Organization Building Lessons: Why Hotel Taj employees braved bullets during 26.11 attack?

Heavy smoke from Taj Mahal Hotel on 26 11 2008
Smoke from Taj Mahal Hotel on 26 11 2008

On the 26th of November 2008, a group of terrorists struck a dozen targets in Mumbai, India including the iconic, 103-year old Taj Palace Hotel. The siege at the hotel lasted two days and three nights and was covered extensively by international media. But there is an amazing, inspirational back story about the heroic actions of the Taj staff couched in the culture of the Taj Hotels company.
What can the staff, who saved lives while endangering their own, teach American companies about ethical behavior?
500 registered guests
600 guests in the banquets.
600 employees.
Out of 1700 people, 1600 escaped the terrorists attack.
34 died. Half of them were staff members.
The hotel staff could have run away easily. They could have easily fled.
But they didn’t. They stay put and all just had one goal:

Get the guests to safety.

There were no manuals, no literature to prepare them with a situation like this. No manuals to get them to act like a team. Plus, they were too young (the banquet manager was only 24 years old) to handle a situation like this.
What explains the heroic behavior of these staff members?
How can you build an organization like this?
Here is what Tatas have been doing for many years:
Recruitment: Most of their first line staff come from small towns like haldia, nasik etc. They recruit for attitude and not grades.
During recruitment, they just ask colleges:

Who are the students who have most respect for teachers?

Role/Responsibilities: They call front line employees as guest ambassadors.
What about the incentive system? Not just monetary, they reward people with personal recognition.

When a guest appreciates an employee, the recognition is done within 48 hours (and not till Diwali).

Building a customer centric business mandates one to rethink the relationship between an employer and employee.
Watch this wonderful video on organizational lessons one can learn.

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