HRM: Heart of the Hotel Industry

Human Resource Management is an integral and significant part of the hospitality industry. Since hospitality service is all about providing better services to the consumer, the quality of hotel would depend on the employees, who are considered as brand ambassadors of the property. Therefore, choosing the right candidates and training them is a task that the HRM has to perform diligently. The HR dept. is thus an important segment of the hospitality industry and is essential for efficient running of a hotel. Ashok Malkani examines the tasks of the HR dept and the problems that it has to tackle for smooth functioning of the hotel.   

Human factor plays an important role in the success of an organisation. This is particularly true in the case of hospitality industry. When we speak of hospitality industry we normally think in terms of hotels and restaurants. However, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, hospitality means “the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers with liberality and goodwill.” To ensure that guests receive courteous and proper attention it is essential for organisations to have an effective personnel and Human Resource Management (HRM) department. This becomes more indispensable in the hospitality industry, since it is a people driven business which relies mainly on satiating the desires of the customers, for its success.         

The HR department thus has multifarious tasks to ensure that the hotel staff delivers. 

According to Aishwarya N, CHE, Asst. General Manager – L & D (Learning & Development), Brigade Hospitality Services Limited, “the Human Resources department is the conduit between management and realisation of goals.”

She adds, “The various functions of the department are Recruitment and Selection, Personnel Administration, Learning and development, Talent Management, Performance and reward management, Succession and Career planning, Statutory compliance and labour relations. These functions make the channel of information flow more robust and healthy.”

Pradeep Ghorphade, Director of Human Resources, Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway while concurring with the functions of the HR Dept briefly describes some of them thus: 

Retention – this is ‘the’ need to avoid development of a ‘turnover culture’ which is common in the hospitality industry. For example, giving an opportunity to the current employees through ‘internal transfers, effective career development plans’ and the like to sustain the employees
Recruitment and Selection – recruiting, screening and selecting staff with the correct attitudinal and behavioural characteristics is an important part of the human resources department
Teamwork – the use of cross-process and multifunctional team activities/events
Training and development – the need to equip operative level staff with teams working on interpersonal skills and managers with new leadership style is another responsibility of human resources department
Appraisal – having appraisals in the form of customer evaluation, peer review, team-based performance, and appraisal of managers by subordinates is a responsibility of human resources department
Rewarding Quality – a need for more creative system of rewards and payment systems that reward employees for attaining quality goals
Employee engagement activities and employee relations – this in turn helps in making individuals stronger and confident along with team bonding

Deepika Lohani, HR Manager, Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park, comes up with some other important functions in the form of: 
• Performance management
• Learning and development
• Career planning
• Function evaluation
• Rewards& Recognition 
• Industrial relations
• Employee Personal wellbeing

Ragunath C, Assistant Manager Human Resources, Gokulam Grand Hotel and Spa while agreeing with the rest about the major functions of the HR department, adds “The human resource department plays a vital role yet HR neither serves customer nor books business.”

Lizanne Pinto, Cluster Director Human Resources - Bengaluru & Kochi Market, JW Marriott Hotel Bengaluru, avers, “The Human resources department is the heart of the hotel. The major functions of the human resources department is company loyalty, team building, recruitment and selection, on boarding, maintaining a healthy work environment, managing compensation and benefits plan and  record keeping. In a hotel, Human Resources Department is majorly people driven.  Human touch is the Key.”

Dilshan Karunaratne, Head of HR, Mövenpick Hotel Colombo, adds that HR department acts as a link between the staff and the operations teams.

Bhavani Mani Shankar Dutta, Director Talent & Culture, Novotel Hyderabad Convention Centre (NHCC) & Hyderabad International Convention Centre (HICC), declares, “The HR department of each organisation plays a crucial role in supporting front-end operations. It is responsible for efficient hiring, effective payroll management, statutory compliances, staff induction & orientation, talent mobility and engagement, along with keeping record of staff’s performance, and learning & development. Additionally, we also take care of CSR activities, rewards & recognition for employees and organising employee engagements to keep them motivated and happy.”

Basis of Recruitment

The hospitality industry realises the fact that employees are the most important asset of the organisation. So how does the HR dept. ensure that they recruit the right people? Do they also visit and recruit people directly f r o m the catering colleges? 

Ranjith Premraj, Director of People & Culture, Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru, disclosed, “At Four Seasons, each employee goes through a four-tier interviewing process including meeting the General Manager or the Hotel Manager as a last step. In each tier, candidates are assessed on certain aspects of our hiring criteria. While qualification and technical ability is required for certain key positions, we believe that many of those skills can be learnt on the job and hence put attitudinal behaviours on the forefront while assessing a potential candidate. In addition, when we hire a candidate, we do not hire them just for the job but for the company instead and as such, we take into account a candidate’s potential for growth, international mobility etc.

It has always been easier for us to hire young talents fresh out of hotel school and mould them our way. 40% of our current work force is young graduates out of school. We hire for direct entry positions and, in certain locations, offer Management Training programmes, where the curriculum allows them to have an industry experience of one year. 

In campus interviews, we spend time to personally connect on an individual level and ascertain what a person will bring to the table. From our experience, a shy and introverted person will have more depth and character than someone who tries to hack a group discussion. If there is a clash between attitude and skills in a hiring decision, attitude will always triumph over skills. Once they join us, we provide them with a platform where people can hone their skills and become the best they can be.”

Lizanne declared “HATS (Hire for Attitude, Train for Skills) is the principle used for hiring associates at Marriott. Required skill set can be taught but having the right attitude in the Hotel Industry is very important. The candidate must have strong moral value and more than anything else have a passion for service.” She added that they asked the candidates to go through a psychometric online test, based on which they were called for interviews. 

“We follow Behavioral interviews when it comes to hiring at Marriott. Peoples past behavior in situations is the best indicator of future performance. Candidates are posed with various questions, where they need to talk about real life scenarios and how they acted and behaved in those situations. When it comes to the more technical departments like Culinary a trade test is also conducted”, she added.

Raghunath, on the other hand stated that a candidate’s communication and interpersonal skills were major considerations for hiring staff. 

Bhavani declared that at NHCC and HICC recruitment was done on the basis of qualification, competencies, and knowledge of the job role. “The primary criteria are relevant experience, behavioural interview techniques and analytical tools such as psychometric, emotional and social competence assessments. We recruit people f r o m catering colleges based on their soft skills, industry exposure and basics, technical knowledge, in addition to their qualification,” he added. 

Dilshan said that at Mövenpick Hotel Colombo, they had an annual manpower plan based on updates f r o m all teams. He disclosed that they maintained a pool of candidates after sourcing as well, f r o m online job portals, print media, employee referrals and internal job rotations. They also recruited f r o m renowned hotel schools based on theoretical, practical knowledge, previous education background and job experience.

Deepika averred, “Job type and job role are the key factors that form the basis of each recruitment. There is also a need determine whether a candidate’s motivations, characteristics and personality are appropriate for the role. At Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park, behavioral interviewing is one of the key interviewing techniques used.”

She revealed that as hotel industry had expanded and there was a need for people to play multiple roles and have multiple skills there was a need for them to recruit not only f r o m hotel management colleges, but also f r o m management and aviation academies.

Pradeep claims that one needs to understand the hiring requirements and the candidate’s personality. “Knowing the candidate’s personality will help us clearly define the qualifications we need for the people we want to build our company with. At Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway, The candidates are also screened based on candidate’s fitment to the department.”

Aishwarya asserts that while keeping in mind the skills and competencies, attitude is of utmost importance. “In hospitality, cheerful and happy people, with a caring and helpful nature who have the heart in the right place are the right people. The Hospitality industry is glamorous on the outside, involves back bending work, and getting your hands dirty. Being able to have a smile on the face through all this is the challenge.”

Brand Ambassadors

Companies often rely on marketing activities like advertising for building their brand image, not realising that one of the most powerful brand assets of the company are its employees. This is all the more applicable in hotel industry. For the employees to act as the brand ambassadors of an organisation they must feel connected to the brand. So how does a hotel ensure that the employees are able to make the guests feel at home? What training does the HR dept. impart to the employees? 

Aishwarya asserts, “As a hospitality company, how we treat our team members gets clearly passed on to our guests. Every single team member has to be motivated, happy and like what they’re doing. This is what will make them take pride in their jobs. A Happy team will ensure all our guests and members are happy.

“For this training, which is an ongoing process, is necessary. Brigade Hospitality Services Limited has an induction program for new recruits. Impromptu learning happens every day, every week and month. Formal training is done through internal resources. We use our own Hotels as learning partners, cross training between our Clubs, WhatsApp for English language skills. All our Heads of departments are SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) and they conduct regular learning sessions with their own and cross functional team members.”

Dilshan stated that every recruit went through a Welcome to Accor induction programme that covered key behavioural and service aspects.  “Employees at Mövenpick Hotel Colombo are well trained through regular training programs on customer relationship management.”

Bhavani says that to ensure that the employees become the property’s brand ambassadors NHCC and HICC “emphasises on training them to understand a guest’s need, deliver state-of-the-art service and ensure that they are fully aware of the hotel’s products and services.”

Lizanne declares, “The top three reasons how we, at JW Marriott Hotel Bengaluru, ensure that the employees provide 100% Memorable Experience for our guests are:

Engagement – We keep our associates always engaged through the various initiatives like Take Care activities which include a wide coverage in leveraging a healthy body, mind and wealth alike for all associates. This enables them to conquer everything and not settle for anything less than excellence.

Empowerment – our associates at all level are empowered to take decisions to create exceptional memories for our beloved guest.

Talent Development – Training our employees every day to ensure the standards are not deviated. 

I strongly believe that there is no end to learning. In Marriott we focus on developing and growing associates and shaping them into future leaders. 

We have a three day Induction programme which is an introduction into the company and the culture of Marriott. We then do a week of familiarisation about the Hotel and department specific orientation. There is a buddy assigned to every new joiner f r o m his/her department on the day he or she reports to the department.

The training system within Marriott works on the Build, Act & Lead model:

Build the base of any new associates who begins his journey with the brand by equipping him with required knowledge bases on Skills, Knowledge & most importantly sensitive culturisation which includes Global Anti-harassment at workplace, Prevention of human trafficking, respect for your own people f r o m diverse states. 

Act is when they are instilled with the required knowledge and skill to perform task efficiently, this mainly concentrates on the discipline of the employee. 

Lead is to equip the associates with additional responsibility of others growth, leading to self-actualisation and self-growth.

Trainings are conducted across the hotel through various channels of learning which includes Class room session, On the Job trainings, E learning programs available to all associates.”

Pradeep disclosed, “In Marriott we believe in taking care of our associates. As the founder JW Marriott said - Take good care of your employees and they will take good care of the customers and customers will come back. We have managers taking RAP sessions with associates on quarterly basis asking about their work and how they are doing at it. We have weekly associate engagement activities to take their mind off work for some time and have fun. High engagement, TakeCare Thursday Weekly activities, Cross exposure training at other Marriott hotels, Cross departmental trainings to understand their operations, House wise competitions, Theme Lunches, Associate Meets, Strong Recognition Program – Wow Cards, well-being activities is what we do at property level to take care of our associates.

There are various trainings for Rank & File and Management associates designed to excel them in their jobs and work etiquettes. Trainings are done on regular intervals as refresher. It is the foundation of what hotels are built on. Training Hours per associate is monitored and it is also part of our Balanced Score Card. There are trainings like Executive Development Programme and Managerial Development Programme to develop Rank & File and Executive cadre employees to next level in their career.”

Raghunath (Gokulam Grand Hotel and Spa), Ranjith (Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru) and Deepika (Aloft Bengaluru Cessna Business Park) are all of the opinion that one can ensure that associates act as ambassadors of goodwill by providing them with proper training. 

Attrition

One of the major problems of the hotel industry is attrition. Due to this new recruits have to be employed and trained repeatedly to ensure that the guests receive courteous and above par service which will encourage and entice them to visit the property again. The HR dept. has to gauge the reasons for the employee dissatisfaction and decrease the rate of attrition.   

Lizanne condescends “In such a consumer-facing industry, having employees constantly coming and going can make it difficult to meet customer expectations. It can also be costly to find, hire, and train new employees. In order to first understand how to keep employees around, you must first understand why they’re leaving. Some of the biggest causes of employee turnover in hospitality could be the following: 
• Unclear job expectation
• Disconnect with managers
• Mismatch between jobs and employees
• Lack of flexibility
• Toxic or unhealthy work environment
• Inefficient communication
• Lack of recognition
• Minimal growth opportunities

Some of the steps which can be considered to prevent attrition are: 
• Communicate your vision
• Optimise recruitment
• Make the interview matter
• Improve work conditions
• Create a pleasant workspace
• Employee Engagement and Recognition

At Marriott Properties, the first and foremost Core Value that gets embedded in our blood stream is Putting people First. It is the culture of the hotels that has helped reduce attrition and attract various Associates f r o m across the country.

Some of the additional reasons given by Pradeep for employees quitting their jobs are: 
• Increasing competition in the industry 
• More Job hopping, as people look for higher pay.
• Alternative career with other industry with better pay due to skill sets what hoteliers carry.

He feels that attrition could be prevented in the hotel if they plan their associate’s shift in a way that they are not over worked by the end of day. At our hotel, Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway, we try to retain our associates by training and equipping them, giving opportunities to grow internally within the same hotel, give them internal transfer opportunities, etc. We also have HR attending departmental meets where grievances are listened and worked upon.” 

Raghunath is of the view that attrition is due to increasing number of hotels being set up and work life balance, stress in job. “It can be reduced by increased salary and compensation, Employee recognition and providing work life balance.”

Aishwarya too believes that attrition is the result of increasing number of hotels and it can be tackled by “focusing on continual engagement and connect with our employees to feel their pulse.”

Ranjith contends that increasing demand of talents, shortage of skill set and the mindset of millennials to wanting to grow instantly are some of the reasons for attrition in the hotel industry. 

“As an industry we should be careful when we recruit the so-called ‘brand collectors’. We need to move away f r o m merely filling positions, and towards hiring the right candidate who wants to join for the right reasons. At Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru, we are very cautious when we receive job applications f r o m candidates who have not shown commitment or longevity in their previous jobs.”

Deepika believes that one of the reasons is that hospitality aspirants seem to be testing foreign market like Canada, Dubai, etc for more lucrative opportunities. “One of key initiatives of Marriott International to control attrition is the internal transfer policy. Employees are free to apply for any internal vacancy across globe during their career.”

Dilshan declares, “The dynamic nature of the hotel industry, based on various macro-economic factors contributes to attrition in this field. At Mövenpick Hotel Colombo we emphasise on steering employee’s salary focus f r o m monetary benefits to career growth.”

Bhavani concurs with the reasons given by others for attrition. He adds, “Continuing with unhappy talent can be a bigger challenge than being under-staffed. Hence, it is very important to hire the right resources and keep them motivated and happy, which will eventually reduce attrition.”  

Compensation Management

In the labour-intensive hospitality industry HR helps in setting wages and salaries based on market trends. HR’s payroll knowledge helps employers get the right candidates and retain them. So what are the challenges of compensation management? 

Lizanne disclosed, “Compensation management is more than providing a paycheck and cost of living increases. In many organisations, employee performance relative to organisational goals serves as the basis for compensation. Compensation programs must consider and value the work of those who provide internal support to the organisation as well as those who directly impact financial results. An organisation’s compensation strategy will dictate the rate and timing of pay increases, which jobs are eligible for bonuses, and the level of competitiveness with similar organizations.

Labour costs often constitute the largest line in a corporation’s budget. In a tight economy, companies are faced with a flat, if not shrinking, pool of funds. The cost of labour is broader than the amount paid to employees, taking into account recruitment, training, turnover, infrastructure and overhead, and the impact of these things on productivity. Multinational corporations must balance the needs and expectations of employees f r o m various countries. Compensation must balance conformity with local laws and customs against global corporate policies.”

Aishwarya adds, “The challenge is in keeping up with paying competitive salaries that both International and Indian brands pay.”
Ranjith believes that not having realistic market data of compensation and benefits is a real challenge for the HRM of hotels. 
Dilshan is of the opinion that bargaining power of skilled labour force is becoming a challenge in making compensation decisions.

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