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The Dangers of Rewarding the Wrong KPIs in Hotel Companies

11 June 2024
Rewarding employees based on inappropriate KPIs can have severe repercussions. Not only can it lead to significant financial losses, but it can also create internal conflicts and operational inefficiencies. When KPIs are misaligned with the organization's overall goals, the very metrics intended to drive success can instead pave the way for failure.
This blog post highlights the importance of selecting the right KPIs for employee rewards in the hospitality industry. By examining the potential pitfalls of misaligned KPIs and offering strategies for effective KPI management, we hope to guide hotel managers and stakeholders toward practices that enhance performance and sustain long-term success.

Understanding KPIs

Purpose of KPIs

The primary purpose of using KPIs is to drive improved performance, accountability, and goal alignment. Focusing on specific, measurable indicators and KPIs helps hotel managers and staff understand how well they are meeting their objectives and where they need to improve. Key purposes include:
  • Improved Performance: KPIs provide clear targets and benchmarks that motivate employees to achieve higher performance standards. They highlight areas of success and pinpoint where improvements are needed, fostering a culture of continuous improvement.
  • Accountability: KPIs create a sense of responsibility by clearly defining success for different roles and departments. When employees know how their company measures performance, they are more likely to take ownership of their responsibilities and strive to meet or exceed expectations.
  • Goal Alignment: Well-chosen KPIs ensure that individual and departmental goals align with the hotel's strategic objectives. This alignment helps ensure that everyone is working towards the same end goals, which can enhance coordination and collaboration across the organization.
By understanding and effectively implementing KPIs, hotel managers can create a robust framework for driving success, ensuring that every team member contributes to the hotel's overall performance and growth.

The Pitfalls of Misaligned KPIs

A typical incentive that backfires

Consider a mid-sized hotel chain that implemented a new incentive program to boost room occupancy during the off-peak season. The management rewarded the sales team based solely on the number of rooms booked, regardless of the rates or the guest profile. Initially, this strategy appeared successful as occupancy rates surged. However, the booking surge included many low-revenue guests attracted by heavy discounts and promotions. Despite high occupancy, the hotel struggled to cover operational costs, and guest complaints increased due to overburdened staff and reduced service quality.

Financial Consequences

The financial ramifications of rewarding the wrong KPIs can be severe. In the case study, while the occupancy rate increased, the hotel's average daily rate (ADR) and revenue per available room (RevPAR) declined, significantly dropping overall revenue. The focus on quantity over quality meant the hotel filled the rooms with low-paying guests, and the operational costs outweighed the revenue generated. This misalignment between occupancy and profitability ultimately resulted in financial losses.
For instance, rewarding employees purely on occupancy might lead them to offer deep discounts to attract more guests, filling rooms but reducing profit margins. Too much focus on occupancy can erode the hotel's brand value, as guests accustomed to discounts may not return at higher rates, making it challenging to sustain revenue growth.

Operational Inefficiencies

Misaligned KPIs can also introduce operational inefficiencies. For example, if the front desk staff are rewarded based on the speed of check-ins, they might rush the process, leading to errors and a lack of personalized service. Quick check-ins might reduce wait times but can leave guests feeling unwelcomed and undervalued. Mechanical processes without a human touch diminish the guest experience and can result in increased complaints and lower satisfaction scores.
In another scenario, housekeeping might be incentivized based on the number of rooms cleaned rather than cleanliness quality. Rewarding the fastest could lead to superficial cleaning, affecting the overall guest experience and potentially leading to negative reviews and lower repeat business.

Internal Conflicts

Misaligned KPIs can create significant internal conflicts between departments. For example, suppose the sales team pushes for high occupancy without considering the impact on operations. In that case, it can lead to friction with the front office and housekeeping staff, who must handle the increased load. The operational team may struggle to maintain service standards with more guests, leading to burnout and decreased morale.
A typical conflict scenario could involve the sales department filling the hotel with low-revenue bookings to meet their targets. At the same time, the operations team struggles to deliver high-quality service with limited resources. This misalignment can cause resentment among staff, reduce cooperation, and ultimately impact the overall guest experience.
In conclusion, while KPIs are essential for driving performance and achieving strategic goals, misaligned KPIs can lead to financial losses, operational inefficiencies, and internal conflicts. Hotel management must ensure that KPIs are relevant, measurable, and aligned with the overall objectives of profitability, efficiency, and guest satisfaction. By doing so, hotels can create a more harmonious and productive work environment that supports long-term success.

Identifying the Right KPIs

Criteria for Effective KPIs

Effective KPIs are essential for accurately measuring and driving performance in the hospitality industry. Here are the critical criteria that make a good KPI:
  • Relevance: A KPI must be directly related to the organization's goals and objectives. It should reflect the critical success factors most important to the hotel's overall strategy.
  • Measurability: A KPI must be quantifiable, allowing for precise tracking and analysis. The hotel should gather concrete data to objectively measure performance and avoid ambiguity.
  • Achievability: A good KPI should set realistic targets that are attainable with the available resources and capabilities. Setting overly ambitious or unachievable goals can demotivate employees and lead to frustration.
  • Alignment with Organizational Goals: KPIs should align with the hotel's strategic objectives. They must support and drive the organization's mission and vision, ensuring that all efforts contribute to the same goals.

Three KPIs to drive performance

Guest Satisfaction Score (GSS) as a KPI

An overall KPI that can effectively align all departments toward a common goal in the hospitality industry is the Guest Satisfaction Score (GSS). This metric serves as a comprehensive measure that encapsulates various aspects of hotel performance, directly reflecting the collective efforts of all departments.

Why Guest Satisfaction Score (GSS)?

  1. Holistic Measure of Performance: GSS captures the overall guest experience, which is influenced by every department—from reservations and front desk to housekeeping, food and beverage, and maintenance.
  2. Reflects Service Quality: High guest satisfaction scores indicate that the hotel delivers high-quality service across all touchpoints, ensuring that guests' needs and expectations are met or exceeded.
  3. Drives Revenue and Loyalty: Satisfied guests are likelier to return and recommend the hotel to others. This drives repeat business and positive word-of-mouth and enhances revenue through increased occupancy and higher rates.
  4. Encourages Collaboration: Since guest satisfaction is a shared responsibility, focusing on this KPI promotes collaboration and teamwork among departments, ensuring that everyone works towards enhancing the guest experience.
  5. Adaptable and Scalable: GSS can be adapted to various contexts and scales, making it relevant for different types and sizes of hotels. It can be measured through surveys, feedback forms, and online reviews, providing a consistent and reliable metric.

Flowthrough as a KPI

Flowthrough is an excellent additional KPI to focus on profit, complementing the Guest Satisfaction Score (GSS). Flowthrough measures the percentage of incremental revenue that flows through to the bottom line as profit, directly linking operational efficiency and profitability.

Why Flowthrough?

  1. Direct Profit Measure: Flowthrough measures how effectively the hotel converts additional revenue into profit. It highlights the relationship between revenue growth and cost control.
  2. Operational Efficiency: By focusing on flowthrough, hotels can identify and improve operational efficiencies to enhance profitability. Understanding flowthrough encourages departments to increase revenue and manage costs effectively.
  3. Alignment with Financial Goals: Flowthrough aligns with the hotel's financial objectives, ensuring that efforts to boost revenue do not lead to disproportionate increases in expenses and thus maintaining healthy profit margins.
  4. Balanced Approach: When used alongside GSS, flowthrough ensures a balanced performance management approach, addressing guest satisfaction and financial health.

NetRevPAR as a KPI

Net Revenue per Available Room (NetRevPAR) is an essential KPI for the commercial team, focusing on the revenue quality and pricing strategies that enhance overall profitability. It directly ties revenue generation with operational efficiency and financial health, making it a crucial metric for aligning commercial and operational goals.

Why NetRevPAR?

  1. Revenue Quality: NetRevPAR considers the occupancy rates and the net revenue generated per available room after accounting for discounts, commissions, and other costs associated with customer acquisition. NetRevPAR is a more accurate measure of revenue quality.
  2. Profitability Focus: By focusing on net revenue, NetRevPAR ensures that efforts to increase occupancy do not come at the cost of profitability. It encourages strategic pricing and revenue management practices.
  3. Alignment with Financial Goals: NetRevPAR directly supports financial KPIs like Flowthrough, ensuring increased revenue contributes to higher profitability. This alignment ensures that all departments work towards common financial objectives.
  4. Balanced Approach: NetRevPAR balances the need for high occupancy with the need for profitability, ensuring that the hotel's revenue strategies are sustainable and profitable.

Implementing Effective KPI Strategies

Setting SMART Goals

Effective KPI implementation begins with setting SMART goals—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. This framework ensures that KPIs are clear, realistic, and aligned with the hotel's strategic objectives.

Regular Review and Adjustment

KPIs should not be static; they require regular review and adjustment to remain effective. Reviewing KPIs involves:
  • Periodic Assessments: Conduct quarterly or bi-annual reviews to assess the relevance and performance of KPIs. Determine if the hotel meets the goals and if they still align with the hotel's strategic direction.
  • Feedback Integration: Incorporate feedback from staff, guests, and performance data. Adjust KPIs based on insights from these sources to address any emerging issues or opportunities.
  • Adaptation to Changes: Be flexible and ready to adjust KPIs in response to market conditions, competitive landscape, or internal operations changes. For example, during an economic downturn, it might be necessary to revise revenue targets.
Regular reviews help identify trends, potential challenges, and areas for improvement, ensuring that KPIs remain relevant and practical.

Cross-Departmental Collaboration

Effective KPI strategies require alignment across different departments to avoid conflicts and promote synergy. Here are some strategies to achieve this:
  • Integrated Goal Setting: Involve representatives from all departments in the KPI-setting process to ensure that goals are aligned and mutually supportive. Collaboration between departments fosters a sense of ownership and commitment across the organization.
  • Clear Communication: Maintain open and transparent communication channels between departments. Regular meetings and updates can help synchronize efforts and address any issues.
  • Shared KPIs: Implement shared KPIs that require collaboration between departments. For instance, a KPI like "improve guest satisfaction scores by 5%" can involve the front office and housekeeping teams working together to enhance the guest experience.
  • Cross-Training: Encourage cross-training and inter-departmental projects to better understand each department's challenges and contributions. Insights into other departments promote a holistic view of the hotel's operations and enhance teamwork.
  • Conflict Resolution Mechanisms: Establish clear procedures for resolving conflicts arising from competing KPIs. Conflict resolution can include mediation by senior management or creating cross-functional teams to address specific issues.
By fostering cross-departmental collaboration, hotels can ensure that all teams work towards common objectives, enhancing overall performance and achieving strategic goals more effectively.
In summary, implementing effective KPI strategies involves setting SMART goals, regularly reviewing and adjusting KPIs, and fostering cross-departmental collaboration. These practices ensure that KPIs are relevant, attainable, and aligned with the hotel's broader objectives, leading to enhanced performance and sustained success.

Conclusion and Takeaways

Summary of Key Points

In the hospitality industry, aligning Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) with strategic goals is critical for achieving sustained success. Misaligned KPIs can lead to financial losses, operational inefficiencies, and internal conflicts. On the other hand, well-chosen KPIs drive improved performance, accountability, and synergy across departments.
Key Insights:
  • Misaligned KPIs can lead to financial losses, inefficiencies, and conflicts.
  • Aligned KPIs: Drive performance, accountability, and departmental synergy.
  • Guest Satisfaction Score (GSS): A holistic KPI that aligns all departments toward enhancing the guest experience.
  • Flowthrough: A profitability-focused KPI that ensures revenue growth translates into profit.
  • NetRevPAR: A KPI for the commercial team that links revenue generation with overall profitability and operational efficiency.

Call to Action

Hotel managers and stakeholders should critically assess their current KPIs and make necessary adjustments to ensure alignment with overall strategic goals. Assessing KPIs involves:
  1. Conducting Audits: Regularly auditing KPIs to assess their relevance and effectiveness.
  2. Incorporating Feedback: Gathering and incorporating feedback from staff and guests to refine KPIs.
  3. Setting SMART Goals: Ensuring all KPIs are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
  4. Promoting Collaboration: Aligning KPIs across departments to foster teamwork and avoid conflicts.
By focusing on these steps, hotels can enhance their operational performance, improve guest satisfaction, and achieve financial success.

Implementing Effective KPI Strategies

Guest Satisfaction Score (GSS)

Holistic Measure: Reflects the collective efforts of all departments, emphasizing the importance of delivering exceptional guest experiences.


Profitability Focus: Measures the percentage of incremental revenue that converts to profit, highlighting operational efficiency and cost control.


Commercial Team KPI: Net Revenue per Available Room (NetRevPAR) is a powerful KPI for the commercial team. It integrates revenue generation with overall profitability and operational efficiency. It encourages the commercial team to focus on revenue quality and pricing strategies that enhance profitability.
In summary, carefully selecting and managing KPIs are vital for achieving operational excellence and strategic goals. Hotels can ensure sustained growth, profitability, and guest satisfaction by aligning KPIs with organizational objectives and fostering cross-departmental collaboration.