In charge of the Talent and Culture strategy for AccorHotels in Asia Pacific, Christine is passionate about developing local employees to lead hotel teams in order to meet the rapid growth of hospitality in the region. Christine has been a member of the AccorHotels family for over 25 years, having worked in twelve hotels as well as a number of corporate offices. Christine’s passion has always been in developing talent within the organization, so the move into human resources was a natural progression. In an interaction with People Matters Global, Christine throws light on a range of topics – from talent management to agile practices to Learning and Development.
Here is an excerpt of the interview.
How are Southeast Asian countries redesigning their talent management strategies? Can you share a few examples?
In the past, there was a heavy emphasis on hiring talent with the right skills. Today, with the constant growth in the Asian economy and the battle to retain talent, it is essential to ensure that we hire based on attitude, potential, and organizational fit.
At AccorHotels, we are introducing online personality profiling as well as verbal and numerical reasoning tests for the recruitment of hotel department heads. In addition, following the acquisition of FHRI, we are cascading custom made assessment for line and supervisory positions in all luxury hotels.
Once we have the right people in the right seats, we can then focus on all of the other components of the talent journey to ensure that we retain our talent. This includes learning and development, talent reviews, policies and procedures, employee engagement and reward and recognition. Another focus in Asia is the development of local talent in leadership positions rather than recruiting expatriates.
Most international companies are investing in learning and development programs but it is more than just providing the skills and knowledge. It is also about coaching talent so that they feel empowered, it is about allowing individuals to make mistakes so that they learn faster.
A lot of organizations are reviewing talent management approaches and focusing on an integrated approach supports business strategy. What's your view on this?
It is essential that everything that is developed and delivered in HR is aligned to the business strategy. Talent management programs need to have a specific purpose. There is no point in putting a volume number of people through a fast track program if there are no positions available at the end. It is demotivating for the participants and a waste of money for the business. HR leaders need to sit at the table with the business leaders to understand where there are shortages of talent or where there will be changes in the future that will create a gap in skills available and develop programs to meet this need.
For example in Asia Pacific, with our growth of hotels and different brands, we need to source a high volume of General Managers to lead these hotels. For the past 18 years, we have an internal talent development program called International Hospitality Management Program (IHMP) designed to fast-track hotel department leaders to General Manager. When we first started the program we had a maximum of ten people participating every two years, today we assess over 70 candidates and have 25 participants start the 18-month program every year. The content of the program is constantly reviewed to ensure that it meets the needs of how to lead in today’s environment and as a result, the program graduates are highly sought after.
More recently, AccorHotels has implemented a global digital transformation. With this comes a new way of working and to support this we have placed our top 100 leaders from operational and support functions through a leadership program to ensure that they embrace the change with new leadership competencies which support behaviors that is collaborative, enabling and entrepreneurial.
Do you think employers in today's time need to segment their talent pools and invest differently across segments? Is it happening already?
In order to support the business strategy, it is definitely important to segment talent pools. With limited resources, you cannot provide the same programs to everyone but in saying that all employees should have the opportunity and access to learn and grow.
Every employee should have a personal development plan (PDP) with activities that represent the 70/20/10 rule where 70 percent of learning is through experience on the job, 20 percent through coaching and networking, 10 percent formal learning. The resources placed around this PDP will vary depending on the performance and potential of that individual.
If you want to retain your top talent, then it is this group of high potential, high performing employees where the focus and majority of resources need to be targeted. It is also this group of talent that HR leaders need to constantly engage and monitor to ensure that their needs are met and that they feel valued by the company. In addition, it is this group that is at the highest risk of being lured to another company whether it be through an offer of career advancement, financial rewards or a different working environment.
There are discussions around how HR is going agile. Can the HR world leverage this model which is mostly used in the tech world?
There is a need to digitalize some elements of HR but care should be taken to ensure that this does not replace conversation and face to face time which is still very important in employee engagement.
Many companies have launched into online performance reviews, self-servicing HR, mobile learning and other digital mechanisms to streamline the HR process and allow employees to be empowered to control their own employment conditions. In principle, this is an efficient approach but to be truly effective there needs to be a cultural shift in the organization to align values and ensure that there is personalization embedded into the process.
What are other important areas HR is going agile apart from performance management and L&D?
Career management is an important part of the agile environment, especially for large companies. For millennials, a big attraction to a company is the ability to grow their career, whether it be in one country or opportunities abroad. To have control over the ability to see what is available and to apply for positions directly to the recruiting manager, without having applications blocked by direct managers, will be a critical factor in retention. Another element is reward and recognition. Employees like to be recognized not only by their direct manager but their manager’s manager.
Performance management is one area companies are redesigning their talent practices. 79% of global executives rated agile performance management as a high priority, according to a survey by Deloitte. How do you see this?
This depends highly on the culture of the organization. The core of performance management is the annual performance review. The original purpose of the performance review was for the leader to formalize discussions which have been held with the employee throughout the year, to measure performance against the competencies of the job role and discuss what the employee needs to focus on in order to do their current role more effectively. The next part of the review dialogue would be a discussion on career aspiration and if the employee is already achieving success in their current role, guidance would be given on what competencies they need to do to develop to take the next step in their career.
In some companies, the annual review or performance review is the only time a manager sits with the employee and provides feedback. In a millennial workforce, annual discussion is not effective, as top talent are not willing to wait that long and if the employee feels that they are not being challenged in their current role or not appreciated for their work, they will start to look for other opportunities.
How the L&D landscape is changing and what are some of the new approaches being followed by employers to enhance learning and development?
Some time ago companies throughout Asia Pacific acknowledged that investment in classroom training was not the most effective solution to developing employees. Besides being costly, face to face training impacts productivity and can increase workload stress on the participants.
The trend in L&D then shifted to e-learning as an alternative. It was seen to be the solution as it could be delivered anywhere anytime with no travel involved and self-paced. Unfortunately, many companies just took the slides from face to face training and added a voice-over with a few quiz questions and placed on an LMS. They soon realized that this form of training has a very little impact on changing behavior unless there is an opportunity for immediate workplace application. Gamification then became the new trend to make learning fun and engaging for the participants but again the question of transforming behavior is relevant when this is the only tool used.
You have led the global talent management transformation at AccorHotels. Can you share some of your learnings with our readers?
- Be collaborative – When putting together your talent management strategy involve as many people as possible in the planning at all levels of the organization. When people feel involved and heard they will help make it happen.
- Be patient, transformation takes time - Be prepared for a long journey as it will not happen in one or two years. For large organizations, it will be at least five years before it becomes part of the organizational culture.
- When you set your strategy stick to it - If you make regular changes it is hard for the organization to understand and support so they will go back to what they are comfortable with.
- Have a common language – we started the transformation with the creation of a Leadership Capability Framework which reflected the behaviors of the company values expected at every level of the organization using the leadership pipeline model. This now forms the foundation of everything we do in talent management including performance appraisals, potential assessments, talent reviews, personal development plans, and career pathways. When there is a common language it connects all of the activities and supports the overall purpose and business strategy.