AccorHotels made the industry sit up about two years ago when it earmarked €225 million for digital transformation.
Subsequent, slightly left-field moves have also raised eyebrows such as the group’s decision to create a distribution platform where its properties are pitted against alongside independent properties.
It’s investment in vacation rental is another example with its acquisition of Onefinestay just under a year ago as well as strategic investment in Squarebreak and Oasis Collections last February.
The company’s chief executive Sebastien Bazin is certainly driving these decisions but other measures he has put in place are also helping drive change in mindset and culture.
At Phocuswright in 2015, he talked about “90% of the decisions are in the hands of people like me who are more than 50 years old", and went on to say that people need to be educated to see that change is needed.
Actions speak louder than words and about a year ago the “Shadow Executive Committee” was launched by Bazin and chief talent & culture officer Arantxa Balson.
Shadow Comex consists of 13 employees aged between 25 and 35 years old who are personally involved in a startup. They have been given 18 months to put themselves in the customers’ shoes and think disruption.
A statement from AccorHotels quotes Bazin:
"The ability of these young people to predict the world of tomorrow is finer than ours. In particular on the subjects at the heart of the group's current problems: the expectations of new customers in terms of services and, more generally, the customer experience."
It’s all very much part of his strategy to change the company culture and get people thinking about the customer and innovation. The formation of the younger group is recognition that the group needs to address the generational difference between its younger workforce and customers and its executive committee.
The aim of the shadow group is also to make sure there’s a fertile ground for the development of talent in the organisation, shorten the decision-making time and to help drive a more horizontal structure across the company.
In practice, the Shadow Comex works by collaborating on ideas and projects. It has access to the agenda of the Executive Committee’s monthly meetings and provides suggestions for discussion.
In turn, the Executive Committee must also feedback information to its shadow counterparts.
They also receive external coaching to help them formulate and present ideas.
So far, the younger committee has been involved in the formulation of the Jo&Joe brand which was devised with the help of students, guests and external.
It was launched last September, with Gen-Y in mind, and with the remit to challenge conventions and think about the future of hospitality.
Going forward, AccorHotels also plans to initiate co-mentoring across the company globally, an idea which came from the Shadow Comex.
Digital natives, called “smart digits” who have less than five years experience with the company get together to share mindset, culture and leadership approach with a “smart leader” - someone who has lived and breathed the organisation for longer.
A pilot is being started with 50 co-mentor pairs with plans to open it up to everyone if proves a success.
At the end of the 18 months, each member will put forward the names of two potential successors.
For French speakers, Bazin provided more details on the Shadow Committee in an interview with Les Echos late last year: