When Leon Geldenhuys began going through a mountain of meeting minutes from various team conferences in order to better assess the communication culture at the Hashoo Group, the lack of interaction was disturbing. How could the hospitality division, which serves so many customers, be as lackluster and static as was being described in the printouts? The Head of HR needed a way to evaluate the pulse of the company and stoic printouts made the job difficult. “I expressed this frustrating void to the CIO, Colin Fox, and he suggested I look into Yammer to make the meetings more alive.” The concept not only interested him, but the idea that the virtual meetings could jump off the page opened the realm of possibilities for team-building and morale-boosting, in addition to everything else he wanted.
The hospitality industry is dependent on the strength of its teams and every individual voice makes a difference. Microsoft’s Enterprise Social collaboration tool, Yammer helps Hashoo Group tap into employees across the breadth and depth of the organization, allowing everyone to cultivate a strong sense of ownership towards the business. Their story is less a technical one, and more of one that addresses the behavioral and cultural transformation the group went through.
Aligning Business and Organizational Culture with Technology
Colin Fox joined Hashoo Group to build their technology strategy. “The fact that the leadership made a conscious decision to invest in IT and digital technologies greatly helped in transforming the complete organization.” When the leadership is on board with a concept and they lead by example, it often becomes the basis of a company’s vision where the trickle-down impact formulates its own roadmap. But communication and collaboration had a lot to do in realizing the cultural transformation. Employees were shy about voicing themselves and there wasn’t really a structured way to ‘hear’ everyone from across the departments.
Colin immediately noticed the information isolation people were operating in. The different departments were working in silos and not sharing best practices. There was a strong corporate strategy in place but no effective mechanism to communicate it across the properties. The Hashoo Group CIO was looking for a modern, robust yet secure channel that allowed platforms to realize the management’s vision of integration and collaboration. “I see Office 365 as a rich collaboration platform that allows for information access anywhere, anytime on any platform. That’s the methodology I use to design our technical systems going forward. We adopted cloud technologies across all our platforms and I could see some organizational challenges around it.”
There are approximately 5,000 people across Hashoo Group’s various businesses, of which 1,500 are technology users. The average age of the internal user at the Group is 34, relatively old for the hospitality industry, it was young enough to convince Colin that technologies must be mobile in order to engage with the younger workforce so the company remains relevant in the years to come.
The Head of HR needed a way to evaluate the pulse of the company and stoic printouts made the job difficult. “I expressed this frustrating void to the CIO, Colin Fox, and he suggested I look into Yammer to make the meetings more alive.” The concept not only interested him, but the idea that even the virtual meetings could jump off the page, opened the realm of possibilities for team-building and morale-boosting, in addition to everything else he wanted to do. – Leon Geldenhuys: VP Human Resource, Hashoo Group
“I’ve built the IT infrastructure from scratch,” explains Colin. His team first set up the infrastructure, followed by communication platforms and are now building the value platforms such as payroll and HR management tools atop of the stable ecosystem. “Office 365 and its offerings fit nicely with our needs.” The Hashoo Group properties include large hotels in urban cities as well as some in rather remote areas and connectivity can be a challenge at times. Their investment in Office 365 platform that facilitates seamless mobility as well as offline work allows them to be redundant and overcome that challenge.
More Meaningful Interaction
Yammer is just another communication channel available but for us, it’s a communication channel that is more alive, engaging and visual. “I’m very keen on how we use photographs to show what’s going on in a property. There’s a lot of sharing of best practices, policies, and procedures. The functionality to create groups, both internal and external, and actively involve people across departments and even vendors is something our Procurement teams use very effectively. Their workflow, for example, begins in Office 365 Planner and follow-ups are done in Yammer. All the discussions now have timestamps, which allows for transparency and accountability. Decisions that previously used to take weeks are now done in hours.”
Effective and meaningful collaboration requires that only the relevant resources be part of a discussion, regardless of the department or physical location of that resource. Leon expresses, “The lovely thing about Yammer is that a strong facilitator runs the meeting with a specific agenda, creates focused groups and everyone discusses that particular subject regardless of the size of the meeting. Everyone is committed to the discussion and we get a lot more meaningful interaction out of our sessions. It’s effective, efficient and measurable. And even if someone missed the meeting, they have the entire transcript available to still contribute.”
Colin immediately noticed the information isolation people were operating in. The different departments were working in silos and not sharing best practices. There was a strong corporate strategy in place, but there wasn’t an effective mechanism to communicate it across the properties. The Hashoo Group CIO was looking for a modern, robust yet secure channel that allowed platforms to realize the management’s vision of integration, collaboration and modern.
Email is very linear form of communication. Most inboxes are flooded with emails and people now need to take time out and filter through to get to specific messages – it’s a time-consuming task. Responses are also made in isolation because there is no way to cross-reference the debate or become part of the discussion. Leon explains, “I am already seeing a slight shift away from the number of emails as the rate of adoption continues to increase on Yammer. There is definitely a buzz about the platform across the organization, and more so on mobile. For me, this says a lot about the impact Office 365 platform is having on the culture across the overall business.”
The Cultural Transformation
Yammer was actually launched almost a year ago and the adoption was very organic. Leon says, “In just the last 6 months, I have seen Yammer bring an immense improvement in terms of effective communication and follow-ups.”
Successful organizations are living, breathing ecosystems where employees come together. “If senior leadership praises a post about a junior team member in another department, or every staff member has access to Managing Director of the company, imagine how incredible the culture of the company becomes, and the impact it has on service. I have personally been able to listen to, and sort out problems that IT teams across the sites have been facing and impact organizational policy. That’s the cultural transformation we have gone through,” explains Colin.
Based on the successful experience with Yammer in the initial pilot phase and its impact as part of an integrated Office 365 platform, Hashoo Group will be rolling out Yammer across its other businesses and allowing their hospitality to do what it does best: lead by example.