SpotLight: Intranet in Hospitality – The Benefits of an Efficient Internal Communication System
Weekly by Sarah Muxlow ~ exclusive for 4Hoteliers.com
Wednesday, 7th June 2006
The technology age has provided the means for sharing knowledge and providing regular up-to-date information ‘in-house'.

During the 1990's, the intranet alongside the email, was proven to be a powerful communication tool. However, whilst many industries are enjoying the benefits of the intranet as an internal communication system, hospitality companies are still questioning some of it's uses.  

The benefits of the intranet are simple: information, knowledge, experience and events can be shared. The intranet enables individual hotels and staff to access beneficial information, learn form one another, display collected data and tap into centralised activities, regardless of geographic location.

Some market leaders in the hotel industry have their finger on the pulse. When drafting strategies to encourage and enable knowledge exchange, the intranet (an internal online publishing tool) enables inter-department, inter-hotel and inter-group information to be displayed. Group training programmes are stored and down loaded. Administration forms are held and easily accessed, group maps, staff job descriptions and job openings, news on developments, business reports, movements, vital staff information, feedback forums, customer feedback, socializing events and outings are all accessible. There is no room for the hording of information or people not being in the ‘know'.

A prime advantage of an intranet site is the speed in which information can be updated. In the past, a small change to a method, procedure or policy would means mass reprintings. The paper printed documents would then be sent to sites and offices in thousands of locations worldwide. With the intranet site, the original documents are changed, and can then be downloaded on the centralisied site by staff. The outline of changes can then be emailed in bite size pieces and sent out in mass to draw attention to the specific changes. Staff can then implement the work methods accordingly. Both time and money is saved when the intranet is used as a central library and reference source for company information.

A further reason for using the intranet are the results; intranet sites have a powerful impact on staff. Evidence so far has noted a positive increase in staff motivation. Being connected gives a greater sense of belonging, and being part of a team larger than the immediate. This provides a sense of belonging to a group and a reason to work for the good of the ‘Group'. Installing an internal communication systems has become part of reinforcing and creating a company culture and brand standards.

Another intangible but measurable advantage is the increased sense of ‘Trust'. Colleagues and management become more open as a company fosters knowledge and information sharing. Openness increases levels of trust.

Generally communication on the intranet is relaxed and ideas and job related topics can be talked about by a wider circle of professionals in the same position or with similar interests.

Difficulties with the intranet:

There are of course obstacles, as with any new initiative. Sharing and discussion rely on personal participation which takes both time and skill, as well as willingness. A simple example of a declining discussion forum is one when exchanging ‘case studies' has become an anecdote chat or even a further decline into an exchange of ‘Gossip' stories. There is a need to still operate within a frame work to keep the focus on themes and trends, rather than one of incidences.

Many employees leave because the managers didn't communicate well. Some personalities manage with a style of openness well. For others their competitiveness makes sharing difficult and for others again, hierarchy represents restrictiveness and limitations.

Some managers doubt whether sharing information has an impact on long term success. Whilst it is interesting to transfer knowledge, how it is used by one hotel differs to another, as one individual differs with another. There still needs to be the assumption that it is essential to make unique decisions.

It is also thought that too much transparency without contextual explanation can prohibit the jobs in hand. Misinterpretation can reign. Overtime, selective sharing becomes more commonplace as there is doubt as to how this knowledge can be used. It then becomes inappropriate to share certain knowledge with all members of staff.

Whether using the intranet or not, communication gurus are in agreement that communicating face to face and in writing enables great concepts to become action plans. Everyone needs to know what is expected of them. If employees can't understand what you expect, then they can't feel the rush of excitement of a job well done. Frequent communication and follow up are crucial so you know that others understand your expectations. Managers must communicate their expectations to staff, Groups their changes and developments, and individual staff, their findings.

SpotLight is the weekly column exclusively written for 4Hoteliers.com by Sarah Muxlow, it is highlighting the challenges and issues which the global hospitality is facing today.

Sarah is writing for hotel and restaurant owners, hotel chain managers, producers/growers/sellers of food & beverage, restaurant associations, governing bodies and hotel schools. She is looking at the problems they face...competition, trends of branding, staff shortages, unskilled staff, turning out students who are looking for good in-house management training schemes with hotel chains, what makes a good quality training course at a hotel school and more... 

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