Hotel / Catering

Home is where the heart is

by Steven Yau

Brian Liu, group director of human resources
Regal Hotels International
Photo: Edde Ngan
Hotel industry accommodates healthy competition

Hong Kong's hotel industry is thriving due largely to development fuelled by continuous foreign investment and the constant influx of visitors from mainland China and the rest of the World. The robust pace of growth however is stretching human resources, forcing strong reactions from some employers.

"The inevitable competition for talent prompts hotel operations across the board to align their human resources management models with the trends and meet them with strategic business development plans," says Brian Liu, group director of human resources, Regal Hotels International.

While challenge looms, Mr Liu retains his optimistic demeanour. "Staff remain our key assets," he stresses. "We treat everyone here as a family member and make a point to create a home away from home environment for all of them."

In fact, the group's employee-centric management ethos has paid dividends. "Quite a number of staff have been with us for 20 years," he points out. "Their loyalty means the world to the group."

Star employer

The Regal Hotels group currently manages a portfolio of six hotels in Hong Kong and five sister properties in mainland China with the sixth expected to receive guests in budding Chinese cosmopolitan Chengdu in 2012. "Our business network gives us a well recognised employer brand and our staff receive ample opportunity for training and development across functions, properties and regions," Mr Liu says.

A caring company and recipient of the Employees Retraining Board's Employers Gold Star Award, Regal takes pride in its HR infrastructure which demonstrates the group's commitment and pragmatic approach to talent management.

"Quality talent contributes to customer service excellence," Mr Liu notes. For this reason, Regal spares no efforts in offering a host of training opportunities to its staff at every level.

Every new member of staff takes part in a "Regal Tour" which is a comprehensive orientation programme that comprises compulsory training and sharing sessions aimed at bringing new joiners up to speed with the group's operations and helping them to adapt to the working environment quickly at individual properties.

Aside from furnishing a comprehensive range of training, the group also helps staff to map out career routes that best suit their individual aspirations. "Career progress is a promise to both new and existing staff members. It is important that we support staff development with a mature and healthy HR infrastructure and base our HR decisions on various preferences and aspirations of an informed and engaged workforce that in turn contributes to the overall well-being of the operation," Mr Liu says.

Talent succession

Composition change in workforce demographic in the hospitality industry may look ominous at the outset but Mr Liu has confidence in the industry's ability to cope, pointing out that succession planning remains a prime concern as the demand for middle management personnel increases and the younger generation has yet to master the desired level of management competence, leaving a talent gap yet to be filled.

To maintain a healthy supply of management talent, department heads nominate high potential staff for a systematic series of training and development programmes that are geared towards grooming a new generation of torchbearers for the group. One of these is an annual management forum, which gathers the group's management elite for two days of idea exchange. Overseas training and cross training programmes formulated in collaboration with the group's strategic partners are also in place to give aspiring staff wider exposure to the industry.

A long-running management trainee programme also helps to groom the next generation of management elite, providing the necessary human resources for the group's further development. The programme spans three and a half years, immersing selected young talent in a series of job rotation exercise across various hotel and corporate functions including food and beverage, sales & marketing, finance, rooms, purchasing, projects and development, human resources and other departments. After this, trainees will be given the role of assistant manager or possibly higher positions. "This aims at replenishing the supply of management talent, combining industry best practice and academic excellence," Mr Liu says.

The hotel industry has grown in stature over the years with a wider array of career options now available in the local as well as the regional marketplace. Therefore, employers are actively seeking the best talent Hong Kong's employment market and academia have to offer.

"Riding on the various available platforms such as recruitment seminars and career talks, we put the industry in the limelight and level the playing field for people eyeing a hotel career. Given the profusion of career choice within and outside the industry, it would only be fair to offer aspiring individuals with sufficient job information before they take the plunge. This will only benefit both sides of the employment equation," stresses Mr Liu.

Major issues

  • HR models aligned with industry trends and business development plans
  • Employers remain active in the recruitment market
  • Demand for middle management staff high
  • Talent succession an HR focus

Taken from Career Times 7 May 2010, B10

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