DialogStory #9 - Alfons Weiß

Posted by:
Antonia Quell
July 31, 2023

Busy with his hands, visionary in his mind, and heartfelt towards people

this is how Alfons Weiß leads the Bayerwaldhof Hotel in the Bavarian Forest. Successfully managing a full house all year round without relying on booking portals is just the beginning. The team's most impressive feats, however, take place behind the scenes.

Alfons describes working at the Bayerwaldhof like online dating—it's even better than the pictures suggest. He started his career in hospitality at 15 and has led the hotel for six years. Alfons left the Bavarian Forest at 15 to explore the world in this beautiful industry, which has brought as much astonishment as laughter.

A proud farmer's boy, his family ran one of the first certified organic farms in the 90s—a time when organic and animal welfare were not widely appreciated. "The big luxury hotels in Munich bought our bulls, which meant frequent trips to the capital," Alfons recalls with a grin.

In Munich, Alfons' father introduced him to a hotel's head chef, who offered him a job. Hesitant, young Alfons responded, "I don't want to be in the kitchen; I want to be out there," pointing to the bustling hotel entrance. There was a long silence, and Alfons remembers thinking his father must have been shocked, but the bold move paid off, marking a crucial thirty seconds of courage.

The beginning of a journey that took Alfons back to his homeland and the Bayerwaldhof at the age of 30. One might think that the 10,500 square meter wellness area, the gym, the culinary delights of its own Michelin-starred restaurant, or even the stud farm are the highlights of the Bayerwaldhof Hotel. However, a look behind the scenes of this traditional wellness hotel reveals it is just as intriguing.

What might be termed 'New Work' in the trendy Prenzlauer Berg is already standard practice at the Bayerwaldhof. Alfons Weiß knows a few tricks that make him a best practice leader in personnel management. "We are constantly working on a tailored personnel policy. Our establishment clearly tries to meet the individual needs of its employees. Just because one works 32 hours a week doesn't mean everyone has to do the same. This might sound trivial, but it's not the norm everywhere."

In addition to improved scheduling flexibility, Alfons scores with a health management concept for his team. "We offer four to five different courses in our gym each week, from Zumba and yoga to personal fitness training. Our employee app features tools that promote relaxation and resilience," continues the hotel director. Additionally, employees receive subsidies for alternative treatments and massages, and have the opportunity for performance-based bonuses at the end of the year.

"Our establishment clearly tries to address the individual needs of its employees. Just because one person works 32 hours a week doesn't mean everyone has to do the same."

"I believe we have a very people-oriented way of working," says Alfons. He emphasizes generosity, honesty, and clear communication. "Of course, there are moments and phases in such a large establishment where you just have to function. I definitely try to lead empathetically, to lead in a way that makes everyone involved feel good and to make compromises for the good of the house." A prime example of the unconventional and infectious ideas at the Bayerwaldhof is the role reversal in the application process. Those who apply for a job with Alfons Weiß are likely to be surprised. "We present the prospects with a folder and say: We would also like to apply to you." The applicants can see an individual career plan in the folder. "It brings a very positive drive psychologically. It reduces nervousness," explains Alfons.

He seems to have internalized that the world of work has been ascribed new significance today. "We hoteliers have always been experts at walking through the house with open eyes, looking for what can be improved for the guest. The big difference now at the Bayerwaldhof is: We take the same look through the back office and see what we can do well for the employees or prospective employees. If there is a website for our guests, why shouldn't there be one for our candidates? If there's a guest cocktail, why isn't there an employee cocktail? If guests like going to the gym, why shouldn't the staff?"

The employees of the Bayerwaldhof doing yoga.
"We hoteliers have always been experts at walking through the house with open eyes, looking for ways to improve things for the guest. The big difference now at the Bayerwaldhof is: we look through the back office with the same discerning eye, considering what we can do well for the employees or future employees."

"In this context, I can only recommend not just displaying the USP and the added value for the guest on the website. But also to consider what the USPs are when it comes to the race for talents. What are the benefits, what makes the hotel an attractive employer?" Similar modern attitudes apply to digitization, according to the self-proclaimed (!) country boy. In Alfons's view, you shouldn't overwhelm guests and staff. "Digitization needs to be managed sustainably. We always do this very clearly with the factor of communication and learning by doing."

If you visit the Bayerwaldhof as a guest, you might even have the pleasure of meeting Alfons Weiß personally. "We talk a lot with the guests. Every morning I make guest rounds, and twice a week in the evenings. We also have two cocktail events a week, where we invite guests for personal conversations. Not just me, but also the department heads. If there's something new, we explain it. We simply try to refocus our work primarily on the guest and nothing else."

The Bayerwaldhof's DialogShift chatbot, Bot Sepp, also stands out. On average, Sepp answers about 4,000 inquiries per month. Particularly clever: The hotel's staff also use the chatbot via the team's app. Chatbot Sepp is already working with our new AI and thus belongs to the #nextGenBots based on the most advanced technology. Try chatting with Sepp yourself! He's really nice.

When new digital processes are established in the hotel, the staff are given ample time to get used to the changes, according to the hotel director. He recalls the introduction of a tool for internal communication. "We invited employees monthly to a sort of staff cocktail with pizza or hot dogs and explained the system in a relaxed setting, with all its advantages and challenges - learning by doing."

We don't know about you, but for us, it sounds like you're not only well taken care of as a guest at the Bayerwaldhof Hotel.

When asked about his future goals, Alfons says something wonderfully predictable, fitting for such an authentic and inspiring hotel director: "The Bayerwaldhof and I want to continue to be industrious with our hands, grounded with our feet, visionary with our heads, and heartfelt with our people."

Thank you, dear Alfons, for the wonderful conversation! 💙

About the Bayerwaldhof Hotel:

This little paradise in the countryside, known as the Bayerwaldhof, attracts many satisfied regular guests to the Bavarian Forest all year round - all without the aid of booking portals. The warmth and dedication of the 214-member team are exemplary. The host is the Mühlbauer family, who invite guests to an unforgettable, regional holiday against a breathtaking mountain backdrop around Bad Kötzig.