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The Importance of Culture for Hospitality Businesses

Erin Moran

Chief Culture Officer, Union Square Hospitality Group

Erin Moran is the first-ever chief culture officer for Union Square Hospitality Group. Here, she shares the importance of culture in any business, and how it translates to better guest service in hospitality.

Why is it important for businesses in the hospitality industry to focus on improving the employee experience in the workplace?

Hospitality is all about the experience we offer our guests and, ultimately, how we make them feel. When team members are feeling inspired, respected, and cared for, they are much more willing to go above and beyond to create a special and memorable moment of hospitality for our guests, and they leave our businesses feeling enriched and uplifted. To be able to create the very best experience for our guests, we need to create the very best experiences for our people.  

What advice would you give to companies struggling to gain and retain the right employees because of culture?

Define what values matter most to your company and align your hiring and promoting practices with individuals who consistently demonstrate those values. Exit the people who are unable or unwilling to embody those values, because a culture is only as strong as the worst behaviors you are willing to permit.

Why is it so vital for companies to invest in their employees, whether it be career advancement, benefits, etc.?

Directing and managing people has the opportunity to get the work done effectively. Investing in people has the opportunity to unlock so much more beautiful human potential than can ever be achieved solely in the directing and managing process. When that potential is tapped and unleashed, magic can happen for both our employees and our guests.  

The turnover rate in the hospitality industry is 2-3x the rate of all other industries. How can companies focus on gaining quality employees and retaining the ones they have?

I believe the best way to attract high quality employees is to have your current employees serve as brand ambassadors, recommending their place of work to their friends and family. The best way to retain people is to ensure that leaders are spending time with each of their team members, listening to them, connecting with them, supporting them, coaching them, and making sure they know how much they matter. People are more willing to commit to a longer-term view when there is mutual trust and respect between managers and employees. 

What’s an important question managers should ask while interviewing someone to determine culture fit? Can you determine this trait in an interview?

We often like to ask the question, “Can you share with us one of the most difficult decisions that you have ever had to make professionally? What was the context? What was your decision? How did you go about making that decision?” In a candidate’s response, we are assessing how they use their own personal values as a lens for making tough decisions. Interviews are part art and part science, and while it represents a great data point in the evaluation process, it certainly isn’t a fool proof to ensure a culture fit.

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