Hotel / Catering

Come in and have fun

by Charles Mak

Maurine Yeung
head of people development
Swire Hotels
Photo: Edde Ngan

Niche brand to define points of differentiation

Hong Kong's bustling hotel scene is set for a change this autumn, with a batch of new properties due to open for the world's leisure seekers and business travellers alike.

Joining the competition are two swanky new hotels, The Upper House and EAST, the first Swire Hotels properties in Hong Kong.

Swire Hotels opened its first branded hotel, The Opposite House, in Beijing last August during the Olympic Games. On the home front, The Upper House is scheduled to receive guests this October, three months ahead of EAST, a lifestyle business hotel.

Recruitment for The Upper House has come to a successful close. Maurine Yeung, head of people development at Swire Hotels, keeps her fingers crossed for EAST, as the first of eight straight rounds of recruitment activities commenced only a week ago.

"We could easily fill 200 positions, but what we look for is the right fit. So, we are not going to rush anything," she says.

Top drawers

In line with the Swire brand and the distinctive personalities of the two hotels, a team of external consultants were brought in to tailor a two-pronged recruitment mechanism. The first stage comprises a sophisticated automated applicants screening system that filters online applications, assesses personality questionnaire results and generate individual invitations to suitable applicants.

"For The Upper House, a total of 180 candidates were selected to proceeded to the second and last stage — a fun-packed interactive recruitment fair," Ms Yeung says. "Around 50 of them have now become my colleagues."

As for EAST, more than 200 candidates attended the recruitment fair, and approximately 80 of them will receive a favourable reply in about two weeks.

In lieu of a traditional interview process, the design of the fair put candidates' interpersonal skills in the spotlight. Candidates went through a series of activities and games to demonstrate their personality attributes and core competence like teamwork, sensitivity, spontaneity, creativity and problem solving skills.

Light refreshments were served during a short break where candidates were expected to "go and mingle" with others. During this time, the hotel's core (management) team identified specific, desired behavioural traits. The final decision to hire depended heavily on their observation, which they were able to confirm during a subsequent chat session with candidates. "The whole ambience was akin to that of a cocktail reception," Ms Yeung explains. "This helped to close the distance between candidates and the hotel management."

She points out that all these moved towards achieving one simple objective, which was to select candidates that are best suited to the job. "This also explains the significance of the core team's involvement," Ms Yeung adds.

Feel the difference

Launching two hotels simultaneously presents Ms Yeung manifold challenges, which she believes, will remain throughout the run-up to the grand opening. She stresses however that this has been a worthwhile and entirely new experience not only for the launch team, but also for new members of staff.

Prior to departmental training, all new recruits participate in a two-day orientation and familiarisation programme to learn the nuts and bolts of the hotel's operation, soaking up the Swire Hotels atmosphere at the same time.

Members of the core team kick off the orientation with a series of presentations in formats that they see fit. "One of these was a humorous documentary that followed a typical day of the sales manager," Ms Yeung recalls. "The purpose was to showcase Swire Hotels' brand and to channel key corporate messages to our new colleagues. We thought of doing it in a fun and interesting way."

Staff activities at The Upper House will go beyond the confines of basement walls. The hotel's "team dining room", for instance, is on a prominent location in the hotel building. "It is on the 37th floor," Ms Yeung says. "Not many companies would complement staff facility with a full-scale, million-dollar harbour view. We do, and we do it quite literally on top of everything."

With a view to heighten brand awareness among staff, a one-day "oxygen experience" is arranged for them some time during the training period. Aside from games, participating staff fall into film crews and produce short films that will be showcased on the hotel intranet and in the "team dining room".

"All members of staff are invited to vote for their favourites and the results will be announced at our 'Oscar' celebration dinner a few days leading to the grand opening," says Ms Yeung.


Taken from Career Times 21 August 2009, p. B2
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