The success of any industry depends on strong leadership, which is especially true of the hospitality, hotel industry, travel & tourism sectors, all of which are notoriously people-focused. 

Often, it's misconceived that a commanding approach, ambition, and knowledge are enough to make a manager. Still, even the most successful businesses struggle without emotional intelligence (EI) to improve their employee retention rates, employee satisfaction, and customer service. 

With only 30% of companies looking for emotional intelligence in the hiring process (according to the study “The Emotional Intelligence of the HR”), what can we do differently, and can EI really help?

What's Emotional Intelligence?

EI guru Daniel Goleman emphasizes the importance of emotional intelligence in building self-awareness, empathy, and adaptability. In people-focused settings like the hospitality and hotel sectors, such skills are crucial. Put simply; the emotional intelligence model consists of five categories: 

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Self-regulation
  3. Motivation
  4. Empathy
  5. Social skills

We'll look at each of these in turn in a sec.  

How Can Emotional Intelligence Benefit the Hospitality Industry?

When you support employees in developing emotional intelligence, you should see a positive impact on customer service delivery. Namely because when employees take the time to formulate EI, they're better positioned to anticipate your guest's and customer's needs. 

Similarly, when leaders work to enhance EI, they're more likely to have the tools to nurture a motivated workforce. Establishing a positive workplace culture where empathy and understanding are central, employees are more likely to feel encouraged to perform their best.

Again, this goes a long way to improving customer service delivery, employee retention rates, and absenteeism. Restaurants with high EI management had better guest satisfaction, lower turnover rates, and an impressive 34% growth in profit (According to “The Bar-On Model of Emotional-social Intelligence”).

Not only that but it's predicted that a post-COVID-19 world will demand greater emotional intelligence. In a recent poll conducted in our most recent Hospitality Talks – which you can replay below – we asked participants how vital EI would be for the hospitality sector post-COVID. As many 59% answered 'extremely important' – and they're right. 

Social distancing, failing businesses, and the stress of navigating a restricted lifestyle have profoundly affected individuals and companies alike. In times of uncertainty and fear, industries requiring frequent customer interaction, like the hospitality and travel sectors, will benefit significantly from EI. 

The COVID-19 impact saw the economic output of the hospitality industry plummet by 90% in April 2020. Unfortunately, the travel and tourism industry was brutally hit, too; in the same month, travel decreased by 91.3%, and millions of employees lost their jobs. As a result, more people than ever want to be heard and reassured, including customers and employees.

In response, EI will be the cornerstone for showing understanding and flexibility, which will be crucial in aiding hospitality and travel industry recovery.

How Can Leaders Improve Their Emotional Intelligence? 

On May 26th, we hosted, along with Andy Whitehead, qualified executive coach and Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute, a Hospitality Talks webinar about "Emotional Intelligence for Hospitality Leaders." You can replay the webinar to hear the insights Andy shared with us (video only available in English).


To improve your emotional intelligence as a leader, Andy offered the following solutions:

1. Self-awareness: Reflection is integral for developing self-awareness - especially if you tend to act impulsively. Instead, take a step back to understand your emotions and not let them rule you. In doing so, you're better able to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, which you can then use to improve performance.

2. Self-regulation: People who self-regulate can control their emotions and impulses. Always hold yourself accountable, especially if you tend to blame others when things go wrong. Not only will admitting your mistakes and facing the consequences gain respect, but it also goes a long way to improving your emotional intelligence.

3. Motivation: Motivation is intrinsic. If you're struggling with this, remind yourself of your purpose: Why do you do your job? What made you fall in love with it in the first place? Make it your aim to always look for the positives, too, particularly in the face of challenges or failures. 

4. Empathy: It's not easy to empathize when you don't challenge your own perspective. Take the time to walk in someone else's shoes and see what others think. Try to recognize your coworker's feelings and attempt to respond by talking to them about them.

4. Social skills: Many people tend to view charisma as a trait you're born with, but this isn't true; often, it's built over time. Practice two-way dialogue and remember that conversation should be an equal share of giving and taking. You can practice maintaining eye contact, smiling, and taking the time to listen to the people around you.


Points to Consider                                       

  • Leaders and employees who bully others in the workplace lack self-management. Although they may be self-aware, they rank poorly in emotional intelligence because they fail to regulate their behavior and emotions.

  • Empathy is an essential aspect of EI, but many workplaces tend to react to sensitive situations with sympathy instead. Providing compassion or 'feeling sorry' for someone tends to keep them stuck in their struggles. In contrast, empathy can help you understand the reasons behind the issues, enabling you to tune into the affected individual's feelings. This provides a huge stepping stone for being able to help your colleague evolve and move forward.

You can develop organizational emotional intelligence by working on individuals first. A good starting point is to ensure the following:

1. Organizational awareness: Make sure your workforce understands the business's capabilities, values, and limitations.

2. Administrative management: By this, we mean, leaders need a firm grasp over employee behavior, goals and processes, and company culture.

3. A motivated workforce: Ensure employees are motivated, eager to please, and believe in the company's vision and purpose.

4. Customer awareness: Your team needs to understand your customer's needs and be proactive by being one step ahead.

5. Customer skills: Make sure you hire those with high levels of EI and that these skills are developed once they're hired; this works wonders for enhancing the customer's overall experience.

In this webinar, Andy talked fondly of his first boss, Bert Holden. Bert did three crucial things: he listened, he empathized, and he remained objective. When leaders expand their emotional intelligence in these ways, they stand out above the rest — as many as 85% of the competencies distinguishing outstanding managers relate to emotional intelligence (Daniel Goleman, Working with Emotional Intelligence, 1998). 

With EI being one of the most sought-after skills of 2020, it's a practice all businesses should be paying attention to. Interestingly, 43% of webinar attendees said they would be 'extremely likely' to work on their own emotional intelligence after learning about the practice.

With the popularity of EI in business continuing to grow, there's undoubtedly potential for it to shape the face of recruitment and business operations in the coming year.

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Join Our Next Hospitality Talks

Hospitality Talks is one of the many initiatives Hosco has put into place to support all industry stakeholders since the global health crisis started in March 2020. Our series of webinars unite industry experts so they can share their best practices, insights, and opinions about the future of hospitality. Want to watch our next Hospitality Talks webinar live?