The biggest asset of a five-star hotel is not the many top-of-the-range facilities in a deluxe suite but the dedicated staff who ensure that everything is absolutely perfect for the hotel's guests.
Mandy Choi, director of human resources, The Ritz-Carlton, Hong Kong agrees. "When dealing with staff we adopt an open-door policy. That's one of the first things new recruits learn from our orientation programme. If staff have any problems, they can talk to their supervisors. If necessary, they are welcome to share their ideas, whether job-related or not, with their team leaders, HR or even the general manager," she adds.
Additionally, all staff are invited to join in the hotel's quarterly gathering "Shall we talk" where participants are encouraged to express their views on unlimited topics in a relaxed and cafe-like setting. The listeners are high-rankers such as the hotel's general managers, hotel manager and human resources director who can weigh suggestions and adopt useful ones. However such meetings are not restricted to grouches and grumbles ¡X many general staff use the occasion to speak out on what they love about the company.
The special event is also used as an information seminar where division heads give staff a clear picture of the hotel's latest developments. "Staff who work overnight aren't left out ¡X we keep them fully briefed during a 'night out breakfast'," Ms Choi says.
Up-close and personal
The hotel also has a "key result area scheme" to engender staff relations to ensure that every employee receives the right amount of attention. "Down to the department level, our people are looked after in a one-on-one mode," Ms Choi says. The relevant supervisors or managers will review the performance of their staff and give personalised advice on their careers. In this way, employees can learn about their strengths and identify aspects that require further improvement.
The hotel has a low staff turnover rate despite the boom now being enjoyed by the industry, which has created a volatile employment market for experienced hotel staff. Ms Choi cited the example of head-hunters representing new hotels in Macau who made tempting offers to experienced staff to lure them there. "Recently a colleague went to his senior and revealed he had been offered quite an attractive post there," she notes. "His boss gave him a full analysis of the pros and cons of staying with us. The colleague then decided to stay ¡X further proof of the value of our open-door policy."
An enriched career path system is fundamental not only for staff retention but for keeping up the morale of the workforce. "Under our policy of promoting from within, existing staff get priority when the opportunity for promotion or transfer arises," Ms Choi explains. "This applies even if the employee has been with us for only six months."
Empowerment is another development mechanism deployed by the hotel. Team members regarded as possessing expertise in their positions are backed to exercise their own judgment in their day-to-day duties. When deemed necessary, they can spend up to US$2,000 to improve the efficiency of their job with an ultimate aim to enhance guest experience. "This is a Ritz-Carlton-wide practice that brings a sense of ownership to our people when their ideas bring about improvements in the workplace," Ms Choi adds.
The group's best-employee recognition programme ¡X the five-star award, is different from those of other companies, in that fellow team members nominate the candidates for each category. The winner of the annual award gets a trophy plus a free journey to, and stay in, a sister hotel with his or her family.
Every year about 10 top achievers are sent overseas to a sister hotel where they undergo a one-week programme in further honing their skills. "Most winners are line employees, and all of them gain a lot from this exposure to overseas cultures and work styles. When they return, they meet their teams and brief them on what they have learnt from the experience. We regard this as an investment in the future of these people, and something that will benefit the whole company," concludes Ms Choi.