Hotel / Catering

Hotel staff given five-star attention

by Isabella Lee

Cynthia Leong, director of human resources
The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong
Photo: Nolly Leung

Creating an upbeat learning and development environment takes more than a one-size-fits-all HR formula

Hong Kong remains a top Asian destination for visitors from around the globe. A healthy growth in tourism and the opening of many large-scale developments in Macau have created even more opportunities for people in the Hong Kong hospitality sector.

The pool of experienced hotel employees has shrunk significantly with Macau drawing skilled workers from the well-established Hong Kong tourism sector, says Cynthia Leong, director of human resources, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.

"Whereas general level positions are comparatively easier to fill by recruits from countries such as the Philippines and China, Macau employers tend to seek out highly skilled Hong Kong professionals for more senior positions," she explains.

The Landmark Mandarin Oriental therefore makes it a priority to hold on to quality staff in order to maintain a stable workforce in the current volatile labour market. This also helps to ensure successful business development in the long run.

Capable employer

"In the past, colleagues were mainly concerned about job security and medical protection, but now they are looking for a workplace where they can learn and move ahead," Ms Leong points out. "There is no one-size-fits-all formula in human resources and we must therefore constantly review our strategies to cater to the changing needs of our colleagues."

A member of an international group, the Landmark Mandarin Oriental offers staff a platform furnished with broad international exposure. Aside from the ample opportunities to rotate between different job functions in Hong Kong, staff may have the chance to move on to sister hotels around the world.

There is plenty of scope for self-improvement. For instance, an employee can start off working on the front desk, getting to know the hotel's telephone network and booking system, and then move on to the reservations department. With sufficient knowledge, skills and experience, the employee may then apply for openings at other establishments in the group.

"Many colleagues have been given the opportunity of experience in our properties in the US or cities in Asia, so while we give accomplished staff the chance to develop their careers, they in turn help enrich the cultural mix at our hotels around the world. This is a win-win situation," Ms Leong notes.

The Landmark Mandarin Oriental has a comprehensive performance management system to assess staff potential and performance. The hotel also stresses the importance of acknowledging good work and helping staff to improve, if necessary.

To make sure people are geared to satisfying job requirements, managers and supervisors are provided with a checklist which covers both hard and soft skills such as leadership, counselling and communication ability. The hotel also offers a range of training activities, including customised supervisory training programmes, to bring staff up to speed. In collaboration with an institute of higher education, a management development programme has also been designed to hone skills and commercial acumen for potential leaders.

One team

"One of the key values of our hotel culture is to share, and we urge all our employees to act on this value —w hether it is through helping our frontline colleagues with a piece of luggage or sharing innovative ideas to make the hotel a better place for guests and staff," Ms Leong says.

In particular, an annual staff survey is carried out to encourage staff to voice their opinions and offer feedback on the daily interaction with senior staff and management. The hotel also holds suggestion meetings, during which employees on all levels are invited to contribute ideas.

"Management welcomes open discussion and we undertake to respond to all suggestions within seven days. Whether we can satisfy a request or not, we provide our colleagues with feedback and the reasons behind decisions. Maintaining a high level of transparency is a way to show respect to our colleagues," Ms Leong remarks.

To foster a closer bond between staff from different departments and levels, the hotel regularly organises a wide range of leisure activities, from sports, competitions and interest classes to free yacht trips.

"Since we work in a customer-focused business, we need people dedicated to excellent service. As a responsible and caring employer, we make it our duty to provide our staff with an environment where they can excel," she concludes.


Taken from Career Times 04 July 2008, p. C7
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