Earlier this month, the Grand Hyatt Hotel closed its Tiffin Lounge for an entire day. This was not because the lounge had been booked out for a party. Instead, the hotel invited employees to use the lounge and served them lunch and dinner such as is normally offered to guests.
"Even though we lost business opportunities," says Vida Chow, area director of human resources - Hong Kong and the Philippines Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. "We dedicated that restaurant to our employees to celebrate our 20th anniversary. We wanted to thank our employees."
This shows how highly the Grand Hyatt values the engagement and well-being of its employees. It recognises that this is the cornerstone of its business. Having employees who are happy and engaged mean they are more likely to stay with the company. It also means they will offer better service to guests.
"Employee engagement has a direct impact on the business; on employee turnover, on customer interaction, and on the well-being of employees," says Chow, adding that surveys the hotel consulted support this. "That's why the core of our human resources focus is to do everything we can to ensure employee engagement."
The hotel's approach begins with monitoring of employees to find out how engaged they feel and what concerns they have. Since last year, it has given employees an annual survey to find out about their levels of engagement.
This survey has a pyramid of questions, asking employees about basic needs, such as whether they have the correct equipment and also higher level needs such as opportunities for career development. It has produced interesting revelations about employees' wishes. Last year, it showed that employees wanted greater time to reflect and recognise achievements. Locally, the company uses "The Hyatt Talk" - a weekly meeting between the human resources (HR) manager, general manager and selected employees - to monitor engagement.
"That's a good way to gauge what's happening and what are the things they feel most concerned about or would like us to improve upon," Chow says. "From these chats you get some suggestions from employees about what they'd like us to do; on green initiatives, for example, or improving the restaurant."
The company is continually looking for ways to look after employees better. In January it adopted a five-day working week. It has started offering free soft drinks to employees and doing different world food promotions in the employee restaurant each month.
"One of the ways to engage people is to make sure that they feel it can be fun working at Hyatt," Chow says.
She feels it is crucial to ensure employees understand why they are doing different tasks. This ties in to the company's broader focus on tasks' purpose rather than function. When making a bed, for example, the emphasis is on making the customer comfortable. The hotel seeks guests' feedback and communicates this to employees so they can see what part they play in the bigger picture.
"The first thing we put down in all procedures is the objective, it's fundamental, the why," she says. "We always say that it doesn't matter where you are or what you do, there's a reason why you are here. Everybody is important in their own way."
An extension of this is to encourage employees to take pride in the tasks that they do and the service they provide. The human resources team takes photographs of different people at work to show during quarterly employees meetings and on a noticeboard. "Make them feel proud," Chow says. "That they're doing something meaningful, Every dished washed counts. Engaging employees is to take every opportunity to make sure they feel special."
Recognition of employees' work is crucial. Chow says they have developed an incentive programme for relevant departments. This ensures that employees who achieve targets get immediate bonuses, and if they achieve more they get more. Equally important are non-financial forms of recognition, such as the "HY star" programme where employees nominate each other to get awards at the quarterly meetings. "Cash rewards are important," she says. "But it's not everything ... the other things kick in as well."
Another major way the company rewards employees who excel is to send them to help in the opening of new hotels around the region. Giving employees such opportunities for career development is another important way to boost their engagement. The hotel makes sure it is clear to all employees that there's extensive potential for them to climb in the company.
Grand Hyatt monitors employees closely to find out how engaged they feel and any concerns that they may have
Looking after the well-being of employees and making the company a fun place to work help foster engagement
Employees are told the reason why they do different tasks and are encouraged to feel proud of the work that they do and its results