Erik-Jan Ginjaar: “Let the computer handle the tasks”

Innovation is not something for a separate innovation department. “No, the need must be so great that you want to solve a problem,” says Erik-Jan Ginjaar, general manager of Postillion Hotels Holland. “You can often use computers for this. Let them do the work. “

How would it go in such a business innovation department? Ginjaar wonders with disbelief. “That an employee goes to work and says ‘I have to renew myself today’. As a simple HBO student, I say it does not work that way. For me, you innovate as an organization based on three starting points. Or you feel that as a company you are stuck somewhere, or that you have a huge need for something, or a gigantic problem needs to be solved. In short, the need must be high. And yes, as a management, you can of course make sure that the pressure is high. ”

Creative minds are needed

If you want to innovate, you have to have a number of things in order. Ginjaar: “First and foremost, you need creative heads who will and dare to deviate from the right path. You notice if you have too few of those kinds of creatives on board when there is a management team that is not very diverse. If they all go for order and security, then you must be prepared to intervene. There are many methods to evaluate the management team, for example the DISC insight method. They often come from the work of Carl Gustav Jung. It is the Swiss psychiatrist and psychologist who is the founder of analytical psychology. You need a diverse management team because it must be able to be true. You should not find that grinding scary, for it leads to the next steps in innovation. Innovation always hurts a little, because as an organization you have to change. ”

“Employees can take courage if they are allowed to innovate.”

Want to make it a little better every day

Ginjaar also mentions corporate culture. “If the culture does not have to make it a little better every day, and if the employees think it’s cool to try new things, then it does not work. Employees can take courage if they are allowed to innovate. It also gives the feeling of belonging to a front runner. If culture points to ‘keep everything as it was’, it gets in the way of the creative. “

Not that there was an innovation policy at Postillion Hotels when Ginjaar took office. “No, but we had a huge problem that we wanted to solve. In 2017, we were supposed to have profits for the first time, but it went wrong just before the port. The owner’s CFO heard this and demanded from us that in 2018 nothing would stand in the way of actually making a profit. He was done with it and called for austerity. Almost at the same time, we had more and more problems in the reservation departments, where we had to handle 10,000 emails a month. The natural reflex is then to hire new employees, which would increase costs, but that was not possible. That’s why we came up with the idea of ​​an automated booking manager. ”

Robots do not enter

No matter how innovative Ginjaar is, robots do not come to him. “I know there are countless robots being used in the hotel industry, but I think it is the bankruptcy of hospitality. You must experience that hospitality from person to person. Here, personal contact is important. That is not to say that I do not embrace automation. On the contrary. This allows you to free up staff for hospitable tasks at the front. This really helps guests.

Virtual booking agent

His name is Michael. It’s Ginjaar’s digital colleague. The virtual, interactive booking assistant. “Innovation occurs when you have a business challenge, and for us it was with quick, flawless booking confirmations. After a five-day Google Business Sprint, a problem became a solution. And that solution is called Michiel. The use of technology ensures that we can work more hospitably than before. ” Michael’s artificial intelligence assesses the email, sees if it can automatically handle a query, possibly books directly into Postillion Hotel’s systems and sends the customer a booking confirmation. “We developed the software internally at Postillion Hotels, but at one point we put it out because we saw potential in the market.” In September 2021, Postillion therefore handed it over to startup Please ask m, which now offers the software to more customers. Co-creator Mark Struik has also been CEO of Please ask m since 2022.

chores

“The solution came because we wanted to have more time for what people are best at,” Ginjaar explains. “Namely, to provide hospitality in contact with our customers. Let the computer handle the tasks. I have learned a lot from technicians. They explained to me that in principle, everything contained in spreadsheets can be automated. If possible, then there are many more options. For example, in the administrative department. ” Remember that these opportunities require a solid business case. “Because the CFO is watching.”

“You definitely need product owners.”

Ginjaar, for example, also started working with voice-controlled hotel rooms. 252 rooms in Postillion Hotel Amsterdam to be exact. “I believe that we as a hotel chain must do things a little differently and therefore must constantly look for ways to do it. It’s in our DNA. Then you keep inventing new things, such as the voice-controlled hotel rooms. If you want to order a hamburger with a Heineken as room service or a taxi, you can now tell the voice assistant. We have recently changed supplier. From Harman, part of Samsung, to Woohoo. We can now also arrange that room service. ”

Erik-Jan Ginjaar: “The use of technology ensures that we can work more hospitably than before.” Photo: Ton Kastermans Photography

More bumps than expected

What did Postillion Hotels encounter in this type of innovation project? “An innovation always takes longer than you thought, you encounter more bumps than expected and it is also more expensive than at its starting point. Just see it as a fact. Skeptics are quick to declare the project bankrupt. That’s not a problem, because skeptics should be there too. They just should not get taken over. To avoid that effect, explain in detail why we choose this path. What will this bring us? I noticed even after three months of initial excitement for the virtual booking agent that sjeu went out. It is precisely then that it is important to regain energy and necessity. We definitely need that. “

Appoint product owners

Ginjaar simply calls the lack of appointment of product owners a mistake. “It is an expression from the world of ICT and technicians. A product owner is a translator between the company and the IT technicians. Because they speak Chinese, so to speak, and we speak German. We thought we did not need it. We would take on that role ourselves. It was a mistake. In this case, cheap was expensive for us. We could have saved a ton on the project because, for example, we had written software that was not useful in our business case or ultimately did not belong in it. In short, you definitely need the translators called product owners. “

be sharp

Eventually, the conversation ends on an app for the employees. “To be honest, I would not describe it as innovation in the first place. We have developed a Postillion Hotel app where employees can view their schedule, view payslips, but also follow e-learning courses. From the e-learning platform GoodHabitz, but also own videos. For example, on how to make a good cappuccino. This is also due to the fact that employees often do not stand on the benches to follow physical training sessions. This is more accessible. Why do I think this is less of an innovation? I already see this as a hygiene factor if you want to be an employer. Just as public, easily accessible Wi-Fi in a hotel room is no longer special. Which brings me to another lesson. As a day-to-day manager, I always have to assess what a hygiene factor is and where I need to take the next step in innovation. Every now and then I have to trigger the emergency. It requires that I keep an eye on developments, also in technology. ”

About Erik-Jan Ginjaar

Erik-Jan Ginjaar, general manager of Postillion Hotels Holland, graduated at the age of 22 from Hogere Hotelschool in Maastricht. After a long career in the hotel industry, where he held virtually all positions, he started in 2012 as General Manager of the Postillion Hotel Utrecht Bunnik. In 2014, he grew to become Regional Director West and since February 2017, he can call himself General Manager of Postillion Hotels Holland.

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