Best Companies to Work For in Greater China 2015: Hyatt’s empathy training applies just as much internally as externally
Hyatt Hotels & Resorts was named as one of the Best Companies to Work For in Greater China for the second year in a row, thanks to its robust people-centred company culture that focuses on guests and employees alike.
Katie Carter, vice president of human resources for Asia-Pacific, %said she was thrilled to learn from the responses to the GPTW Trust Index that her colleagues took pride in Hyatt’s values and in the work that they do. Over 10,000 of the company’s passionate Greater China “associates” – as staff are referred to – participated in the survey, which Carter says is an unusually high level of participation.
“Hyatt is a place where we strive to bring a sense of purpose to life, where people can find meaning in their work,” Carter says. “It is for this reason that we are focused on caring for our guests, colleagues, owners and community members in ways that each and every one can be fulfilled, engaged and ready to take on the world. We want everyone to experience Hyatt in their own unique, authentic and genuine way and so we build our culture around our people.”
Empathy is a key focus for the group in providing what it calls the “Hyatt experience”. All associates, particularly managers, are trained in listening and observation techniques so that they truly understand the needs of their guests and can imagine “walking in their shoes”.
The same techniques are also applied internally to colleagues to ensure their needs are understood. As a result, associates have managers who are interested in listening to their needs and aspirations, which in turn creates a virtuous cycle in which associates are keen to share their observations and provide input.
Carter says feedback from “empathy interviews” is being applied to create new learning and communications platforms across various workplaces. This helps increase transparency, productivity and engagement.
She adds that the company is redefining its staffing model around the customer experience and building in greater flexibility for its associates. One example of this is the way grooming requirements are being relaxed. While typically a hotel would require its staff to conform to strict standards, Hyatt is encouraging its associates to show their personality by giving more flexibility in their appearance – quite literally clearing the way for them to “let their hair down”. This, Carter explains, results in happier, more productive associates, and is appreciated by guests too.
In terms of learning and development opportunities, Hyatt provides a combination of e-learning tools developed by eCornell and Harvard ManageMentor, along with internally designed classroom and leadership courses. Its Global Learning Curriculum was developed together with organisations such as The Second City in Chicago – for improvisation techniques – and the Institute of Design at Stanford. Carter says that each course is designed to deliver content that allows individuals to plan their own personalised learning experience.
Additional leadership schemes, such as the Foundation for the Future programme and the Hyatt Leadership Forum, give potential future leaders and general managers the chance to engage with Hyatt’s senior leadership team so that they can to learn more about the intricacies of managing and operating a purpose-driven global brand.
“We believe learning starts with being self-aware, understanding oneself, being open to feedback and listening to others,” Carter says. “We encourage our leaders to approach leadership training with curiosity and passion.”
When it comes to career advancement, priority is given to internal candidates and focuses on developing local staff. Hyatt gives priority to internal candidates and focuses on the development of local candidates. This creates a high-morale environment as associates are motivated by the prospect of both technical and broad leadership development.
“Hyatt focuses on the entire journey an associate has with us, from the first contact when they apply for a position to their departure,” Carter says. “We are committed to assisting our associates with their development by supporting them during their key career stages.”
She adds that one of the main determinants of job satisfaction is whether an associate feels that they have been able to make a difference – either in their work, their own life or someone else’s life.
“We have started on a journey to becoming a purpose-driven company focusing on caring for people so they can be their best,” Carter says. “We want our associates to feel engaged and fulfilled. We can only do that if we understand what is important to them and what they need to feel engaged and happy, both at work and at home. We are doing this one associate at a time all around the world.”