The hospitality industry spins around people: guests and the employees serving them. Combined with the fact that hospitality is highly competitive and fast-paced, it's no wonder human resources departments might encounter myriad problems on a daily basis. The good news: HR can tone down many challenging issues through anticipatory measures. Add leadership and employee appreciation, and you can keep problems in hospitality to a minimum; right?
Is this only what it takes? Well, Selin Istanbullu Ozcagli, Director of Human Resources at Four Seasons Beirut, has discussed this matter openly with BIM POS. Let’s look at the basic challenges HR hiring managers continually face, and then consider Selin’s thoughts and organization’s tactics on how to best tackle each.
What was the percentage of staff turnover year 2017 compared to that of other hotels in Lebanon?
As you may know, Four Seasons was named to fortune “100 best companies to work for list” for the 21st consecutive year. Our employees have honored Four Seasons as an employer of choice every year since the list’s inception. The list is compiled annually by FORTUNE and global research and consulting firm Great Place to Work, with results based on survey responses from employees rating their workplace culture on 50-plus elements. These include trust in managers, compensation, fairness, camaraderie and workplace traits linked to innovation. Last year, Four Seasons was also named a “Great Place to Work Legend.”
It is a tremendous achievement to once again be acknowledged by our people as an employer of choice. Our employees are the best in the world - highly inspired and emotionally intelligent individuals who demonstrate genuine care for our guests, have a love of service, and ultimately make our company great. It is incredibly meaningful that they take such pride in their work and feel empowered to represent Four Seasons so well.
What do you think are the reasons behind staff turnover in the hospitality sector (…is it schedule conflict, pay, stress or all)?
Employee turnover is a normal part of the business cycle in the hospitality industry worldwide. In contrast to increasing employment opportunities in the hospitality, the hotel labour market has two key challenges: on the one hand, it is difficult to attract suitable labour; and on the other, it has relatively high levels of employee turnover representing a significant loss of investment in human capital, training and quality.
It is a mix of everything. We had positive turnover where employees transferred out to other Four Seasons properties.
Is finding candidates with the skills to succeed in entry-level positions an issue today? And how do you assess employees very well before assigning them to the right role?
At Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, we look at the key role of the company’s recruitment strategy in elevating the brand above so many of its competitors. The secret to the brand's success is found in its job hiring process. We’ve identified that our key competitive difference is our people. We spend a great deal of time finding the right people and making sure they’re equipped to give our guests an excellent experience.
For us, it is more a matter of finding the right employee to fit the Four Seasons culture. It is of utmost importance for us to find the right person for Four Seasons as a whole before evaluating if she/he has the right skills for a specific role. Employees are first assessed on specific Four Seasons competencies to then be evaluated on his skills for the role in question. Hire for attitude, train for skills.
To help all new employees begin their careers at Four Seasons Beirut, each will attend a three-module Introductory Training Programme that takes place over a period of 90 days to learn our culture and to familiarize themselves with their work environment. Following the successful completion of the probationary period, new employees receive a complimentary experience at the hotel so they are able to appreciate the “Four Seasons experience” through the eyes of our guests.
That being said
Do you believe that “the massive numbers of highly experienced and skilled workers leaving the workforce are widening the gap that organizations are already facing between their available pool of talent and their needs-inhibiting growth?”
The hospitality industry is constantly growing and the need of highly skilled workers is always in demand. Since our recruitment standards is based on attitude, skills and meeting our culture, it is not an easy task to find the suitable candidates. This is why we have introduced the global MIT program - Manager In Training Program; every year our regional vice president and general manager Rami Sayess, who is leading this program along with our corporate HR experts, regularly conducts on-campus interviews at hospitality institutions around the world. Currently, they are visiting Glion, Las Roches and the young Hotelier Summit in Switzerland, to recruit the best candidates who will join our properties around the world.
The Manager in Training program is designed to give participants the tools they need to accelerate their careers and succeed as future leaders. In addition to operational exposure and training, MITs will be exposed to valuable management experiences and project work, allocated a buddy and mentor, and provided with feedback throughout the 2 years program.
With the high turnover rate how do you train the staff well before anyone takes a new role i.e. employees moving into managerial positions for instance?
At Four Seasons Beirut, each learning activity is aimed at impacting the guest experience and supporting the culture of the property. By investing in and committing to effective training at all levels, we build competence and confidence in our employees, thus enabling us to sustain a competitive advantage in service excellence.
For training to add significant value, each function in a Four Seasons hotel or resort strives to enhance the quality, retention and application of learning in the workplace, thereby creating a "learning organization." A focused learning resource then works hand-in-hand with management to develop and enhance the skill levels of employees.
Acting as an internal consultant, the learning resource assesses the causes and effects of communicated needs and advises on appropriate solutions. These solutions may not always be training solutions, however, but could be related to management, morale, equipment or systems. We believe it is through this philosophy of treating training as a dynamic process that true development occurs.
Unreported wastage, theft, or misuse of goods, or even inventory discrepancies; all lead to loss in HR, how do you face this challenge?
Safety is among the top priorities at Four Seasons Beirut. We have a "Safety committee" that meets on weekly basis to ensure that employees and guests safety is preserved, to raise awareness of the issues and to ensure that the processes and P&P's are implemented.
We have cameras installed throughout the hotel, be it in the back or front area and are constantly monitored by our security experts. We have a contract with a third party company whose main responsibility is to conduct thorough security search for suppliers, guests/employees cars along with employees' belonging upon check-in and check-outs. The hotel is equipped with alarms; our technology does not just rely on human observation but enhances it. For example, if there is an “intrusion” where there shouldn’t be one, a camera will register that and ring an alarm. Our level of surveillance doesn’t prevent every unforeseen threat, theft or inventory discrepancies.
Is using the internet a concern nowadays? How do you control your staff from wasting time on the clock to surf the web for hours on end – any features that notify the management?
We do not believe in close supervision regarding this issue; on the contrary, when it comes to PR, communications, guests relations... targeting affluent Millennials guests requires use of internet, be it on the Four Seasons App, social networks, or Tripadvisor, booking.com, Expedia...along with our digital platforms such as the website, press room and other networks that we deal with.
Embracing and managing technology
Do you believe it to be a challenge? And are you integrating any apps or willing to consider ones - like mobile apps to help implement and guide change in the organization, or team collaboration apps that can be useful for communicating and enacting both organization-wide and subsystem changes?
It’s important to remember that whatever remarkable new technology comes next for hoteliers and guests, there’s No Substitute for the Human Touch: A warm welcome,
simple friendliness, kindness, and cordiality. Even the most high-tech hotel still relies on the human touch when it comes to making guests feel welcome. We know from our personal life that while technology is valuable, it only provides convenience and comfort.
Four Seasons leverages technology to get personal:
First, we enhanced The Four Seasons Mobile APP by introducing new features such as direct chat, a new digital service enabling guests to send and receive instant messages, to real people in real time before, throughout and after their stay. Our guests can send a message via multiple channels – the Four Seasons App, Facebook Messenger, WeChat or SMS. Four Seasons chat will help our employees understand guests’ needs and seamlessly delivering on those needs. Second is redesigning FS.com to elevate brand perception and increase engagement with the guests.
“It is about having the right people, with the right abilities, in the right place, at the right time,” and FOUR SEASONS HOTEL BEIRUT has said it better.