Keeping employees engaged is top priority

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 May, 2009, 12:00am

As a first-time entrant in the Hewitt Best Employers in Hong Kong 2009 study, the second runner-up, Renaissance Harbour View Hotel, was surprised to find its methods and standards were so highly regarded. The hotel's general manager, Philip Bryson, puts this down to focusing on the basics of the business and making staff engagement a priority.

He said success came from senior management having a strong sense of mission, and understanding the benefits of not insisting on a rigid hierarchy or formalities. It was also important to have a series of goals for each of the 750 staff, and encourage feedback, give appropriate recognition, and emphasise accountability.

'If we are not delivering quality service in any area of the hotel, it's not the associates' fault, it's the management's,' Mr Bryson said. 'It shows we are not giving them the right training, development, tools and support.'

To minimise that possibility, a balanced scorecard of goals is agreed to at the start of the financial year, affecting everyone from corporate down to departmental and individual levels. The objective is to establish clear and achievable targets, while ensuring everyone knows how they can and should contribute to the business.

Progress is tracked on a monthly basis, with staff regularly being updated on details including average room occupancy rate. 'These are intelligent people; they want to know how the business is doing, and we want them to take more interest in it,' Mr Bryson said.

To encourage constructive feedback and spark ideas on how to improve the business, he also makes it a point of holding 'rap sessions' every two to three weeks with groups of about 30 employees from different departments. Attendees are asked to brainstorm ideas on what the hotel can do better and are invited to raise any issues that concern them.

Discussions may cover anything from air-conditioner settings in the restaurants and development opportunities, to the need for more computers in off-duty areas and the amount of local travel allowances.

'Some things can be fixed quickly and, where possible, I will commit and do it straight away,' Mr Bryson said. 'Generally, it is fair feedback and you don't get unreasonable requests, but in some cases - for example, people expecting an extra day off on their birthday - we have to draw the line.'

However, one of his most satisfying achievements last year was being able to reduce the standard work week from six days to five.

Gary Siu, the hotel's director of human resources, said management had a responsibility to give staff a clear picture of the overall business situation and to change with the times.

To this end, there will soon be a general manager's blog providing news and status reports, and human resources will become more tech-savvy with an online platform to keep track of rosters, benefits, courses and training plans.