Race to hire best pamperers
We live in an age of rising customer expectations and never are those expectations likely to be greater than on a visit to a five-star hotel.
"A guest visiting these types of properties expects to be pampered," says Jean Philippe Moser, resident manager at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong. "The hotel should anticipate their needs and be responsive to their demands by providing a personalised, discreet and attentive service. It should provide an experience, a memorable journey and a sense of place."
He believes that competition has sharpened among luxury hotels because people not only travel more but also increasingly share information via social media.
The range of services hotels are competing to provide, for example, is widening all the time. "We are no longer just a room, food and drink provider. We are a lifestyle operator," says David Kwong, assistant HR manager at W Hong Kong, part of the Starwood Hotels and Resorts group.
To provide these levels of service, top hotels require highly trained staff and management that are tuned in to the needs of their guests.
Moser describes the qualities that the Mandarin Oriental looks for in its managers. "They should be outgoing, curious, courageous, open-minded, humble and honest. They should have logical minds and a desire to learn, and be capable of performing consistently," he says.
Given these demanding criteria, top hotels vie with each other to hire the very best talent available. The quality of the training they provide, and the career opportunities they offer, can prove a powerful draw to recruits.
"The Starwood Career Programme allows graduates to develop their career globally," says Kwong. "Starwood Hotels and Resorts operates over 1,200 hotels worldwide and is rapidly expanding. In Greater China alone, we have already opened 100 hotels and a further 100 will be opened by 2015."
The Starwood Career Programme not only provides entry-level training but also helps prepare staff for the next move along their career path within the company. For example, the "Entry Level Track" guides junior staff to supervisor level, while the "Executive Committee Track" grooms managers for the step-up to director and executive levels.
"We are looking for applicants who are passionate and self-driven, as hotel operations require longer working hours compared with other industries," Kwong says.
The Mandarin Oriental group launched its Food and Beverage Management Trainee Programme in July 2011. On this 18-month course, top graduates from hotel schools around the world receive hands-on operational and supervisory training in at least three of the group's 10 renowned food and beverage outlets. They also take part in a comprehensive schedule of seminars, hotel and restaurant visits, and academic study.
Next January, the hotel group starts its Rooms Division Management Trainee Programme. "Our objective is that each Rooms Division department within the group will develop high-potential managers of the future, not just for their own hotel but for our group," says Kit Lee, director of rooms at Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.
"After successfully completing the programme, trainees should be qualified to hold a junior management, or at least a supervisory, position within the group for at least a further year," says Lee. "In becoming junior managers, the graduates are in a strong position to put their skills to use in the workplace."