Safety Innovation Video Series: Health and Safety Management at scale


Safety Innovation Video Series: Health and Safety Management at scale

Posted on 30 May 2024

​In this latest Safety Innovation video, we speak with Callum Irvine, Vice President of Global Safety and Security for IHG. We discuss how safety management differs when working at scale, the opportunities it presents, and how technology brings these opportunities to life.

My name's Callum Irvine. I'm the Vice President of Global Safety and Security for IHG. We are a global hotel business. We've got 6,000 hotels across a hundred different countries.

Is the substance of safety management different when working at scale?

So, I think when you're working at a scale similar to IHG’s, that the substance of safety management is substantially the same. We're trying to keep people safe and exercise our duty of care. What does tend to be quite different though is the sheer length of stakeholders that are involved in achieving that outcome. And, because there are so many different parties that come together to help us secure a safe outcome for our guests, it means that your level of control and influence, etc varies dramatically versus if you were just running, for example, a single hotel.

What opportunities does this scale present for health and safety?

With those complications, it does create some challenge because it means that we can't see with perfect vision all four corners of our business. But there are a number of macro factors that we can lean into that help make sure that we're operating safely. And so, for example, our owners who have invested millions of dollars in developing these hotel assets, they are inherently interested in protecting their investments, including making sure that the hotel continues to stay open, deliver a safe experience for guests that drive future footfall, etc. There are the local regulatory regimes that are present in all of the countries where we have an IHG branded hotel as well. And so, there's a number of these external macro factors that helps contribute to a safe outcome.

And the other thing for me is working at a scale for the likes of IHG is there's such a sheer volume of data and if we think about the type of data our guests give back to us about their experiences, that can be a really rich mine of information as well for us.

How does technology bring these opportunities to life?

We've got some tooling that allows us to ingest written guest feedback from our own platforms, as well as third party platforms, and analyse that data. And broadly what that tooling does is take reviews left from millions and millions of guest nights and guest feedback and sorts it by topic, so it could be safety, security, etc. And this also helps us understand the sentiment of the feedback being left. Was it a positive comment? Was it a negative comment? etc. And whilst we can't rely on that information alone as being a good form of assurance, what it is, is a really great signal in terms of whether the efforts that we're investing in safety and security are translating into a perceived sense of safety and security for our guests.

One example where we've used this technology to provide insight is our owners understandably ask us whether it's still worthwhile in today's modern world where we've got various wireless devices to be providing phones within guest rooms. And our baseline has always been, as is the same for our peers, that yes, we want to provide phones within guest rooms in case of medical emergency, etc. And so, where we've been able to use this particular piece of technology is to throw that as a query into all of this guest feedback and understand are guests talking about the presence of the phone within their room and is that in a positive or negative sentiment? And then combine that with information we've got from incident reports where incidents have happened in guest rooms. And again, we're seeing if guests are using that wired phone to call down to reception or not. And so, using insight from across those couple of different platforms means that we can have a really constructive conversation with our owners about whether the investment in that particular piece of technology within a phone, within a guest room is worthwhile or not.

What are the future uses for technology?

And so, for us, we think that could be some great future uses for that kind of technology. Where for a typical hotel in Dubai, for example, I was speaking to one of our team over there who says each year they get audited or inspected about 15 to 20 times per year by various third parties and regulatory bodies. And at the minute a lot of those reports end up in the top drawer of the filing cabinet. But if we were able to ingest those records and apply the same natural language processing and sentiment analysis to them, that could be really powerful for us, particularly if we scale that across more than 6,000 properties.

What advice would you give to others looking to utilise data to drive safety performance?

I think, so for anyone else who was about to start exploring how they can make the most of data within their business, for me, I think one of the key things would be figure out what's already available in terms of data rather than trying to create something standalone for safety. That's certainly the case for organisations like ours where guest feedback data, for example, is so important, it's already an area that's got lots of investment in order to capitalise on it. And so, how can we piggyback on that rather than trying to start rowing our own boats. So, I think that's really important.

And then I think the second thing that comes to mind for me is to treat that data when you're using it at scale as being a really useful signal rather than a kind of cast iron form of assurance. And if you frame it in that way, for me I think it gives you a little bit more freedom to be inventive as to how you might use that data in practise.

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