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Hiring at the double

Published on Friday, 31 Aug 2012
W Hong Kong director of human resources Paul Ng says the hotel encourages fun.
Photo: Berton Chang

Human resources consultants advise jobseekers to visit the workplace of a new company before joining to find out if the culture fits and whether staff seem happy.

This may be hard to do when applying for an office job, but is certainly possible when joining a hotel.

At W Hotels, one first notices the perfect grooming, the extremely high energy levels and the enthusiasm staff display for the job. It’s exactly what they need – the hotel’s commitment to guests of “whatever, whenever” is a tall order requiring high standards and strong commitment.

“Education is important, but passion and confidence is even more important with the brand,” says Paul Ng, director of human resources at the 400-employee W Hong Kong hotel, which opened four years ago.

To find out more about the personality of applicants, and what they are passionate about, those who get through the filtering of résumés will be asked to also provide five photos that represent what they like to do in their free time and are passionate about. They are also told that the interview has no particular dress code and they can dress as they like.

Depending on the job, candidates will undergo one-on-one or group interviews and tailor-made tests. They have to show they can live up to the requirements of “passion, pride and discipline”.

Part of the Starwood Hotels and Resorts group, W makes work fun. For example, the new staff uniforms were presented to the staff on a catwalk. “We encourage fun, creativity and career growth. We want to transform the workplace,” Ng says.

Job titles and names of everyday events are renamed and made amusing. The interview is an “audition”, the quarterly communication meeting is the “what’s up meeting” and employees are called “talent”, while the bell boy is dubbed the “welcome ambassador” and the housekeeping attendants “stylists” as they have to style the room as well as clean it.

New staff receive their training in the “rehearsal” room and are given a “storyboard”, a key training guide. The storyboard can be used as a notebook to record what they learn and, at the same time, will also draw up the employee’s personal journey as they develop from new recruits and climb the career ladder.

“The training includes the basics of communication, body language, and how to apply all that. It is then followed up by talent coaches, who are the supervisors,” Ng says.

“New staff also have to learn to be observant and look for opportunities to offer the ‘whatever, whenever’ service. We prepare our talent for this concept from day one. You train the ‘whatever, whenever’ concept, but it is our talent that bring it to life.”

To reinforce the training, the hotel has also prepared 52 cards that remind employees of what they learn, such as making eye contact and remembering to smile.

The hotel is looking for a director of revenue management, an e-marketing manager and an events sales executive, as well as more staff for its Woobar restaurant and bar.

“Managers should be innovative, creative, have business sense and people skills, and be a talent magnet,” Ng says.

High performers will be able to further their knowledge at the Starwood Cares Leadership University. There is also a mentoring system. However, mentors are not simply supervisors from the same department. They can be someone from human resources mentoring someone in food and beverage; it can even be someone from a different hotel. At the same time, due to the extremely fast expansion of Starwood in China, career-development opportunities in the mainland are also plentiful.

“Greater China is always looking for managers. We have internal transfers and cross-training, and we send task forces from our team to support openings,” Ng says. “There is succession planning to sustain growth and carry on the culture.”

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