Praveen Kanyadi serves as Cofounder and VP Products at Groupe.io, a productivity platform that delivers real-time communication, automation and specialized apps for frontline workers in the hotel sector and in multiple other industries, as well. Praveen is well versed in enterprise communication and mobility and holds a patent in this space. He has a deep understanding of the productivity and communication challenges faced by hotels and other organizations with frontline employees. In his current role, he has helped organizations across the globe improve operational efficiency through direct communication with frontline workforce and automation.
How did you end up in the enterprise communication and productivity space?
Prior to Groupe.io, I led product management for social platforms at Yahoo. My focus was around user generated content such as comments, polls, message boards, etc. on Yahoo sites. This experience made me realize the power of social media and communication. During this time, I met our CEO Vijay Pullur who had just sold his company Qontext, to Autodesk. Qontext was one of the leading enterprise collaboration platforms. Vijay had a very deep understanding of enterprise collaboration space and he realized that these enterprise collaboration platforms were limited to desk-based employees, corporate workers and there was a massive segment of users that were not addressed by the current technology available in the market.
What has surprised you most about the space?
There are plenty of workplace communication and productivity tools out in the market, yet there are substantially fewer communication tools designed specifically to make the lives of frontline workers easier. Communication & productivity are gaining a lot of focus especially after COVID-19, yet large companies continue to focus on desk-based employees. Salesforce’s nearly $30 billion acquisition of Slack in December 2020, for example will only widen the gap between desk based and frontline employees.
Groupe.io serves many hotels. Why do hoteliers need a solution like this for their employees?
In the past few years, we have seen communication platforms becoming the central hub for all of the daily needs of employees. There has been a lot of focus around integrations with tools that employees use every day. There has been a lot of innovation around AI & machine learning in the form of chat bots, auto responses, recommendations, smart search, etc. to improve productivity. The biggest challenge has been to make these technologies work for non-desk workers in a meaningful way. The integrations, user experience & automation needs of employees in the hospitality industry are very different and hence there is a still a huge gap that has not been addressed yet.
Groupe.io has been helping hotels connect and engage their frontline workforce for several years now. Hotels that have deployed our solution have seen significant reduction in employee churn and higher motivation levels.
Most hospitality properties share similar challenges – they have a large number of non-desk employees like housekeepers, maintenance workers, on-premise waiters/waitresses and more who don’t have access to a computer during their shift, or to corporate emails. These employees are always on-the-go, which makes it especially difficult to communicate via traditional communication channels. We’ve also seen some hotels communicate with their staff through physical message boards, which, in today’s world, is a less than ideal channel to get in touch with people. It’s outdated – it leaves employees feeling disconnected, like they’ve been left out in the cold. And for younger employees who rely on mobile apps for engaging with others, it causes the company to be perceived as “out of touch.”
What we do is help hotel leaders share company information with employees in real-time. Employees, from general staff to managers and department heads, can quickly find co-workers and connect with them via chat. They can do anything from sharing updates on company policies to assigning tasks to employees on-the-go and making it easy for them to update the status of their task, without requiring access to a computer, and track that status in real-time. Properties have used our solution to set up COVID checks and protocols for employees, and share any safety-related announcements.
From an operational perspective, we have helped hotels automate their paper-based checklists and helped digitize their operations through digital work orders, log books etc. This has resulted in significant savings in operational cost, reduced manual errors and significant increase in compliance. Our solution also provides out of box integration with some of the popular systems used in the hospitality industry.
What are some trends we are likely to see as the hospitality industry continues to adapt and reinvent itself? What are some of your predictions?
COVID has been a catalyst for a lot of hotels to adopt technology to connect with their frontline workforce, particularly on the cashless front. We are now also beginning to see that frontline communication is central to organizational preparedness and business continuity. Adopting workflow automation technologies has also paved the way for hotels to digitize their paper-based processes. In the coming years, there will be a lot of emphasis in digitizing routine tasks performed by frontline employees to improve productivity. Digitization will significantly help in other areas such as onboarding, training etc.
How can hoteliers ensure their staff, especially their front-line workers, feel included and empowered as the hospitality industry starts to rise back up?
Now more than ever, communication is essential. At the heart of these issues is better access to information, co-workers as well as management, which can help reduce turnover among employees. In order to succeed, hospitality properties need platforms that serve as a central hub for accessing information in one place, in real-time. Connecting employees to the resources they need when they have questions, or need to see updated schedules or next steps on reopening, is key. They need a channel where they can provide tangible, honest feedback, and be heard in return. And they need the right infrastructure such as desks, laptops, mobile devices, and reliable internet connectivity to ensure they are productive and collaborating effectively.