FEW CITIES OFFER such a large number of first-rate hotels, and few can compete with the service that has made the Hong Kong hotel industry legendary. But as new hotels continue to open regularly, competition to recruit and retain employees is fierce. Kenneth Wai, area director of human resources at the Island Shangri-La, said that as service expectations grew, it was vital that hotel staff lived up to the challenge. For the Shangri-La, this means staff must have the right attitude about providing service and be ready to keep acquiring additional knowledge. 'Aptitude and potential for future growth are two of the key attributes that the hotel looks for when recruiting new staff,' Mr Wai said. Through providing mechanisms for career development and innovative training, the Shangri-La's staff turnover is among the lowest in the five-star hotel sector. Employees are provided with two types of training. The first focuses on the technical aspects of the hotel's day-to-day work. The second, a more visionary philosophical training, aims to inspire staff by showing them the different ways to create a unique experience for their guests. 'These programmes have been specifically developed to promote the Shangri-La service philosophy,' Mr Wai said. Staff at lower and middle management level can improve their skills by enrolling in a series of more than 40 hotel and catering e-learning programmes offered through an arrangement with the Shangri-La Group and Cornell University. To provide existing staff with additional training and to recruit new staff, the Shangri-La Group has set up a Hotel Academy in Beijing. The Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, is another hotel that focuses on recruiting and retaining employees who can provide outstanding service. Shevaun Porter, director of communications Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, said the hotel looked for recruits who displayed a passion for the hospitality profession. 'In addition to top-of-the-range hardware, the hotel's strategy has always been to focus on aspects of outstanding service. The hotel focuses on recruiting employees looking for career development, rather than the basic financial rewards,' Ms Porter said. Training for new recruits at the Mandarin includes a comprehensive orientation programme, service culture training, technical training such as wine knowledge and technology systems training, and language training. The hotel also offers cross-training opportunities with overseas hotels within the Mandarin Oriental Group and job rotation to broaden skills and experience. There are also different levels of management development programmes, including MBAs and potential transfers within the group. 'We are committed to bringing out the best in our people through effective training and meaningful career and personal development, and by encouraging individuality and initiative,' Ms Porter said.