0 here, can contribute new ideas, can discuss them, and can derive action steps from them.
Simon Anders, Assistant Front Office Manager, Seminaris Hotel Lüneburg, thinks the concept is working: “At first it was hard to fully fathom that we are allowed to say anything here and that no boss is telling us what to do. But over time we realized that this is really the case. It feels good to realize that your opinion is important and you can make a difference.”
Everyone benefits from the newfound self-confidence. “It’s great to see how we are becoming more and more creative and how our way of working is changing. In the meantime, we have tried out many approaches that are not typical for the classic hotel industry. Sometimes they go wrong, sometimes they succeed. Either way, we always learn something in the process. From that point of view, all approaches are a success,” reflects Nicolas Pfleiderer, co-founder of Wecreation GmbH.
Work in progress as the recipe for success
This is something that customers notice, too. In a positive sense. We have created an agile and relaxed environment for them, where they can find mindset, trainers and venues bundled in one place.
We’ve had some bumpy years, and there will certainly be more to come. But we have learned to learn from each other, to think independently about creative solutions and to try things out. This provides us with an important framework that we can rely on.
We are more self-determined and motivated. We are constantly changing; we look forward to change. We are ready for the future.
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