Hotel / Catering

Many happy returns

Sophie Leung

David Wong (right)
director of human resources
Theresa Leung, director of quality and training
Holiday Inn Golden Mile
InterContinental Hotels Group
Photo: Edde Ngan

Today's younger workforce does not settle for a job that simply pays the bills; they simultaneously look for a quality working environment that accommodates both their professional and personal development needs.

"We give our staff not only a career but also room to grow as individuals," notes David Wong, director of human resources, Holiday Inn Golden Mile. Mr Wong believes this ethos helps to foster happy employees and, hence, happy customers.

To this end, the hotel has developed a unique "four intangible rooms" concept. "As a responsible employer, we are committed to ensuring that there is room for all members of staff to have a great start, be involved and grow, plus room to be 'you'," Mr Wong explains.

This pioneering concept is supported by an "iron triangle", explains Theresa Leung, director of quality and training, Holiday Inn Golden Mile. While departmental skills trainers help to equip employees with the necessary hard skills for discharging their daily duties, a team of quality and training ambassadors is appointed to uphold quality standards within departments.

Development suite

Holiday Inn Golden Mile is a member of the global InterContinental Hotels Group, and the group is expanding at a dazzlingly fast pace. As such, there is a great emphasis on succession planning. "The group's plan is to open 100 to 110 new establishments in Greater China by the end of this year," Mr Wong explains. "Without quality training and considered planning for succession, it would be impossible for us to achieve our corporate mission--'great hotels guests love' while enhancing our service standards."

He emphasises that succession planning is a long-term process and it requires hotel management's continuous efforts to help grow individual employees. In light of this, new employees undergo two days of hotel orientation and one to two weeks' departmental orientation. "They are also invited to lunch with the hotel's general manager," Mr Wong says. "All of these help new employees familiarise themselves with the hotel and the group. In fact, they will soon find themselves engaged via the company intranet, eStaff newsletter, regular communication meetings and weekly informal lunch gatherings with the hotel's top executives.

Structured training programmes follow which provide additional opportunities for learning and growth. Aside from classroom learning, the hotel offers all employees job rotation opportunities and on-site training, depending on employees' aspirations and competence levels. All these training programmes are geared towards helping staff identify and develop their own potential, so that they can use the skills they acquire both at work and in their personal lives.

"Every employee is important and the efforts they make makes a difference to the hotel's performance and customer perception. We value and rely on every member of our staff," Ms Leung notes, adding that the hotel's succession plans also extend beyond key leadership positions, providing learning opportunities and encouragement for all staff to improve their performance and move into higher positions.

Since career advancement opportunities within the hotel are clearly mapped out, employees are evaluated based on potential, competence and performance for their readiness to move on to the next step.

A "performance 360" evaluation exercise is also carried out regularly to assess staff's adherence to the group's values and the effectiveness of training programmes. The comprehensive evaluation also covers guest and employee satisfaction levels, as well as more tangible factors such as profits and market share.

Engaging culture

Competition within the hospitality industry looks set to intensify. While some employers use mainly financial incentives to retain staff, Mr Wong believes this is not the best way to go about it. "We have in place a range of other tools to cultivate a contented workforce," Mr Wong points out.

For instance, the hotel advocates a healthy work-life balance. Friday get-together cocktails immerse employees in a friendly working atmosphere; while birthdays are celebrated in monthly parties where employees receive a choice of gift —f or example, a sponsored haircut, free dinner plus museum tickets, or family tickets to the cinemas. The hotel also encourages employees to spend quality time with their families and friends by offering them worldwide hotel accommodations and privileged dining at a special employee rate.

"We care about the service quality for both external and internal customers and make continuous efforts into making sure that all our employees understand this," emphasises Mr Wong.

Ms Leung agrees. "We are determined to invest in our people. In return, we expect our employees to embrace the hotel's 'winning ways' and values," she says. "By living our 'winning ways'--do the right things, show that we care in executing our tasks, aim higher, celebrate differences and work better together, employees at all levels can live out the group's care values of 'one team, trust, service, integrity and respect'."


Taken from Career Times 26 September 2008, p. C3
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