Nodding To The Future
Creating a digital employee experience protects a hotelâ€™s best interests and enhances productivity, while concurrently meeting the employeeâ€™s quality of life concerns
By Pradeep Suvarna
Not many know that almost 75% of MGM Casinosâ€™ income comes from non-gaming ventures; a good chunk of its business comes from hosting conventions and events. This means that its actual growth is coming from its lavish hotel rooms and F&B outlets rather than the poker tables. Does it mean that one of the worldâ€™s biggest casino companies is now a hospitality player?
Why are we talking about casinos here? Because, the world around us is rapidly changing and this change is redefining business dynamics. Technology and globalisation have paid a key role in this disruption, which is also altering the way people function as professionals. In this era of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity (VUCA), it is time for organisations to reorganise their human resource (HR) strategies.
Hotelier India speaks to Gurmeet Singh, senior area director, HR, South Asia, Marriott International, Gurleen Bhalla, HR director, The Ritz-Carlton, Anurag Mishra, HR manager, ITC Gardenia, Bengaluru and Ishrat Noor Siddiqui, head, HR, Radisson Blu Resort & Spa Alibaug about ways to hire the right talent, nurture them, put them on the right growth path and create an environment that gives them the opportunity to fail and succeed in equal measure. After all, only those who fail can learn from their mistakes enough to not repeat it again. And all this in a constantly evolving and digitally connected world.
How disruptions in the VUCA world led hotels to rethink their HR strategies:
Gurleen Bhalla: We have always tried to create a nimble, agile and resilient environment. We encourage our teams to act quickly, fail fast and bounce back. To ensure speed and agility, we empower everyone in our teams, so that quick action can be taken. High quality talent is recruited and interactions across levels and functions are always encouraged.
Ishrat Noor Siddiqui: Hospitality companies are proactively training their workforce to be multi-skilled and perform multi-faceted tasks easily. This means that they are competent to do more than one kind of work, simultaneously, rationalising their salary, wages and benefits budgets. HR directors and managers are being transformed into HR business partners and no longer confined to doing clerical jobs.
Gurmeet Singh: HR today is faced with competing business priorities and to add that a work environment that is so volatile that it requires agile and continuously evolving talent strategies. Marriottâ€™s HR strategies are supported by our core values and culture of â€˜Put People Firstâ€™ and â€˜Embrace Changeâ€™. Our HR leaders act as gatekeepers to establish and continue to build company culture.
To cite some examples from our talent strategies that mirrors our approach to address the changing workforce dynamics in VUCA world, we introduced digitised application experiences for the tech savvy millennials and genNEXT. This smart phone friendly application process is more effective and appealing for acquiring new generation talent.
We also established and built meaningful relationships through college connect activities. For e.g. through the â€˜Marriott Journey Weekâ€™, around potential 500 youngsters were called to our hotels in different markets and engaged via career chats by senior leadership and also providing Marriott brand immersion experience.
We also transitioned to an 18-month Voyage Management Training Programme to enable our hotels to meet the changing expectations of top talent of premium colleges and managing aspirations of these young minds. We also upgraded our core training programmes for leadership development.
How hotels are building a future-ready, yet purpose-driven entity, which puts people first:
Gurmeet Singh: We have a progressive approach towards building innovative business solutions and new-age practices to elevate the experience of our associates and customers. Our companyâ€™s core values enable us to thrive in this dynamic business environment and make our leaders future-ready.
Marriott provides excellent exposure to its talented pool of associates with plenty of opportunity to keep abreast with innovative business solutions, current and future trends through conferences, industry shows, trade reports, training programs and initiatives. 90 percent of our learning and development resources are accessible from any location, be it their office or home. These courses are self-paced, flexible, can be personalised and come with huge variety of scope from technical skills, management competencies, industry trends, self- development, socio economic reports, business publications, books and foreign languages.
Another initiative that resonates with our management philosophy is called the â€˜TakeCareâ€™ programme, which essentially focuses on an associateâ€™s overall wellbeing. Marriott introduced this initiative few years ago globally, and we have seen exceptional response from our associates. The hotels are provided a â€˜wellness bundleâ€™ for bringing this initiative to life and HR leaders have this as part of their business goal to make it effective and measurable. The programme has impact on grass root level ranges from simplistic approach of elevating physical wellbeing to more intangible areas such as emotional wellbeing. Programmes of this magnitude give us confidence that our associates are empowered and better prepared to manage change.
Anurag Mishra: Hospitality is an industry driven by people and people-centric communication. Hence, adopting an open communication and open-door policy for employees must be given paramount importance.
Gurleen Bhalla: Training has been the focus of our hotel, and regular audits done internally to assess our peopleâ€™s capabilities. We have various programmes for the Gen Y to get an exposure to top-class learning opportunities. This ensures that a great talent pool is nurtured within the company. This is also to iterate the companyâ€™s vision and all those involved in its success.
Ishrat Noor Siddiqui: Hotels can significantly contribute towards building a future-ready taskforce by inculcating a healthy work culture. This can be done by providing people with the apt tools and technology to swiftly and efficiently complete tasks, conducting individual need-based training to enhance their skills, and above all, consider human assets as the most important part while taking business strategies.
Steps taken by to drive positive change when it comes to manpower:
Ishrat Noor Siddiqui: Our strategies and policies are globally designed, then customised for employees, which empowers them to take decisions confidently to satisfy guest needs. They are given ample opportunities to participate in various developmental and skill building programmes to to cope with any situation or challenges. The Senior Leadership Team regularly conducts interactive meetings and Q&A sessions with their teams to align them for achieving the business goals. Employees Satisfaction Level Survey is conducted to analyse or overcome any lacunae.
Gurleen Bhalla: Cross-exposure opportunities for employees were a big win for associates of The Ritz- Carlton, Bangalore. 20 employees had the opportunity to go on taskforce assignments both in domestic locations and internationally in 2017. Employees are also groomed to take future positions internally; 76 percent of management positions are filled internally.
Various programmes are initiated to focus on attrition. Amongst them, one is the â€˜Internshipâ€™ programme, which is a platform for Gen Y to get an exposure with the leading hospitality hotel. Since a sizeable part of the workforce is millennials, counselling with complete transparency is pivotal. Open forums to facilitate two-way communication between the management and the Gen Y have been initiated.
How technology is transforming the way hotels deal with human capital:
Gurleen Bhalla: Technology is always high-touch versus high-tech, and this has been Ritz-Carltonâ€™s hallmark. However, we resort to technology to simplify things and infuse efficacy. Our fool-proof Online Assessment is a tool that is integrated with the employeeâ€™s career path and used extensively during appraisals and personal development plans. Similarly, the employee engagement survey is a seamless process where we use technology to glean key information across departments and levels to gauge an overall pulse of the company culture.
Ishrat Noor Siddiqui: By integrating various technologies â€“ from e-mail, instant messaging, enterprise social media tools to HR applications and virtual meeting tools â€“ workplace technology breaks down communication barriers. It has made the workplace truly digital, helping employees collaborate and communicate, differently and effectively.
Gurmeet Singh: We continually introduce tools and initiatives to leverage the available technology to make work for our people more relevant while ensuring the primary focusing is still on people connect and touch points. After all, our industryâ€™s essence is in creating unforgettable experiences for our guests and also for our associates.
At Marriott, we realise that our potential talent is by far more aware, proactive and adaptive when it comes to technology. Therefore, we are enabling our people to embrace technology to make them more agile and future-ready. One such example is using social media for attracting and retaining talent, which is a transformative approach compared to earlier years.
Key workplace trends in giving personalised career growth maps:
Ishrat Noor Siddiqui: A personalised career development map is a win-win situation for employers and employees. In addition to growing their career, employees are interested in developing themselves, both personally and professionally. With this initiative, retention rate increases significantly, which impacts the manpower costs positively. Employees are more focused and better engaged to achieve organisational goals.
Anurag Mishra: Resources are highly mobile and attrition has become a reality, as well as a concern. Hotels must develop a platform for providing career directions to their resources to bridge the gap between their expectations and what we actually provide. It is important to identify the reason of their discontentment, which is usually the monotonous job culture. We must define a multitasking strategy for our people and mobilise them accordingly.
Gurmeet Singh: A personalised career map is at the core of our talent development tactical efforts. When a manager joins Marriott, they get access to the â€˜myCareer Zoneâ€™ platform, which is a personalised associate career map and makes them an active partner in advancing their own careers in the company. The career map explorer provides an opportunity for our managers and leaders to identify their SWOT areas of development, potential next role and built a road map.
Other programmes work in tandem with the â€˜myCareer Zoneâ€™ platform to build a collaborative plan for their career growth. This programme resonates well with the complete generation mix in the company, especially millennials, as they enjoy having ownership of their own career path.
Some other trends our company has embraced include capturing our associateâ€™s imagination and plugging it at the doorstep of our succession planning program. Managers are mandatorily asked to insert preferences in their profile, which is refreshed every year to keep it relevant and current. This ensures that seniors play an important role in the career planning of their subordinates, but taking the latterâ€™s personal choices into consideration by design and not by default.
These dynamic and unbiased practices make our managers feel empowered and in-charge of their own professional journey, too. This adds tremendous value to our organisation as they reciprocate a similar approach when collaborating with their teams.
How digitisation tools can be used to give instantaneous feedbacks:
Gurleen Bhalla: We believe in personalised coaching and mentoring of associates. Feedback is rarely instantaneous. We also have a tool, called INSPIRE, which helps to disseminate motivational stories, which has become a great way to encourage associates.
Ishrat Noor Siddiqui: Digitalisation tools can be used to measure a customerâ€™s satisfaction levels as well as that of an employee. It can expedite problem resolution when customers face issues. Similarly, Digital Employee Satisfaction Surveys can be done every quarter, rather than annually. This way, issues can be addressed on a timely basis, which can help in increasing talent retention. Customer feedback, whether positive or otherwise, can be instantly shared with concerned team members to rectify any process lapses, and ensure superior service quality.
How technology is used to create exploratory conversations with employees:
Gurleen Bhalla: We try and keep these conversations as personalised as possible. There are forums like GMâ€™s Chat, open house and a consistent open-door policy within the company that augments inspired conversations.
Anurag Mishra: It would be great to define and develop a tool to capture employee data, like their social, cultural and economic background. Through this, we can access their needs, pre-analyse their performance level to an extent and mobilise them as per their competency level and preference. This will enable better recruitment and curb a lot of day-to-day challenges and reduce attrition. There is a preconceived notion about having to work relentlessly for long and undefined hours in the hospitality industry. Analysing employee credentials will help us understand what can be expected of them, which in return will create an ideal workplace environment for the associate.
Ishrat Noor Siddiqui:We have already created groups on instant messenger like Whatsapp for various committees, like First Aid, CSR, Welfare, Health & Safety, etc. This is used as an effective way of communication. The Employee Development Centre has AV equipment with high speed internet so that associates can do video conferencing with other fellow team mates working in other hotels of the group.
Leveraging digitisation to involve people, not isolate them:
Gurmeet Singh: The hospitality industry rests on people experiences, whether employer to employee, or guest facing associates servicing the guests. Digitisation creates a paradox of amazing opportunity to personalise and de-personalise experiences for our associates as well our guests. Therefore that are successful in positioning themselves at the pinnacle of leveraging technology and still managing to create meaningful experiences for their people are ahead in the game.
At Marriott we achieve this by consciously reminding ourselves that the effectiveness of these processes or initiatives rely heavily on making people as the prime focus while making business decisions and not the process or technological advancement itself. It is also important to find the right fit while making these technological changes to meet business objective and not necessarily the most advanced. The chances of making sure that our people feel good about such changes are if we engage a partnership approach with our people. In our company we provide them opportunity to pilot and shell out feedback. This puts us in a great position to find the sweet spot. When people are fully immersed in the experience and part of the process change, it seals the success of technological changes.
Ishrat Noor Siddiqui: The more we can automate mundane tasks, the more time employees will have to perform more strategic activities. Creating a digital employee experience protects the organisationâ€™s best interests, enhances productivity and supports the HRâ€™s mission, while concurrently meeting the employeeâ€™s quality of life concerns. Internal social networking forums can provide additional insights to the HR team into designing compensation solutions that drive motivation, impact revenue and improve employee retention and satisfaction.