Caring culture fosters loyalty

by Veronica Fung

Sandra Ng, director of human resources
JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong
Photo: Edde Ngan

Hotel's nurturing values cultivate happy staff and satisfied guests

The hotel industry is primarily a service-oriented business, but JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong believes that serving its staff is as important as looking after its guests.

The hotel's "people philosophy" encourages managers to take care of employees. The rationale is that happy staff will in turn provide guests with the best service.

The hotel's corporate values focus strongly on serving associates, customers and the community. "The desire to serve comes from the heart. It had to be sincere," says Sandra Ng, director of human resources, JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong.

Often, it is the small, caring gestures from staff that touch guests most, Ms Ng points out. This is reflected in the many letters of appreciation received by the hotel.

The message is simple, she says. Take care of your staff and then they will take care of your guests. Employees at JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong are referred to as "associates" and, according to Ms Ng, it is not uncommon for staff members to cancel leave days to stand in for colleagues who are ill.

Sense of commitment

Marriott International's "spirit to serve" corporate culture is based on caring, honesty, integrity, respect, trust and fairness. "It's not just paying lip service. These qualities are translated into actions and illustrated through stories published in our daily in-house newsletter Spirit to serve," Ms Ng emphasises.

The newsletter, providing snappy updates on the hotel's daily affairs, aims to help foster the culture of caring among its 800 associates by encouraging them to acknowledge the achievements and experiences of other staff members. Associates are also encouraged to nominate worthy colleagues for the hotel's Griffin Gotcha Award. Winners receive rewards points to redeem gifts.

JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong is also keenly aware of its responsibilities in terms of staff members' careers. In order to empower associates with the necessary skills and knowledge to work independently, the hotel offers a number of goal-oriented training and development programmes at all staff levels. These range from its three-day orientation programme to skills certification and management initiatives, as well as daily 15-minute training briefings.

Another Marriott priority is to provide a distinct working environment. This includes a balanced five-day week, departmental budgets with specific rewards programmes, monthly outings and ad hoc fun activities.

The hotel believes in looking after staff even when times are tough. "Even during the financial crisis, we didn't make anyone redundant," says Ms Ng. "Training and staff benefits remained unchanged, but everyone worked together to cut down on departmental spending. We survive hard times by looking into ways of increasing income instead of axing staff."

The spirit to serve extends beyond the hotel to the community. One example is the hotel's partnership with Hong Chi Association, a non-profit organisation for the mentally handicapped, to train room attendants ultimately working for JW Marriott and other hotels. In another programme, JW Marriott chefs train Hong Chi students to bake for fundraising events.

Fostering long-term loyalty

Staff turnover at JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong is 50 per cent below the industry average. "Former associates keep returning to the hotel. This is partly the result of the strong relationships between associates," Ms Ng remarks.

The hotel encourages associates to make decisions and a well-established operations system ensures strong interdepartmental support. "Of course we offer competitive salaries and benefits, but it is important that our service comes from the heart," she stresses.

In spite of the low staff turnover, the hotel offers plenty of opportunities for promotion. "Apart from JW Marriott Hotel, our group also includes the Courtyard by Marriott, two Renaissance hotels and Hong Kong SkyCity Marriott Hotel. Associates can also choose to work at our many overseas properties. Current popular choices include the Marriott hotels in Beijing and Shanghai," Ms Ng adds.


Taken from Career Times 25 April 2008
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