All made to feel at home at Hyatt: Best Companies to Work For in Greater China 2014
Hotel group builds its hospitality brand and fosters loyalty through aligning its talent experiences with those of its guests
The popularity of Hyatt Hotels & Resorts as a Best Company to Work For stems from its belief that the most effective way to build a robust hospitality culture is to treat its “colleagues” – as the company refers to the people who work at its properties – the same as its guests.
“If you look at strong brands that are able to establish an emotional connection and loyalty with their customers, they also have the ability to build similar emotional connections internally with their colleagues,” says Katie Carter, the company’s vice-president of human resources for Asia-Pacific. “That’s why we are focused on creating unique colleague experiences that echoes our purpose of caring for people so they can be at their best. We want them to feel at home, where they can be their authentic self in each moment of their day – engaged, fulfilled and ready to take on the world.”
Hyatt defines its “Signature Colleague Experiences” in the same way as its “Signature Guest Experiences”. “Each of these experiences is mapped to the journey of a guest or colleague, from the moment they book a stay – or join our company – through to the times and places they stay with us, work with us, and even through the moment of departure,” Carter says.
“We start by mapping the colleague journey with sticky notes on a wall, identifying how every point in the day looks like and feels like for our colleagues,” Carter says. “This includes the moment colleagues wake up, how they travel to the hotel, what they see when they enter the hotel, where they change into their uniform, and their work spaces, eating places and social spaces. Then we ask ourselves and our colleagues: what can we do at each one of these touch points to help this colleague to be their best?”
Staff from different lines of business across different levels are invited to share their experiences. Their input provides a fertile ground for creative ideas to improve the brand. Communication and empathetic listening are important for everyone to understand each other’s experiences. Various organisational mechanisms, meanwhile, are in place to facilitate communication, both vertically and horizontally.
Hyatt also invites its employees to share their opinions and concerns about their workplace, and issues in managing their roles and responsibilities, through biannual surveys and at regular face-to-face sessions.
At the heart of these vigorous initiatives, designed for information gathering, communications and colleague engagement, is the ability to take action. For example, when it became apparent that most employees in mainland China – who are usually the only child in the family and often work far from home – rarely see their families, members of management worked to address the need.
Carter says that recruiting and developing the right talent is key to building brand preference. The company recruits talented individuals who care and empathise, and offers career opportunities both in terms of promotion and lateral movement within the Hyatt network.
On the leadership level, management teams are focused on moving talent around the world, using a world-class talent management and acquisition system that matches key managers with relevant positions. The company is particularly focused on internal promotions and movement to further the hotel’s culture and experience.
Management leaders work together with their team members to set personal and career-development goals, and review individuals’ progress every six months. Depending on their aspirations and potential, colleagues are encouraged to explore opportunities to work in a different business unit or at different property locations.
Vida Chow, Asia-Pacific director of talent management, says her 25-year career with Hyatt has been defined by growth and dynamic change. Starting out with the events team when she started at Hyatt in 1989, she was promoted to front office, then moved to event management and finally HR management.
“Many of our associates have moved across different streams of business within Hyatt, from front office to events management, food and beverage, and then to general management,” she says. “We always encourage our colleagues to pursue new opportunities, and we would sometimes even challenge them to step out of their comfort zone to tap into their potential.”
As a result, employees tend to stay and grow with the company – the average tenure of general managers at Hyatt is over 20 years, and almost all were promoted from within.
The company has also launched a “Hyatt Cares” programme, in which hotels nominate colleagues to have their parents travel to their hotel to spend a night or two in the property where their children work.
Smartly dressed in their Hyatt uniforms, the nominated colleagues proudly welcome their parents to their hotel, pamper them with the total experience of Hyatt, while they reside, dine and enjoy various leisure activities at the company’s expense.
“There are many more stories like that, where we are able to make meaningful changes based on the importance we place on caring for our colleagues,” Carter says. “For example, we ask our colleagues what they would like to eat in the colleague restaurant. We want them to give input on their favourite foods.
“For those who have to travel a long way from home to work at a remote location, we provide accommodation and leisure facilities so they can enjoy themselves during their free time.
“We want everyone in the company to feel at home. It is especially important in hospitality, because we spend a lot of time with each other.”
Hyatt also provides its colleagues with 12 complimentary room nights at Hyatt hotels annually to encourage them to stay at different branches when they travel. It is not unusual for them to bump into familiar faces throughout the vast network of Hyatt hotels, reinforcing their sense of belonging to a wider Hyatt family.
“This really builds up personal connections among our colleagues and inspires them to think of a wider career with Hyatt in the long run,” Chow says.
As Hyatt continues to expand in the mainland, its aim is to develop a strong brand culture throughout its growing network. “Greater China is a very diverse market. Some people are already very familiar with the hospitality industry, while others are not,” she says. “We strive to further align Hyatt’s colleague experience with the guests’ experience, regardless of which mainland city they reside in.”