With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many companies to make tough financial decisions about their workforces, Preferred Corporate Housing is choosing to take a different approach by reinvesting in company culture.
As with many other industries, COVID-19 has wrecked havoc on travel, relocation and more-specifically, temporary housing needs across the globe. With more than 90% of all temporary housing companies earning less than $5 million in revenue each year, the immediate halt to global and domestic travel caused by the coronavirus could result in catastrophic changes for the future of companies across the corporate housing industry. While many companies have responded with service offering cutbacks, reduced workforces, and in some cases, entire office closures, Preferred Corporate Housing has generated some industry buzz for taking a different approach. They’ve doubled-down on employee benefits, increased their workforce and focused on company culture to help them navigate this challenging time.
We sat down with Samantha Elliott, President of Preferred Corporate Housing, to ask her about this approach to navigating COVID-19 challenges.
Many companies in your industry were and are currently still making difficult decisions regarding their workforce and profitability during COVID19.What was your approach?
Samantha: Obviously, one of the most-important things to consider was how to continue providing exceptional service to our current guests while also continuing to provide nationwide housing solutions for our future clients and guests. PCH is no stranger to working through natural disasters and local disruptions being headquartered in Houston, TX. We’ve successfully enacted our Business Continuity Plan many times in recent years due to floods and natural disasters, and we knew our service was and would always be ‘essential.’ But this was the first time we’ve experienced a global disruption that was personally impacting every one of our clients, guests, supplier partners and team members equally. I realized that it was my team’s job to take care of our clients, like they had always successfully done before, and it would be my job to take care of my team. This is where my focus needed to protect the future success of our company.
How did you decide what changes to implement and/or assistance to offer for your Team Members?
Samantha: The first step was to ask and then to listen. I decided to personally reach out to each team member individually to ask them how I could help. I asked questions like, “Do you have any concerns about this ‘new normal’ that I can talk through with you?” And “what can I do to make this time easier for you and your family?” I knew there was so much systemic negativity in the press about layoffs, tanking stock prices, death tolls, etc. I wanted my team to know I was willing to talk through these scary things with them. I wanted them to hear the optimism in my voice, and the confidence that PCH was well-positioned to weather this proverbial storm. This approach also opened my eyes to some very basic needs where I could immediately offer assistance, and I may not have considered these struggles had I not asked in this format.
What are some of the unique things you offered for your team after going through this survey process?
Samantha: Every team member with children mentioned they were struggling with home-schooling. I immediately signed each one up with PCH-sponsored online tutoring so they could focus on their work, while the tutor helped with school. This small things has been exponentially impactful to daily productivity! We also got creative in coming up with incentive programs to put extra money back in team member pockets while new reservations had slowed. As an example, we asked team members to help us update some of our service packages and training materials, and they were bonused on each process they helped with. This was a win-win for PCH. Instead of being reactive and panicking, we all focused that energy on improving PCH to be even better positioned during this time and on the other side of COVID-19. And the smallest silly gesture was having T-shirts made for the team. I thought it would just be a cute morale booster, but this little gesture has gotten more attention across our social media channels than the last few marketing campaigns we’ve done!
What long-term benefits do you think this approach will have on PCH’s future success?
Samantha: My hope when I decided on this approach was if I could take care of my team and they knew I was doing everything in my power to ensure their safety and stability, then they would continue to doing their absolute best to take care of our clients, and ultimately the future success of PCH. While I don’t have a crystal ball and none of us really know what the world will look like post-COVID, what I do know is that my team is more engaged, creative, diligent, optimistic and supportive right now than we were when the impacts of COVID-19 started reaching us. We collaborate more, we tackle more challenges, and we laugh more. At such a dark time in history, PCH is a small beacon of light for our team, and we’re doing our best to spread that light through to our current and future temporary housing clients too!