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Shangri-La looking for new talent to lead China push

Hong Kong-based hotel group Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts has stepped up efforts to develop its business in China and plans to open four hotels on the mainland this year.

The first, the 508-room Jing An Shangri-La, West Shanghai, will open on 29 June. To prepare for its opening, Shangri-La is actively recruiting talent from Hong Kong and around the world, and is offering recruits the possibility of working at one of its multitude of overseas properties later on in their career.

“The hotel encourages staff to transfer to an overseas location at some point,” says Debbie Cross, global director of talent at Shangri-La International Hotel Management. “All colleagues have the opportunity to apply for an internal transfer or promotion either in their existing hotel or to another location.”

For staff who wish to gain an insight into working overseas, but cannot relocate permanently, Shangri-La offers them a short-term cross-exposure assignment for up to six months, with the guarantee to return to their previous role on completion of the assignment.

Cross says the hotel offers a diverse working environment where staff are able to gain exposure to different parts of the business. “They can experience working in new locations and have a structured career path to follow throughout their tenure,” she says.

“Every day in the hotel industry is different and Shangri-La colleagues often thrive with the new experiences they face when interacting with guests and colleagues. Teamwork is imperative and colleagues have the opportunity to work together to ensure guests receive the experience that the Shangri-La is renowned for.”

Training at the hotel allows colleagues to develop their skills and career through structured leaning-and-development programmes. “Colleagues can participate in training sessions in the hotel and at Shangri-La’s dedicated academy, where they can gain knowledge in a variety of programmes ranging from technical skills to leadership level,” Cross says. “In addition, Shangri-La offers several development programmes where colleagues follow a structured training plan in different departments and locations, which builds on their experience and prepares them for a promotion upon graduation from the programme.”

Iris Lam Wui-man was recently transferred from Hong Kong to the soon-to-open Jing An hotel to become its assistant director of food and beverage (F&B). She says that after working on several mainland projects from her Hong Kong base, she embraces the opportunity to go to China to develop her career.

“Before working in Hong Kong, I worked at Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur,” she says. “Then I was offered an opportunity to move to Hong Kong to join Shangri-La International Hotel Management as project manager for F&B concepts. For the past two years, I have worked on a portfolio of more than 12 new hotel projects on the mainland, involving market research, concept development, and working with interior designers and architects.”

While working in Hong Kong, Lam developed an appreciation for the company’s overwhelming rate of growth on the mainland and the projects it is building there. “Jing An Shangri-La particularly stood out due to the cutting-edge F&B concepts that are being brought to reality.” she says. “Last fall, I bumped into my former boss who was my first general manager when I was based in Kuala Lumpur. We had a great catch-up session and the seed was planted to return to an operational role as assistant director of F&B.”

Lam thinks the experience of working abroad has helped her mature emotionally and professionally. “I believe there are great merits by taking chances in your life, by placing yourself in a country, culture, or environment that is totally new,” she says. “You experience a lot of self-reflection that helps you understand yourself better and, in turn, you become more well-rounded.”

Lam says she feels very fortunate to work at Shangri-La as the brand has invested time, money and effort in selecting and grooming its staff. “I am improving my Mandarin-speaking skills by immersing myself in a team of multi-lingual colleagues who are helping me learn at a rapid pace,” she says.

Shangri-La hosts an annual “career week” event and actively promotes career opportunities to its staff through a series of daily themed events. “The annual event has proven to be a huge success and has helped Shangri-La to retain its best talent,” Cross says.

The company plans to open three more hotels on the mainland – in Qufu, Lhasa and Shenyang – within the year and will be looking to fill many positions across departments.

Cross says the company selects individuals based on their attitude, natural talent and strengths. “When selecting talent, Shangri-La looks for individuals who align to its culture and encompass a customer-focused mindset, good team-player skills, and strong ethics and values,” she says. “By identifying an individual’s natural talents, Shangri-La aligns them to the job that they are most suited to and will be the most successful in.”