In the business world, there is the emergent notion of employee empowerment. This means allowing employees to make their own decisions in certain situations that may affect the organisation. Team empowerment happens when a group of employees takes on the responsibility and authority to make decisions and act without having to wait for approval from a supervisor. However, they need to be equipped with the tools and resources for this management strategy to be successful. 

Empowering employees not only benefits the organisation but also impacts the customer experience. This matters most especially in the hospitality industry, which is characterised by constant interpersonal interaction and issues that need to be resolved immediately.  A competent and empowered frontline employee can make the big difference between a disappointed or a satisfied guest. 

In this article, you’ll learn the meaning and benefits of team empowerment. It also tackles the cultural barriers to empowerment and how to deal with them. Then, we’ll dive into some examples of team empowerment and the challenges that may arise when empowering your hospitality teams. Lastly, you’ll discover 7 best practices for team empowerment in the hotel industry. 


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Why Is Team Empowerment Important and What Are Its Benefits?

There are many good reasons for hospitality industry leaders to empower their teams. Firstly, there’s a direct link between employee empowerment  and employee motivation. Empowered employees perform better at work. They are more engaged with their work compared to other employees. They want to do the best they can, and they take pride in their work. 

Hospitality leaders benefit from having empowered employees who want everyone in the team to succeed as well. Since there are common objectives, everyone will be doing their part to achieve those goals. 

Showing that you care for your employees both personally and professionally, will make them happy to be at work. When the overall atmosphere in the workplace is positive, there will be an increase in productivity and efficiency. 

Above all, empowered employees have a stronger sense of commitment to their work.  Turnovers will be less, which is a win for the company.


Examples of Team Empowerment and the Challenges it  Presents

Here are some typical examples of what team empowerment may look like:   

  • Authorising your team to make decisions in their role. 
  • Making training sessions available for your employees and allocating a budget for them.
  • Allowing your team to have flexible working hours. 
  • Helping your team do their job well by providing the best resources. 
  • Giving employees a platform for sharing their views and concerns, be it through surveys, employee engagement software or informal mechanisms like one-on-one meetings. 
  • Asking your employees for feedback as well as suggestions, and implementing them.

All these forms of empowerment are valid but they do come with their own set of challenges. As a hospitality leader, you might not have a sufficient budget to provide the best and the latest tools, training, and resources that an employee might need. Or, you may not have enough confidence in your team members to let them make their own decisions. Another challenge is when two employees offer different solutions to the same problem. In these cases, a disconnect between the guest and the company may occur, which can result in misunderstandings or a loss of customer loyalty. Lastly, if everyone is given the chance to make decisions, there might be a collapse in the hierarchy of the organisation, leading to chaos and confusion.

Cultural Barriers to Team Empowerment and How to Deal With Them

Most hospitality businesses employ people from different cultures and backgrounds. This leads to a diversity of thinking as well as ways of doing things. On the plus side, this can bring about innovation and creativity. On the other hand, diversity can result in conflict and misunderstandings. Some cultural barriers can include differences in the importance given to education[1],  the treatment of women, and respect for superiors and older people.

Here are some ways to solve these issues: 

  • Recognise and value the different cultures present in your company. Be sensitive to their customs and traditions. You would want them, in the same way, to be respectful of yours.
  • Educate yourself about different cultures. When you are a part of the majority, there’s a tendency to be comfortable with the status quo. Make sure to learn about the cultural differences between you and other employees. Try to see things from their perspective and understand their point of view.
  • Be considerate and open to someone else’s culture. In some cultures, older people are always addressed with a formal title and their last name. Just because this isn’t practised in your country, doesn’t mean it’s unacceptable.
  • Conduct cross-cultural training for your employees. In the hospitality industry, frontliners welcome guests from all over the world. Training  staff on how to treat guests of different nationalities is crucial. You can ask someone from a particular culture to do a short presentation to the team. This activity can also serve as a social event that can bring employees closer to one another.


7 Best Practices for Hospitality Team Empowerment 

Now that you’ve gained an understanding of the barriers, here are the best practices for empowering your hospitality teams:  

1. Establish A Framework for Customer Service

Team members feel more confident to make on-the-spot decisions when hospitality leaders provide guidelines for addressing (guest) issues. Certain responsibilities must be delegated, and a certain measure of autonomy should be given to your employees. You can define goals and set service standards in standard operating procedures (SOPs) beforehand to avoid ambiguity and set a baseline for everyone. 

When employees know that high guest satisfaction is the minimum requirement e.g., it will be easier for them to make sound decisions. Moreover, knowing the company’s goals and purpose will guide and steer employees in the right direction, especially during crucial moments. The members of your team will also feel like they are making a valuable contribution to the company’s objectives versus just being a cog in the machine.

2. Keep Communications Lines Open

Make it a point to share important information about the company with your team. This makes a big difference when collaborating and fosters a sense of belonging. You can do this by periodically updating your employees about any upcoming plans and projects. Your team members, on the other hand, should be able to easily approach you for sharing their experiences and ideas. Communicating also entails knowing how to listen, so make your team members feel heard. 

3. Role Play Possible Scenarios

Role-playing or learning by doing is a practical method through which hospitality leaders can engage and coach their team members on how to approach issues and what steps to take in their decision-making process. [2] Your frontline employees may not know how to respond when confronted with a sensitive guest service issue for the first time. However, previous exposure to the same kind of problem through a role-playing session can provide them with the insights and confidence to take the appropriate action. Each scenario must be concluded with examples of the right actions to be taken, so that employees can learn from the experience.  

4. Foster and Encourage a Trustworthy Work Environment

Building an environment of trust isn’t hard. Start by allowing your team members to do their jobs independently. Don’t micromanage or hover when they are performing their duties. Give your team members enough time and space to get their job done. On the other hand, if they are having problems, employees should be able to voice their concerns and feel encouraged to ask for help. 

 5. Assign Responsibilities

Since the hotel industry consists of multiple daily activities, hospitality leaders should be able to assign roles and delegate tasks according to each team member’s competence and accountability. [3]

No matter how hardworking and driven you might be, it is physically impossible to do everything on your own. A good leader knows this and therefore will delegate tasks to the members of the team. Additionally, you should let your team members know how their contributions will affect the overall success of the company. Making employees responsible for achieving company goals while remaining accountable as a leader is the key to delegating effectively. 

6. Equip Your Team with the Necessary Tools and Resources

Work efficiency and effectiveness partly depends on tools and resources.  Your employees shouldn't have to spend their time asking for them, however. Giving your employees the framework, workspace, budget and technology for doing their job will increase their confidence, and help them accomplish their tasks on time and with ease.

Several technological tools can automate routine tasks, so that your staff can provide a personalised customer service. 

7. Recognise and Reward Your Employees

A simple verbal acknowledgment of a job well done goes a long way in the work environment. You might also opt to reward employees who have gone above and beyond. A balance between monetary and non-monetary incentives shows your employees that you appreciate them.

Hospitality leaders who give their team members well-deserved rewards and recognition will not only boost their team’s self-confidence but also give them a strong sense of empowerment.

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[1] Raub, S. (2019, January 22). Empowerment In The Hospitality Industry – How To Make It Work. Hospitality Net

[2] Kokemuller, N. (2016, November 9). How to Empower Employees in the Hospitality Industry. Work -

[3] Smet, A. de, Hewes, C., & Weiss, L. (2021, March 1). For smarter decisions, empower your employees. McKinsey & Company.