Job-hopping is becoming increasingly common in the employment market. Even long service award winner Lilian Hui, purchasing manager of Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel and Towers, was not immune.
"After two years in the hotel's reservations department, I set out to look for a new position in another five-star hotel so that I could experience something different. I wanted to remain in the industry, but I was curious to see how other companies run their hotels," Ms Hui recalls.
Ms Hui put out the word about her intentions, but before she could take any action she was offered a position as secretary in the purchasing department. That move proved permanent. Currently in her 30th year with Sheraton, Ms Hui's adventurous spirit has been satisfied by the many challenges and opportunities that have come her way over the years. Thanks to an extensive range of training, Ms Hui continues to excel in her job.
On one remarkable task where she had to arrange the delivery of a large volume of decorating materials in a 20-feet container for a conference in New York in only three weeks —a job that would normally take six weeks, Ms Hui efficiently completed the task and the event took place without a hitch.
She credits the entire team for that particular success. "People from different departments helped, from labelling items to writing addresses and moving objects around. It is working with my friendly and helpful colleagues that keeps me motivated," Ms Hui notes.
Since switching from her role in reservations to purchasing, Ms Hui has been working with a wide range of people, both within the hotel and externally. She believes in extending the same respect to everybody, as she finds this is the key to a communicative and harmonious working environment.
Ms Hui also derives job satisfaction from the constantly changing and highly demanding nature of the hotel industry. As the head of the purchasing team, she is constantly seeking ways to improve things in her department.
"As we provide the freshest food to our guests, our kitchen colleagues in the food and beverage outlets must review their requests for food items every day so that we do not overstock. Years ago, it was a time-consuming manual procedure. To streamline ordering, I suggested a computer programme, which helped to reduce the workload substantially," she says.
"Adhere to our role as the gatekeeper"
While the new system was being introduced, Ms Hui's department collected information from all kitchens to set up a daily electronic "market list". When the programme was ready, Ms Hui went around to explain how it worked and ensured that the Chef de Cuisine of every outlet understood how to use the system in the most efficient manner.
"Different people respond differently to new ideas. It is therefore important to emphasise the advantages of a new system, and let the users experience the benefits for themselves. Once again, this boils down to mutual respect in communication with colleagues," Ms Hui notes.
Sheraton Hong Kong is well aware of the general trend towards health consciousness and the growing demand for wholesome food. In view of this, Ms Hui works for the benefit of both the hotel and its guests through a continuous quest for knowledge, analysing customer requests and honing the purchasing system.
"This is particularly important for Sheraton Hong Kong, where quality is always a priority. Also, since the purchasing department is the point of entry for every single food item that comes through from the supplier to the customer's plate, we must adhere to our role as the gatekeeper, along with other team members," she adds.
Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel and Towers attained a "Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points" (HACCP) certificate in 2006 and a ISO22000 certificate this August. In order to maintain the highest levels of food quality and hygiene, the HACCP team works together with the hotel's purchasing department to set stringent standards for suppliers. The range of initiatives includes site visits to supplier warehouses, issuing detailed instructions for packing materials, temperature controls and delivery procedures, and reviewing them regularly.
"We execute every step of the process perfectly. I remain very focused during office hours, so that my team will take their job seriously too. But when it comes to lunchtime, I enjoy relaxing with my colleagues so that we can enjoy the break together," she says.