Hyatt prepares staff for next step up ladder

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 17 September, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 17 September, 2005, 12:00am

The hotel places emphasis on succession planning and operates its own in-house training academy

SUCCESSION PLANNING at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong has been a hot topic for almost two decades. In 1989, when the hotel opened, grooming staff for progression within the company was a top priority. Numerous training programmes have been implemented over the years to prepare employees for their next step and to ensure that emerging needs within the hotel are met.

Competent staff members who have an eye on management positions have every reason to aspire upwards.

'Very rarely do we hire someone from outside the company to take up a post as manager,' said Vida Chow, director of human resources.

Since day one, supervisors have used annual Performance Development Plans (PDP) to help staff set a course for the coming year. In one-on-one meetings, employees share their strengths and weaknesses, plans and dreams. The PDP includes all 800 employees of the hotel but places particular emphasis on key players such as division and department heads.

'The Hyatt is an international company, so employees have many chances to move around in Asia and globally,' Ms Chow said. 'The PDP meetings are an intimate discussion where we get an up-to-date idea of the staff, their wishes and aspirations.'

According to Ms Chow, succession planning is talked about a lot at the Hyatt, as an important part of caring for its employees. The company constantly evaluates the potential they have within each department and team. By developing their human resources and setting challenges before employees, they have retained 25 per cent of their staff since opening, and almost 50 per cent of employees for the past five years.

Ms Chow has been with the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong since it opened. Looking back, her career history appears more like a super highway than a path. She started out as a banquet services co-ordinator where she did relatively basic tasks such as menu printing, assisting the food and beverage director and following up on logistical details. From there she advanced to the position of catering and sales executive and eventually managed the department.

It was only a matter of time before she was presented with a new challenge, the job of convention services manager. In 1997 she became the director of the department and had her hands full as she and her team orchestrated numerous Chinese and foreign political delegations that descended on the city for the handover.

After a stint as the front office manager, she moved on to become the director of event management where she was responsible for looking after sales and convention services operations. 'I remember at the time, we did more than $180 million in catering business alone. We catered for weddings, conventions, meetings, and high-profile fashion events like Louis Vuitton,' Ms Chow said.

She is quick to note that she is not alone in her wide variety of challenges and posts within the Hyatt. The general manager of the Grand Hyatt Erawan Bangkok used to be the executive assistant manager, food and beverage, at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, and the resident manager of the Grand Hyatt Beijing was once the director of catering in Hong Kong.

Core competence stands out when supervisors look for new leaders. They consider essential character qualities such as adaptability, integrity and time management skills.

Ultimately the person being considered for a promotion must have the ability to manage business, people and change. 'We really encourage movement within the company and we provide training in-house and overseas to do the job. We promote lifelong learning,' Ms Chow said.

Her team in human resources focuses on innovative programmes to develop employees. The Grand Hyatt provides annual training subsidies and takes full advantage of the government's continuing education subsidies. Knowing that the hotel and hospitality industry is so competitive, they work hard to attract and keep the best people in the market.

In April this year, they launched the Harvard Manage Mentor, a system designed for independent, online learning among team leaders and above. Those embarking on courses spend two hours studying independently and then join a group that facilitates follow-up training.

A training academy exists within the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong. The 'university' within the hotel offers core training in leadership, coaching and smart selling, and elective training. Pilot programmes are launched in Hong Kong and, when proven, are introduced to other Hyatt hotels.

Planning for Success

Twenty-five per cent of employees at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong have been there since opening in 1989.

Performance Development Plans help staff and supervisors chart a bright future.

Management encourages movement within the company and globally.

Core competencies such as adaptability, integrity and time management skills take top priority.

The Hyatt Training Academy prepares and polishes staff.