CNI Hospitality Human Resource Roundtable Summary
“You Say Salt, They Hear Pepper”
Many of those present found that they faced similar challenges, which included senior management involvement, employee involvement, employee fatigue, challenges of carrying responsibility and the diversity of their employees in terms of demographics such as language, culture and skill sets.
Communication was the most discussed issue, with a good part of the discussion centred on methods of communication and how best to get key messages across to employees. It was widely agreed that over communication was a positive, in fact necessity rather than a negative. No one method of communication was satisfactory; different means were appropriate for different groups of employees. Town hall meetings, online messaging, wrap sessions, department meetings, committees, education of managers and supervisors were consistent methods for communicating with employees.
Direct communication was also deemed important. Fairmont hotel made the decision to communicate important issues to all of their employees through letters addressed personally, written in a language that is meaningful to the employees (English and Mandarin).
“Short, simple and clear messages” lead towards the most successful results, commented Mr. Regan Taikitsadaporn, Vice President of Human Resources for Marriot International.
Ms. Linda Scully, Corporate Director of Human Resources for Carlson Hotels, described their principal drivers of communications as “trust, the alignment of pride and ownership; and recognition, which can be rewarded in many ways more than simply money”. For example, recognition and learning came from TGIF afternoons once every month held with the General Manager of the hotel, who updates the employees on plans and happenings; similarly, the CEO does this at the corporate office.
Engagement surveys were still considered critical, despite the necessity to reduce costs within all the hotel groups.
Several of the hotels discussed the importance of engaging the unions and building a relationship with them, so that the unions took responsibility for critical communications along with the hotel. It was important to get unions working with the hotels, not against them. Ms. Evelyn Goh, Vice President of Talent Management for the Pan Pacific Hotels Group went so as far as to say that the unions “are an extension of the HR function”.
Most of the participants were inspired to come up with more novel ways of communication. For example, the Raffles Medical Group communicates with their staff doctors in person, and through communiqués posted in the Doctors Lounge, where the doctors are more receptive to corporate messages rather than by email or written communication.
On issues of recognition, a divide between ‘front of house’, ‘back of house’ and ‘middle of house’ is immediately apparent as the ‘front of house’ staff receive immediate recognition from customers, whereas the rest of the employees lack that affirmation . All the human resource principals present concurred that driving recognition through teams, across departments, was an important part of their function. A popular way of achieving this was by encouraging peer nominations where both the nominator and the nominated were recognised.
A notable way of engagement mentioned by one hotel group was that senior managers spent an hour every Friday with their immediate reports, during which they only discussed their intended career path and matters related to furthering the latter’s career, not projects or work related issues.
Today, investment in performers, those with high potential, is more important than putting effort into correcting poor or non-performance. Balancing telling high performers of their potential and how they would be groomed, while allowing them to learn and experience their tasks at hand was a key issue for all the hoteliers for retaining high performers. One hotel decided to risk putting high performers ahead of themselves. For instance, leaping the employee from a middle management role straight through to the General Manager role of the hotel. The hotel chose to work alongside the performers, coaching them and working through the issues as they happened. Apparently, this exercise has been tremendously successful.
The HR Roundtable was well received by the participants, who enjoyed a unique chance to discuss immediate issues with peers within an academic environment. CNI hosts industry Roundtables in order to bring senior managers and industry leaders from the hospitality industry face to face with the fourth intake of the Master of Management in Hospitality students, who commenced their course two weeks ago. The students were able to mingle and network with the executives over lunch and tea breaks, and listened into the afternoon sessions.
The students enjoyed the discussion on the “War for Talent”, after which Mr. Regan Taikitsadaporn, Ms. Evelyn Goh and Mr. Anand Rao, the Chief Talent Officer of the Six Senses Resorts & Spas, presented their ideas on career prospects in the hospitality industry to the students. The presenters spoke about issues and challenges and critical learning they gained while pursuing their own career paths. They also spoke about where they felt that most of the opportunities would arise in the Asian hospitality industry over the next few years.
The students were very excited to meet and hear from the calibre of human resource leaders so early in their program, and were enthusiastic about their prospects for the future.
About Cornell-Nanyang Institute of Hospitality Management | The Cornell-Nanyang Institute of Hospitality Management (CNI) is jointly operated and governed by Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and Nanyang Technological University’s Business School. Located in Singapore, CNI is strategically positioned to develop leaders, managers and entrepreneurs for the Asian hospitality and tourism industry. CNI offers three hospitality education programs designed to alleviate the severe shortage of qualified talent that is currently plaguing the hospitality industry in Asia and the Middle East.
Equivalent to an MBA, the one year Master of Management in Hospitality (MMH) program prepares students to be theory-based, action-oriented leaders of executive management teams and entrepreneurial ventures in the hospitality and service industry. CNI MMH students spend six months at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and six months at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, thus taking advantage of educational and networking opportunities in both Asia and North America in a single year.
The Professional Development Program (PDP) offers three-day courses that cover different aspects of hotel management. PDP teaches cutting-edge management techniques, presented by internationally recognized faculty members and industry leaders. Participants can earn Cornell certifications in Financial Management, Food, Beverage, and Restaurant Management, General and Strategic Management, Human-Resource Management, Marketing, Operations Management and Property-Asset Management and Real Estate. CNI has hosted over 1000 PDP participants from nearly 40 countries in the last two years. The PDP will be held from July 23 to August 5, 2009 in Singapore.
The General Managers Program (GMP) is designed for hotel general managers of full service hotels and their immediate successors. Participants in this 10-day program concentrate on strategic hospitality management issues, work collaboratively to expand the foundation of their knowledge, and produce new solutions to the challenges they face. GMP 2009 in Singapore will be offered from July 20-30, 2009.
Please visit the Cornell-Nanyang Institute of Hospitality Management website for more information.
Cornell-Nanyang Institute of Hospitality Management
Phone: +65 6790 5800