Managing the Hospitable Talent: Manas Krishnamoorthy
A ‘career' as an employee sees it and ‘talent management' as the management sees it, is really one and the same thing
Companies around the world are investing millions of dollars and equivalent time in assessing and improving engagement at all levels
Hotels are the ‘fairlyland’ of the corporate world. They are so larger than life, surreal even, that it takes a special kind of someone to keep this machine ticking. How does one survive in a land where shoes are shinier, chandeliers are sparkling, and come back to do it again tomorrow? In reality, that is not the challenge. There are enough motivated and talented hoteliers out there who are hard-wired to do this, and they do it with a passion. The real challenge is to sustain this set of individuals, and help them to continuously do what they do best.
A ‘career’ as an employee sees it and ‘talent management’ as the management sees it, is really one and the same thing, albeit from different vantage points. They both represent an understanding of the symbiotic nature of the relationship between the employer and the employed, and a commitment towards growing together.
Vision, Mission and Core Values of a company are the soul juice that drives not just the commercial aspirations of a company, but also the brand perception, health, sustainability, business continuity, direction and speed of the company. More often than not, these core values and guiding principles are born out of a boardroom, and handed down to follow.
Unfortunately, the success of such core values for the company is incumbent on these being imbibed into the value systems of the team that makes the corporation tick – from doorman to chairman. Companies today are investing in revisiting their mission statements every few years, approaching this as a moving picture that is business. These are not just restricted to the board members around an ebony desk, but in workshops comprising employees from all levels coming together to shape the future of their company. The buy-in and commitment to such guiding values is a lot greater, even at the grassroot level, as they came to be from them, not just the top management. Departments are being encouraged to get together to come up with their own mission statements that manifest the company’s and an individual employee’s own personal mission statement, to echo what the company stands for and the keg of the wheel they are. Mission statements are ceasing just being a poster on the wall in the corporate office, as a result. They are permeating to every employee who lives and breathes the core values of the company. The effect is an overnight increase in ownership and a sense of belonging in every nook and cranny of the organization.
The traditional parameter of ‘employee satisfaction’ has transgressed into the more comprehensive and wholesome ‘employee engagement’ today. Companies around the world are investing millions of dollars and equivalent time in assessing and improving engagement at all levels. The buck does not stop with productivity of an employee alone. Companies are concerned with and are contributing towards morale, work relationships, mental and physical health, and work-life balance of not just employees, but of their families as well. Workshops for spouses and children are as familiar to corporations as they are for employees alone. Involvement of the management of a company in the education of employees’ children with scholarships and recognition programs, helping spouses find and sustain careers within the same organization, involvement in pro bono work in communities where employees reside, etc. are becoming a circuitous route that corporations take to ensure association and loyalty in employees.
While conventionally, a core HRD role, Employee Welfare today has morphed into a largely democratic process. Committees and task forces comprising employees from various departments today form the forefront of the welfare activities of hotels. Rather than knowing the pulse, management this way gets a first-hand feedback on what aspects of welfare a company needs to invest in. Like any other business, the trials and tribulations of employees in hotels are unique to their working environment, and so is the panacea. For example, working mothers, fathers, or both, are commonplace in hotels. A very large number of hotels are investing in crèches for taking care of children of employees while parents can focus on their jobs at hand without worrying about the logistics and costs of hired help.
Given the nature of the job, stress is an omnipresent disease for the hospitality populace. Companies are investing in anger management lessons, pranic healing classes, transcendental meditation, and such, to help employees positively deal with these issues of the workplace. Also, hotels per se employ a large number of female associates. With the crime in cities and erratic work timings, safety of employees, especially outside the protected environs of the workplace, is paramount. Hospitality companies are tying up with local law enforcement authorities to train their lady staff in self-defense.
The holistic approach of an associate entering the premises to pursue a career rather than just perform a job is perhaps one of most basic, yet profound perspectives to go by. And in this context, several companies are taking as much interest in an employee’s career as he or she personally is. Creative and out-of-the-box methodologies adopted by hotels as corporate policy, is ensuring that employee loyalty extends beyond the here and now. Most companies adopt the ‘buddy’ system for a new entrant, someone at the same or similar level to show the newcomer the ropes. At senior levels, companies today are investing in allocating a senior associate to help groom specific junior associates into the next positions, with pre-defined timelines and coverage grids. Each senior associate is required to mentor, groom and coach a certain number of juniors as a key result area of his or her balanced scorecard. It is also very often now that managers are required to identify, coach and prepare their successors before they move out or up. This not just ensures that career paths are carved in stone, but business continuity is seamlessly protected.
Career growth today is not just limited to vertical growth, but also the richness of the experience of taking the journey up the ladder. More and more hotels are creating opportunities for employees at all levels to shape their futures in the way they want – by offering horizontal positions in related and unrelated fields within the organization. Backed with structured training and mentoring, this is producing some unusual yet astounding results. Restaurant managers are turning into material managers, chefs into F&B managers, housekeepers into project managers, so on and so forth. While outcomes differ depending on individual interests and capabilities, the bandwidth a person brings on board when he or she matures into a general or cluster management role, is spectacular.
Turnover at any and all levels is the order of the day. The lure of greener pastures is a reality that one has to accept and live with, and for the smarter corporations, plan for. While no one person may be irreplaceable, positions indeed are. It is vital then to create a game plan to deal with eventualities like that.
For one, at certain levels, it is imperative that multitasking is encouraged and made part of the planned training and development program for employees. At least in the short term, unplanned exits should not affect the organization effectiveness without immediate hiring. For another, succession planning internally - to identify and develop a bench strength of managers capable of taking on the next level in the event of exits. This not just is a motivator for the people growing, but also for the team en masse to see someone from within being promoted to higher positions, and the fostering of an environment where talent and performance are seen to be rewarded.
High performers are perhaps the most precious cargo a company carries. And they should be treated as such. Fast track growth programs for employees who show an unnatural talent for the game, including focused training programs, growth charts with timelines and career landmarks, go a long way in retaining and preparing such employees. Even more so, recognition and celebration of such talented individuals, be it with informal get-togethers with senior management of the company, or holiday plans, add generously to the affiliation an associate carries for his company. High performers eventually have the potential of shaping the future of the company, and it is imperative for them to be part of the leadership pipeline of the organization. This almost always is a guarantee for the dual success of the person and the firm.
Performance linked remuneration has been around now for decades, and continues to be one of the most important positive stroke as regards the financial remuneration is concerned. Monetary benefits aside, this is a veritable recognition of an employees contribution to the organization, and it is the organization’s way of saying thank you, and not just in words. Many hotel companies base as much as 40 percent of the annual remuneration packages in the form of performance awards and bonuses. As long as the appraisal and review process remains an objective, logical exercise with clear, defined and measurable criteria for success and the performance package is linked unmistakably to that.
The success of the organization being paramount to the sustainability and longevity of the business, it is becoming increasingly common for hospitality companies, like its counterparts in other verticals, to bring in employee SOPs. This binds an employee on a larger plane with the organization in that he or she stops just being a stakeholder as an employee, but a shareholder in the triumphs and failures of the company, living and breathing each milestone of the organization. Performance bonuses in the form of employee SOPs are a creative way to marry remuneration with longevity of employees.
Nothing, however, can replace a well-meant pat on the back in public, no matter what position or seniority. Positive reinforcement of this nature is becoming part of the key deliverables of managers at all levels in several companies.
The paucity of trained manpower is a stark reality in hotels. With as much investment as there is in India alone in the next 5 years in quality hotels, hotel companies are fighting for a piece of the pie in small subset of talented hoteliers. The key is not higher salaries and fancier job titles, but creating an environment that echoes genuine care, fosters camaraderie, transparency, and focus on overall growth and development of individuals. The result is re-creation of ‘loyalty’, one that is based on cohesive growth for the company and for the people running it.
The author is Mr. Manas Krishnamoorthy – Executive Assistant Manager, The Imperial, New Delhi.