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All together as ‘one family’

Published on Friday, 18 Jan 2013
Anita Chan
Photo: Dorsett Hotel International

Anita Chan says that a new HR initiative at the Cosmo hotel chain is helping strengthen family bonds

As the general manager of three hotels, Anita Chan knows that it is just as important to take care of the people outside her properties as it is those within.

This attitude has seen the hotels – Cosmopolitan Hotel Wan Chai, Cosmo Hotel Hong Kong and Cosmo Hotel Mongkok, all part of Dorsett Hospitality International – receive several awards for their social-responsibility efforts, including Caring Company recognition and a Green Globe certification for contributions to the environment.

Below, Chan explains that a desire to take these efforts even further resulted in the One Family Programme (OFP), which targets both the external community and the hotels’ staff by providing a number of beneficial initiatives.

Approach
We initiated the OFP programme after performing a series of community social-responsibility efforts over the last few years, such as providing internship opportunities for the underprivileged at Christian Action and the Hong Kong Sea School.

While these efforts have earned us various awards, such as “Caring Company” and “Green Globe Certified Hotel” statuses, we believe the greatest takeaway is how we have changed the lives of those who participated. In this light, we thought: why not step up these efforts by reaching out to other target groups? That was how we came up with the OFP idea.

Through this programme we hope to spread love and caring to more groups in need and regard everyone involved in the programme as “one family” – just as the programme name suggests.

A branch of the OFP – the Caring From Within (CFW) programme – benefits staff and their family members. One of its aims is to let young family members of staff discover more about the hotel industry through training sessions, field inspections and learning to appreciate their parents’ or siblings’ work.

Strategies
We started with four family members, aged between 16 and 19, and in secondary or tertiary education, who were trained for up to two weeks in the front-office and concierge departments, where they were able to get a close look at hotel operations.

On top of this, we also introduced birthday leave and paternity leave for staff. Paternity leave was introduced way before it was first discussed in the legislative council for consultation. We understand that nowadays, employees look not only for an attractive remunerative package and good career prospects, but also a job that offers a good work-life balance.

Feedback
For the CFW programme, both staff and management agree that the internship programme was able to achieve its original objectives.

Bonds between staff and their family members were strengthened as the interns learned to appreciate the enthusiasm and efforts their parents and siblings made in their jobs. The interns were also able to develop a basic, but essential, knowledge about the hotel industry.

Some staff members’ children were even able to reflect on their own lives. For example, one staff member’s son mentioned that he realised how rude and lazy he was before joining the programme and that he was determined to be more polite in the future.

At our hotels, we believe that happy families make a happy society. In this light, the OFP, as a social-responsibility programme grown from within, is the perfect kick-off point.

We also strongly believe that through this programme, we are able to achieve a win-win outcome. Our staff members’ families are given more chances for family bonding, while through training sessions, the younger members are given a golden opportunity to learn about how a hotel is run, which cultivates new blood for the hotel industry.

We estimate that the introduction of paternity and birthday leave results in only a 1.38 per cent drop in productivity, yet as we believe happy families makes a happy workforce, we believe they are worth practicing. We were proved correct as a recent internal survey shows that these measures rank among our staff members’ top five preferred benefits. It has certainly had a positive impact on our staff-turnover ratio.

Future
We plan to continue this meaningful programme during the Chinese New Year and summer holidays when kids are less busy in school, and extend the training to include more departments. When the programme becomes more mature, we also hope that it can be extended to other sister properties within the group.

As told to Wong Yat-hei

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