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Hotel / Catering

Identity exploration

by Charles Mak

Gary Siu
Director of Human Resources
Renaissance Harbour View Hotel Hong Kong
Photo: Dickie Tam
Staff cohesion can be achieved through effective change management

For established brands, getting a new corporate image up and running should take some clever marketing both internally and externally, but to align staff with change and to garner their support all in one go are a different matter.

However, Gary Siu, Director of Human Resources, Renaissance Harbour View Hotel Hong Kong, says that this can be accomplished without let or hindrance. "You may ride on the opportunity to boost morale and loyalty, too," Mr Siu states.

Acquired by international hotel management group Marriott International in 1997, the hotel started operating under the Renaissance brand umbrella the following year. The changing business landscape has in store plenty of scope for service differentiation and the hotel was set for a corporate makeover. "An extensive market analysis confirmed our aspirations so we decided to shed our luxurious skin and go for lifestyle," Mr Siu notes.

Joie de vivre

Individual hotel brands under the Marriott umbrella target specific guest segments but all acknowledge that staff who are referred to as "associates", guests and community are the pillars of success. "Our market positions may vary from property to property but we'll stay true to our core beliefs," Mr Siu emphasises.

For instance, Hotels Courtyard by Marriott all over the world accommodate needs for simple pleasure while the JW Marriott brand brings gleam and glamour to discerning guests. "The Renaissance brand used to compete with JW Marriott for guests with similar preferences," he explains. "One of the objectives for our recent re-branding exercise was therefore to give Renaissance a unique, more vibrant, individual identityˇXone that responds to the kind of service required by sophisticated pleasure seekers who look for novel ideas and exciting experiences during their stay at our hotel."

Aside from the necessary hardware upgrade, the new Renaissance brand now represents three distinctive aspects in its service offerings: interesting, local and unique. "For instance, we greet guests in Cantonese and supplement that in their native language like English, Japanese and Mandarin. We do so to prompt them to explore their curiosity about the Hong Kong culture," says Mr Siu. The hotel's buffet breakfast now also includes local delicacies such as egg tarts and fish balls, while hotel guests looking for unique travel experiences in Hong Kong may get help from a dedicated "navigator" counter. "We want guests to remember us as Renaissance in Hong Kong."

One destination

Only a few months down the line, Mr Siu proudly reveals that the hotel is already moving forward towards its re-branding goals.

To provide alignment, Renaissance Hong Kong staff are now guided by 20 meticulously defined "R-ways". With a view to inculcating this R-way culture and adding more zing to the corporate campaign, the hotel invited all its associates to an R-way cocktail reception cum celebration party in its grand ballroom where managers hit the catwalk with key principles of the 20 R-ways.

"Part of the objective was to create a buzz and the rest was to have some fun," says Mr Siu, whose football-themed rendition of "R-way 18ˇXbeing a team player" gave the very concept additional meanings. "The game requires a team of well-coordinated, like-minded players to perform seamlessly with trust and respect towards a shared goal," he explains, adding that "team players celebrate individual strengths as well as team success."

The catwalk show was followed by a 90-minute briefing session in which associates learnt the rationale behind the new brand position as well as features of the hotel's clientele and job requirements among other things. The day concluded with an exhibition where the same 20 managers set up booths to further promote the R-way concepts and get the associates' buy-in. "It is important that our associates internalise these concepts so that they are equipped with the right mental capacity to furnish guests with the best appropriate service in line with our new image and service ethos," Mr Siu emphasises.

Renaissance associates now carry with them a pocket-sized R-way card as a reminder but are not expected to learn all 20 R-ways by heart. "Daily practice makes more sense," notes Mr Siu. This is reinforced on a day-to-day basis via daily morning briefings and 15-minute training sessions. The hotel's HR team also runs a daily broadsheet to inform associates of key news such as the arrival of the hotel's VIP guests.

Brand new sunrise

When recruiting, the hotel assess candidates' attitude alongside technical competence and those who pass an online assessment will be invited to a behavioural interview session where Mr Siu and his team examine if the short-listed candidates can fit into the Renaissance culture.

A two-day orientation explains to new joiners the hotel's cultural attributes and impacts essential knowledge. Another two-day session is arranged a month later to measure the level of cultural alignment achieved. "The overall working environment and daily interaction with colleagues and guests play a vital role in this tender stage of employment," Mr Siu adds.

As the hotel's brand campaign goes into full swing, Mr Siu has many reasons to be optimistic about a range of HR issues. "The series of our recent endeavours will drive our brand image onto the next level. Guest expectation will only get higher and we'll align our staff accordingly via continuous communications, training and development initiatives, as well as constant and consistent reminders," he concludes. "Our associates take pride in whom they work for and what they do at work. In other words, our new brand image will help with recruitment and staff retention."

Taken from Career Times 18 February 2011, B4

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