HR Facilitates Hotel’s Revenues

The human resource departments in the hospitality industry do not directly serve any customer nor do it bring direct revenues but they play important role in the hospitality properties’ efficient operations which, in turn, can boost the properties’ reputation, resulting in greater chance of their increased business.

 The function of this department is not only to get the right people but also to train them well and keep them abreast of the latest developments in the hospitality industry. Besides, it has also to maintain friendly relations among all ranks of employees to prevent a high rate of attrition, a feature which is rampant in the Indian hospitality industry. Ashok Malkani finds out the various aspects of having an efficient HR department in the hotels.

Able and efficient human resource management is the foundation for gaining competitive edge in the hotel industry.  Since the most critical problems in the Indian hospitality industry are employment related, honouring the employees through effective communication, and training and benefit programs for them are essential elements of effective hospitality management in hospitality properties in India.

The International Society of Hospitality Consultants cites labour and skill shortages as among the industry’s top 10 challenges. The human resource department of a hotel has thus to pay heed to all these necessities to ensure that the property is able to project a favourable image and attract impressive footfalls, thereby increasing the chances of profitability. Today, the HR department is responsible for several aspects of running a hotel efficiently and economically. The HR department in hotel today has a multitude of diverse responsibilities.   

Angad Sathe, Assistant Training Manager, Marriott Suites Pune, declared, “Gone are the days when the HR department used to only do recruitment for the hotel business. Today, the HR plays the role of a strategic business partner contributing to the success of the hotel. Today HR is not restricted to only working in the offices but its role is more hands on; it includes everything from being present on the shop floor, to getting connected with people, to understanding how they are faring on the job and whether they are getting the correct resources to perform their job responsibilities.”

The Role of Human Resource

“Today, employees of a hotel play a key role to ensure more footfall for the hotel. At Marriott, we believe in creating ‘wow’ experiences for our guests. Every associate is always looking for an opportunity to go out of the way and build a unique rapport with the guest. We often have guests coming back and remembering the names of our employees, and the gesture that he or she did for them.  Apart from that, our marketing initiatives help in keeping the customers abreast of the latest events and happenings at the hotel, which in turn also boost footfall,” averred Angad.

 “HR is a strategic partner in today’s business. The role of HR is critical to ensure that right talent is hired for the right role. The HR philosophy at Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru is very simple. We treat our colleagues like our guests and strive to ensure that they feel valued and comfortable in their working environment. This translates into higher employee morale and the focus is on delighting guests through our self-motivated staff. This leads to enhanced guest satisfaction, which is an important factor towards retaining our guests within the brand,” stated Vivek Srinivasan, Director of Human Resources at Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru.

“In a hospitality set-up, each and every individual is a sales person. They engage with the guests, understand their requirement and help close the loop which, in turn, helps gain guests’ loyalty. Guests do come back to the hotel not only for its facilities but also because of the service professionals who have delighted them in their previous visit/s. There are many examples where guests have moved their loyalty due to the trust in our colleagues,” explained Vivek further. 

“Not just inside the hotel but even outside they can help in brand building. In today’s socially connected virtual world, our employees act as the promoters of the brand. This enhances the network which also in turn gives us visibility and contributes to our overall footfall,” he observed.

So when employees play such a crucial role in the hospitality industry towards brand building, hiring and managing the employees cannot be anything less crucial for the hotel business. 

Ishrat Noor Siddiqui, Head HR, Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug affirmed, “To gain competitive power for a hotel, human resource management is an important factor.  Human resource management can be regarded as the foundation of a hotel to acquire competitive advantage. HR helps in achieving high level of guest-centric services, needed for the success of the hotel.” 

“My strong belief is, if you take care of your people, your people will take care of your guests and your business will take care of itself,” opined Ishrat.

“HR also plays a crucial role in influencing an employee’s attitude. Keeping control of the costs associated with employment, including those connected with wages and benefits, is a strategic and important role of the HR department. Indeed, the entire organisational structure of the hospitality organisation may rely upon the HR department to ensure smooth business function,” Swetlina Mishra, Human Resource Manager, JW Marriott Hotel Pune, elaborated.

“Developing employees is essential towards providing a consistent level of guest satisfaction over time. The Indian hospitality industry, with its high turnover rates, can benefit from grooming outstanding professionals. Doing so retains consistency within the business as well as in facilitating enhancing of guest footfalls,” she pointed out further.

The HR department plays a very important role in aligning the company’s success goals. “The customers will never love a company, if the employees don’t love it first”, is an axiom worth noting.

“Human resources department at hotels is very crucial to their success as the department functions as strategic business partners and contributes to the top line. The department drives important aspects of guest satisfaction through training & development and thus helps get favourable guest feedback scores in terms of excellence in staff service,” pointed out Neesha Mohapatra, Director HR at Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway.

“Hotel associates should be trained in interpersonal communication skills which assist them in connecting with guests and anticipating their needs. This in turn drives guest satisfaction and contributes to increase in footfall. As a unit, we drive various internal recognition initiatives which are great motivation for the associates for attracting business and boosting their morale,” she affirmed. 

It must be remembered that the employees which are hired in a hotel can really alter the quality of service and the whole atmosphere of the hotel. Lakshmi, HR Manager, Holiday Inn Chennai OMR IT Expressway, added, “HR is the backbone of any industry. It has the job of hiring the right people at the right time. Half of your tension is resolved if you have the right talent at work. Hence HR plays a key role in the success of all industries, which of course, include the hospitality industry.”

Hiring Rightly

Swetlina asserted, “The key to the success of a hotel starts with selecting the right people. Our selection process is predominantly a group decision wherein General Manager is also very much involved. The focus is mainly on the talent as well as on personal values. We look for people who genuinely enjoy their contact with people and in helping others. It is about caring and respecting others.”

Venkataramana Reddy, HR Manager, The Corinthians Resort & Club Pune, averred, “The HR department can be construed as the nerve center of hotels. People will always come to a place where its employees are known for the 3Cs: Care, Concern & Commitment,” And selecting the people with these three essential attributes for hospitality personnel and also of grooming them is the responsibility of the hotel’s HR department.

“Skill gaps and worker shortages are overcome by ensuring a solid recruitment infrastructure, best practices, leveraging the brand equity and with a consistent recruitment service. Our hiring philosophy therefore is very simple — look for will and attitude rather than skills and aptitude,” disclosed Vivek.

“The human resources department of the hotel as strategic business partners needs to ensure that the hotel staff strength is optimal for running smooth operations.  We, at Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway have a comprehensive talent acquisition strategy. We have  several tie-ups with elite hotel management & aviation institutes in the city to recruit fresh graduates and interns. We also have a comprehensive industrial training program where we recognise high potential trainees as Brand Ambassadors, who are more than keen to come up as employees to our hotel after graduation. We conduct frequent visits and lectures at these colleges to interact with fresh talent and educate them about Marriott; as a company for their future career prospects,” Neesha informed.

Training is the Key

The HR department of a hotel has not only to pick the right candidates but also ensure that they are trained, retrained and retained, so as to check attrition.

Today, the Indian hotel industry is going through continual evolution where its employees not only need to be aware of the new technologies being introduced but should also be informed about the guests’ increasing expectations. Thus the HR department of hotels has to be on its toes to train the employees from time to time and also to ensure that they are kept satisfied so that they give their best. Employee motivation is one of the major issues faced by every organisation. It is the major task of every HR Manager to motivate the personnel or to create the ‘will to work’ among the personnel.

So how does the HR department in hotels hire the right person for the right position and what are the different procedures adopted by hotels to train and retrain their employees?  

Ishrat confessed that, at times his resort had to face shortage of skilled workers due to the geographical location (Alibaug), which has limited infrastructural facilities visa-a-vis to metros. “We bridge skill gaps by imparting appropriate training based on individual training need analysis, guest’s feedback, quality performance reviews, etc. We strive hard to develop flexible operating models, organisational structures, and career paths focused on skills rather than business functions. Employee motivation techniques, partnerships with hotel management colleges, training tools developed by our subject mentors in conjunction with the senior leadership team help us to bridge those gaps,” he explained.  

“It is obligatory for all the employees in our hotel to undergo Hotel’s Brand Orientation and other behavioral and skill development training, which are conducted by a certified learning & development expert, at regular intervals in a year. Each employee is given access to undergo online training through our brand connect web portal (Learning Link); through this channel employee can choose a topic as per her/his choice and complete the training in the prescribed duration. Our constant endeavour remains that all the employees are empowered to take decisions to satisfy guest needs at any given point. Employees in Development Centre can get connected to other fellow colleagues to explore further or in clearing their doubts, if any. To keep pace with the technological changes in the field or as and when new tasks are assigned to the existing employees refresher training (retraining) is conducted,” Ishrat informed.

“In our property, training calendars (annual/monthly) are made in respect of various employees, which are closely monitored by L&D (Learning & Development) Manager in conjunction with the Departmental Trainers. Briefings/ right time training/ skill development/ SOP/brand awareness and other trainings are conducted by the HODs/Departmental Trainers as per the training schedule. External trainers from various hotel management colleges are also invited, from time to time, to conduct workshops for the employees,” Ishrat disclosed.

Swetlina follows a comprehensive HR concept, which can be summed up as Reinvent, Re-evaluate, Recruit, Realign and Collaborate. She disclosed what each step involved. 

 “Training is the most crucial aspect in hospitality as it puts your staff in a better position to contribute to the hotel’s success. Make training a part of day-to-day management, so that it is not considered as an additional task. This goes for both staff and management,” she opined.

Swetlina stresses on training of hotel personnel on departmental expectations, behavioural training, body language, and communication. “The different types of training we have are on the job training, coaching and mentoring, surprise audits and guest lectures/ classroom session,” she conveyed.

 “In my opinion, the key to HR success in hotel business is to ensure that we improve the personnel’s experiences at the hotel rather than thinking that they will leave some day. It is very important to keep your associates/employees engaged/motivated each day because the work does become monotonous especially in the hotel industry with long working hours adding to the scenario,” opined Angad.

“It is very important that associates are briefed about the current trends in the hospitality industry. Daily briefings & monthly department meetings are the best way to share important knowledge & information,” he pointed out. 

“With us, at the beginning of the employee’s journey itself, he or she is given a set of trainings that will guide him through the role. A buddy is also assigned to ensure that he or she settles in easily. From time to time, new modules of trainings are assigned to the employees, which ensure that they keep learning and enhancing their skills,” averred Angad.

“On the job trainings are more essential than classroom trainings as by this way the information can be imparted quickly as well as demonstrated easily. Of course, certain mandatory trainings are required to be done in classroom at regular intervals. At Marriott Suites Pune, we also conduct special sessions where people from the industry are invited to share their experiences and knowledge. Our company offers a lot of online training portals for the employees, where in they can log in and be part of the sessions. We have certain targets for all our employees with regard to the number of hours of training required each month, hence it is the duty of the each department head to ensure that those hours are fulfilled,” elaborated Angad.

“There is no special formula to overcome skill shortages. Training and re-training is the only solution. In a world where the generations to come are always inquisitive, on the move to learn more and increase their monetary benefits, movement from one organisation to another will continue and so will be the learning curve,” claimed Venkataramana.

“One could, in a way, overcome some percentage of skill gaps and worker shortages by enhancing empathy levels, emotional management levels and creating an intellectual data base which provides the platform for employees to look to, on any work day,” he conceded.

“Change is the only constant in life. To help in maintaining a lean and dynamic team, training and re-training cannot be emphasised enough. This helps in enabling the employees to cope with the continuous changing environment,” Venkataramana affirmed.

“Training should be done based on needs, and should be imparted based on the gaps observed in the knowledge, skill or attitude / soft skills,” he iterated.

Venkataramana breaks down the ideal module of training in hotels; to be imparted for various needs. “Product familiarisation trainings should be done before a new product is being launched or commissioned followed by an assessment check for the product and its operators. If a product is upgraded then retraining is necessary. Changes in the existing processes should be informed to teams in advance; every training done to be backed by an audit to check for effectiveness of training imparted. Safety related trainings should be done as mandated by law, which should include certified programs for first aid, firefighting and pool life guards, food safety, etc. Once inducted, the new joiners should be taken care of by buddy / departmental trainers who ensure new joiners are mentored till they are ready to deliver as per expectations /standards. Workshops should also be conducted quarterly or half yearly as per need, where one can train the trainer, supervisors, etc.,” opined the HR expert.

“In our company, the entire chain of trainers imparts the training based on the specific needs of their departments, which are prioritised based on statutory compliances and guest needs. The training provided at our hotel includes knowledge-based training, skill-based training and soft skills training,” Venkataramana conveyed.

“Besides, our in-house training programs are tailored to suit us in addressing the skill gaps. We also partner with various universities and continue to work with them in hiring and training future talents,” he pointed out.

“Colleagues can participate in our talent development programs and various initiatives to fast track their career in the organisation. We do also allow our colleagues to move within our properties, which help us to retain the talent within the brand,” said Vivek.

“We have to continually keep exploring new ways of engaging with personnel, be it training or conducting activities. One such example is the introduction of mentimeter tools which we use almost on a daily basis to run short quizzes, surveys or feedback sessions right from the day of their orientation to the exit in order to analyse, understand and make offerings that appeal to them,” he informed further. 

“IHG ensures that introductory training and knowledge about its hotels is imparted as and when employees are joining. Post which every department has its own departmental trainers taking care of their team members with Buddy System. Once a week all mandatory trainings are imparted and the same are refreshed on a monthly basis,” informed Lakshmi.

“With us every department has departmental trainers who are certified trainers by IHG. They are responsible for the trainings of the personnel of their department, which are monitored by us from time to time.  Apart from this we do conduct Role Plays and Capsule Trainings in the working areas, etc.,” Lakshmi put forward.

“We have various tools with respect to keeping the knowledge of the colleagues updated. We have an extensive database of FAQs that we have now made available online, which becomes easy for us to update and the colleagues get a ready reckoner on the go to refer to. There are also daily briefings in which there is always a 10 minutes long trainer topic which largely focuses on the latest trends that are required by the colleagues. For topics and procedures that require more attention and recall and would also be a legal compliance we have biyearly training,” articulated Vivek.

“We have a structured plan for training in the departments. Our hotel orientation theme is named the DICE - Discover, Care, Explore. Under the Discover phase, colleagues go through a detailed orientation of the whole hotel and then when they get to their respective department they are given a TCI (Task Competency Inventory) that guides them with the plan of training based out of their role and these are a combination of on the job and theory. The Department orientation is of 180 days where the colleague has a buddy who helps him/her through the various trainings. On a monthly basis, the departments evaluate their received feedback and quality scores and decide on training priorities for the month,” he elaborated further.

Employee Relationship

To ensure that the employees give their best, there has to be a well-oiled machinery for maintaining cordial relations with them. Venkataramana said, “All human beings thrive on the need for social bonding and the need to have a healthy relationship in their personal and professional lives. The need to be recognised  and be socially linked and accepted as part of a group plays a big part in enhancing and improving the relationship levels people have at the work place.”

“With proper emotional management and high empathy levels we ensure the relationship levels are maintained in a healthy fashion. At the Corinthian Resort & Club Pune, the management makes it a point to support the associates as required, over and beyond the call of duty,” he maintained.

“Empowerment Matrices are put in place to enhance decision making skills, starting at the associate level. Committees for various activities have been put in place to ensure people feel valued in the system. Strong Reward and Recognition Program is also in place. Besides these we also have strong employee engagement programs like Fun Wednesdays, Periodic Sports Tournaments held for cricket, football, chess, and carrom. For the ladies, the International Women’s Day is being celebrated with pomp and grandeur since the last three years,” stated Venkataramana. 

“We also believe that to maintain a successful team we must have a transparent communication system. We have a strong grievance management system in accordance with the legal requirements in place to deal with grievances as soon as possible. Associate Opinion Surveys are conducted in a transparent manner where employee confidentiality is maintained” he stated.

 “At Marriott Suites Pune, we encourage equal participation in any activity conducted at the hotel. So it does not matter whether he is on payroll or off payroll or whether he is a trainee or a permanent employee, everyone is given the same respect. We also conduct a lot of engagement activities for our employees to ensure that they are refreshed & re-energised before they step back into their duties. Theme lunches, Zumba sessions, financial wellbeing sessions, inter hotel cricket tournaments keep our employees engaged and rejuvenated,” asserted Angadh.

 “At Shangri-La Hotel, Bengaluru, we are steadily adapting a conversational method of providing them with feedback rather than a yearly performance review. We encourage and train our Managers on having constructive conversations and being a guide and support leader than a typical boss. Under the employee relations, we plan a lot of team building activities that give time and opportunity for the teams at all levels to engage and collaborate effectively,” disclosed Vivek.

“Our human resources department, in conjunction with the General Manager, ensures that the senior leadership team effectively establishes and nurtures relationships with fellow employees. Supervisory Development Programs are also being conducted for supervisory and other senior staff at regular intervals to strengthen their relationship with junior staff,” emphasised Ishrat.

 “At J.W Marriott Hotel Pune, we believe that the following steps will lead to better employee relationship. They are making work a more fun environment; it will help employees love where they work. Recognising your employees with rewards (like gifts or a points-based reward system), letting your employees know you value them, providing them ongoing training, aligning individual employee’s goals with company goals (let them know their specific goal helps the company meet its goals, which will give employees a sense of achievement) are some other steps in this direction. Sharing the company’s success; letting the employees know how the company is doing, create a strong team environment through team events, making sure your team has the tools it needs to perform its best, which could be something as simple as extra pens at the reception desk, are some other measures,” elaborated Swetlina.

 “At Sheraton Grand Bangalore Hotel at Brigade Gateway there are numerous platforms for employees to interact with Managers and Executive Committee. Our employees get to share ideas, opinions & concerns, which facilitates to build an inclusive environment of team work and innovation,” informed Neesha.

 “Such opportunities as well as an open door policy, encourages to develop a sense of belongingness and cohesiveness among the associates. Marriott, as a company, stands firm on its guarantee of fair treatment, and associates are educated on freely communicating any grievances, which are addressed in an unbiased manner at all times,” she expressed.

 “The InterContinental Hotel Group is known for employee benefits, employee welfare and employee engagement. In keeping with this trend, we at Holiday Inn Chennai OMR IT Expressway keep our employees engaged by way of conducting periodic activities, health camps, help desks, providing cross trainings in other departments, etc. We have an open door policy wherein any employee can reach up to GM to share his/her feedback,” informed Lakshmi.

  “With the right career guidance and comprehensive incentive & recognition plans in hotel; along with exciting employee engagement initiatives, employer iteration can be curbed to a great deal. In the end, human resource department of a hotel’s primary focus should be on retention of talent and gaining the edge on training the associates to deliver world-class service to guests,” aired Neesha.

“We face challenges in our hotel for recruiting the right person for the right job. However, with the right tools and right trainers we assess them carefully and train them accordingly.  HR & L&D departments strive hard to ensure training sessions which are conducted are relevant, interesting and effective for the employee,” said Ishrat.

 As one can gauge from the wealth of information and perspectives of some of the industry players, human resource management is the cornerstone of effective hospitality management and of the success of the hospitality property. Its functions include a variety of activities. Getting the right HR team can lead to better quality of personnel, or rather the right kind of personnel for a given role in the hotel.

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