Article: Employee engagement is utterly important


Employee engagement is utterly important

In conversation with H.N. Srinivas, SVP HR, The Indian Hotels Company

Routine clerical jobs along with more and more unskilled jobs would be outsourced with the passage of time


For the year 2009, the major challenges for the hospitality sector were to motivate employees as well as to keep them informed about the impact of the global financial meltdown. What are the key challenges for HR in the hospitality sector for the year 2010?

Along with the global financial meltdown, we were also hit by the impact of 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai. It was a jolt for us but in those trying times, we devised a number of employee engagement programmes to keep up the moral. Our initiatives, like celebrating birthdays, interactions with parents and family members, went a long way in pepping up the mood and boosting employee motivation in days when conventional tools to motivate employees like bonuses and hefty salary hikes were hard to offer. Actually the increased level of employee-employer engagement we experienced in 2009 has vindicated our belief on innovative practices. Due to the success of our engagement programmes, we are continuing them through 2010 as well in order to keep the momentum going. Six months back we have introduced ‘Special Programme for Employee Education and Engagement’ to develop key talent and skills. The programmes are aimed at giving an extra edge to the employees.

What are the major attrition factors within your industry and how do you address them?

As a matter of fact, we have the lowest attrition rate within the Indian hospitality industry. We have employee strength of 24,000 to 25,000, and an attrition rate of around 9%, which in itself should be a benchmark for the industry. There is no denying the fact that attrition is there and it would always be there. But if we analyze the age composition of that 9% who are leaving the organization, we can see that around 60% of those who are leaving us are within the age group of 23 to 30. The main reason behind the high attrition rate in this age group is the aggressive nature of the young recruits. They are more focused on rapid career growth and keep shifting to industries like retail, IT, BPO et al for heftier salary and greater adventure.

We are well aware of the problem and we follow a unique approach to fight attrition. We provide unique career plan, greater responsibility and faster promotions to those who stick around. All these factors also help in motivating employees and building trust.

What are the challenges in homogenizing customer experience across hotels for large chains? How important is employee engagement in achieving this?

For a large hotel chain like the Taj, employee engagement is utterly important in homogenizing customer experience across brands. For us, each brand is unique, has certain product variation and the actual challenge is to offer the best within a specific product profile. In our case, we have a wide range of luxury hotels, premium hotels as well as getaway hotels within our portfolio. What we look to maintain, across all brands, are our product standard and service standard which define all of our brands and are unique in nature. To facilitate the process of homogenizing customer experience, we provide training to the fresh employees on board about our product variation, unique standard requirement and quality assurance.

What is the typical career progression you offer to employees – both horizontal and vertical – and how does this link to succession planning?

Career progression plans are very crucial for us and we plan it meticulously. We identify ‘highly talented’ and ‘talented’ people within the organization and they are provided with special training and opportunities to realize their full potential and help in their career progression. These highly talented people are then chosen for the succession planning with proper guidance and training.

The hospitality industry has a variety of strategies with respect to outsourcing of activities. Can you elaborate on this and explain how you outsource activities based on their business models? What is your view on how outsourcing will grow in your industry?

We have a unique operational structure consisting of 1) highly skilled; 2) skilled; 3) semi-skilled; and 4) unskilled employees. As part of out strategy, we never outsource the work done by our high-skilled and skilled employees. But we outsource some of the semi-skilled and all unskilled works, like sweeping.
As far as the future of outsourcing is concerned, I can see that routine clerical jobs along with more and more unskilled jobs would be outsourced with the passage of time. But core jobs would remain in-house to ensure quality standard and maintain monitoring.

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Topics: C-Suite

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