Hotel / Catering

Training for the fast lane

by Nicolette Wong

Le Meridien Cyberport - Talent management
Gerhard Aicher (right), general manager
Rosemary Tam, director of human resources
Le Meridien Cyberport
Photo: Dickie Tam

Five-star Cyberport property pulls out all stops for staff development

Competition for talent is always fierce in Hong Kong's hospitality sector, with top players constantly looking to improve talent management through training. As part of Starwood Hotels & Resorts group, Le Meridien Cyberport has a strong emphasis on equipping the next generation of leaders for the group.

"We've always strived to give young people promising career prospects," says Gerhard Aicher, general manager, Le Meridien Cyberport. The high-tech hotel tracks the personal performance of all staff members, or "associates", setting them specific goals at the beginning of each year. Ongoing assessment is accompanied by regular training, run by individual hotel departments or within the Starwood group, as well as additional coaching by external consultants. Each associate undergoes a thorough end-of-year review of his or her strengths and weaknesses, and appropriate career-advancement support.

Such comprehensive grooming is part of the hotel's response to the challenges posed by the industry. Considering the general shortage of high-calibre candidates, it is vital that graduates with the right attitude is recruited and guided along a structured career path within the group, notes Mr Aicher. "This has been our focus for a number of years and it has helped us to stabilise our staff turnover. In addition to attractive remuneration, young people also want the assurance that they will be given the room to realise their career aspirations."

Room to grow

Le Meridien Cyberport focuses on structured development opportunities, all-round competency and personalised training for each associate. The Starwood Careers programme is divided into entry-level, mid-level and executive-level tracks for candidates at different stages of their careers. Development areas range from language and service culture to role-specific technical skills. "We provide ongoing training for associates that envisage a long-term future for themselves within the hotel, since we're strongly focused on being an employer of choice," notes Rosemary Tam, director of human resources, Le Meridien Cyberport.

One important feature is the variety of special business-oriented coaching on offer. When new wine lists or special promotions are launched, external consultants are hired to provide staff training on the product features and to assist them with recommendations. Customer-service training inculcates a better understanding of guests' needs and key customer-satisfaction areas, as well as how to enhance customer loyalty, while technical training for senior associates cover specific business areas, such as revenue management and property systems.

The staff-development infrastructure ensures that associates can advance through the hotel's own promotion mechanisms, while they may also seek transfers to other Starwood hotels in Hong Kong. Vacancies are posted for associates to apply for through their supervisors and the human resources department. As a result of the group's expansion, there is also an array of opportunities with Starwood in mainland China and across Asia-Pacific.

"We can cite many examples of both junior and senior associates successfully moving to sister properties across the border to oversee departments in newly opened hotels or to explore new frontline job roles," Ms Tam points out. "The group will be opening a number of new hotels in mainland China in the foreseeable future, opening up more exciting vacancies."

Skills enhancement

With such varied advancement opportunities on offer, cross-training plays an important part. Frontline service staff such as waiters are encourage to enhance their skills by working at different F&B venues within the property, while front-office workers benefit from postings to housekeeping or other back-office positions. Training across the border is also a possibility. "We offer many training courses on regional cuisines at our mainland hotels, for example," Mr Aicher elaborates. "A number of our Hong Kong associates attend these courses in order to bring their expertise back to our properties here."

The group has also founded a Starwood Cares Leadership University to train senior supervisors and managers and facilitate further business expansion. Courses cover essential topics, such as effective communication and staff motivation. The hotel's own leadership programme provides candidates with standard training, as well as advanced sessions by external consultants. This is followed by further personalised training, based on job functions and a review of participants' levels of expertise.

The Starwood Careers programme consists of a comprehensive evaluation index to identify and assess talent and review associates' key areas of competence and aptitude, in order to gauge their prospects for advancing to the next stage of their careers. "We target ambitious associates that want to grow with the Starwood group in the long term, and we're dedicated to giving them the opportunities to develop into the roles they see for themselves in the future," Mr Aicher concludes.

Climbing the ladder

  • Hotel tracks staff performances and sets specific goals at the beginning of each year
  • Training focuses on structured development and all-round competency
  • Associates can advance their careers within the hotel, or at other Starwood properties
  • Starwood Cares Leadership University trains senior supervisors and managers

Taken from Career Times 3 February 2012, B3

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