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Brand-building from the margins
Published on Friday, 11 Nov 2011
Staff of the new L’hotel Island South have the advantage of potential inter-hotel transfers.
Photo: K Y Cheng

Many more people visit Hong Kong each year than live here. A staggering 20 million visitors were recorded as staying overnight in 2010, for an average stay of 3.6 nights each. As a result, Hong Kong hotels enjoy an enviable 87 per cent occupancy rate. The hospitality sector is one of the main beneficiaries of the annual HK$210 billion that tourists spend in Hong Kong.

Obviously, the city’s hotels have no difficulties in attracting guests to fill their rooms. But how do they struggle to compete with the big-name hotels in Central and Tsim Sha Tsui? Or is location not a factor for prospective employees? Do these hotels have to work harder or be more creative to build staff loyalty?

“Candidates do take into consideration the ease of transportation and travelling time. These are always challenges for us in recruitment,” says Rosemary Tam, director of human resources at Le Méridien Cyberport in Pok Fu Lam. “But we hire for attitude and
train for skills. We are glad to hire fresh graduates or people who are new to the industry. Having good connections with local hospitality institutes is one of our approaches.”

After orientation, Le Méridien enrols newly-joined staff members in a brand training programme entitled “Building World Class Brand” (BWCB). In this programme, staff are trained to deliver the hotel group’s brand message to both internal and external guests – hotel guests and associates – through an understanding of five so-called Human Truths: be understood, belong, feel special, have control and reach potential.

“We believe recognising these Human Truths encourages creativity in staff and helps them retain their passion,” says Tam.

The BWCB training carries on into daily life. Staff members share their thoughts during daily departmental briefings. This “Daily Insights” session allows all personnel to share their real-life experiences.

Also on the south side of Hong Kong, L’hotel Island South is a newer establishment that recruits staff partly through the opportunity of internal transfers within its parent, the Chinachem conglomerate.

“We are part of a fast-growing hotel group which offers opportunities for career development through inter-hotel transfers,” says communication executive Kimmy Sit. “We are looking for job candidates who are energetic and young at heart, able to show genuine passion for serving both external and internal guests, creative at work and committed to protecting the environment.”

New members are familiarised with the hotel’s culture and service standards through development programmes such as the ISO14001 orientation, grooming and on-thejob skills workshops and product training.

Across the harbour, the Langham Hospitality Group – operator of three hotels locally, including two in Jordan and one in Mong Kok – is relatively small, but growing. One of its draw cards for employees is its ability to transfer staff from Hong Kong and other countries to Shanghai, where it has three other luxury hotels.

“For hospitality graduates and expatriates, we offer a strong career path,” says Diana Chik, director of human resources of the Langham Hospitality Group. “We [can create] opportunities both in Hong Kong and in China.”

With Langham’s parent company, Great Eagle, being Hong Kong-based, and three brands represented – the Langham, Langham Place and Eaton – the group arguably has a stronger presence in Hong Kong than many of the major brands.

In 2010, the group was honoured with the “MD 1st” accolade in the Hong Kong government’s inaugural Manpower Developer Award Scheme, which recognises best practice in manpower development strategies.

Langham’s three hotels in Hong Kong underwent a rigorous independent assessment to become the only hotel group in the city to be honoured.

“Our properties are all highly successful in recruiting staff,” says Chik. “One of the cornerstones of our success in recruiting and retaining colleagues has been our ability to ensure that our people know when they have been successful in achieving their goals.

“Whether they are a bellman or the general manager, the ability to provide the resources for good training ensures that they know what the picture of success will be, and how they will be rewarded,” Chik adds.

“This is important to us as not only are we strong in our backyard of Hong Kong, but we also intend to operate at least 50 hotels within the next five years. This means a lot of colleagues are attracted to us for opportunities overseas – in China and elsewhere.