The Pandemic Crushed Her Risk Management Team and Closed Hotels. That Didn’t Stop the Hyatt Group’s Jennifer Pack
Jennifer Pack, vice president of risk management for Hyatt Hotels Corporation, has had her fair share of challenges in the last two years.
In its initial wave, the COVID-19 pandemic left the Hyatt Hotels Corporation not only shifting to a declining revenue environment, but a declining risk management staff as well. In April of 2021, Hyatt’s team dwindled from a 24-person machine to a mere eight, working in an environment where new risk exposures were expanding.
Additionally, normal hurdles still presented themselves, and with the effects of the pandemic, Hyatt’s risk management employees were in uncharted territory. But, with Pack leading the way, the team knew they were in good hands.
When the pandemic forced American society into immediate shutdown, Pack worked quickly to shut down hotels, putting employees on furlough, and maintaining asset safety on the respected properties. Hyatt’s occupancy plummeted from 80% to a mere 7% very quickly. Pack had to determine how to not only prove that Hyatt’s locations were safe for guests, but on how to mitigate possible COVID-19 exposure.
She said, “We wanted to encourage people to travel and still stay at hotels, so we had to ask ourselves, ‘how do we show and prove to the world we are a safe place?’”
For Pack, that meant enlisting the help of several outside sources, including disease experts, insurance companies, and epidemiologists from the Cleveland Clinic.
“We needed to make sure that every hotel had a robust program: Putting a hygiene and wellbeing leader in every hotel who knew the laws, rules, and regulations in their jurisdiction and making sure everybody is trained on proper protocols,” she said.
As mentioned before, Pack also had to restructure how her risk management team would operate with a significantly decreased amount of manpower.
Pack recalled how few people Hyatt’s risk management team actually consisted of during that time: “There were no associate VPs, no directors, no senior managers. I [had] five managers, some of which were brand new, and one senior analyst.”
To configure the team, Pack reworked its structure, leaning on technology and analytics, to determine a clean, successful function.
“We [always thought on] what we needed to focus on, without getting absolutely crushed,” she said. Prioritization was key.
Amid these challenges, Pack also spearheaded the implementation of a workers’ comp closure initiative for Hyatt.
The program reduced workers’ compensation risk by $5.5 million from October of 2020, and “is currently trending $2.4 million below expected incurred,” per Pack’s Risk All Star application. &
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