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Hotel’s winning heart and soul

Published on Tuesday, 21 Jun 2011
JW Marriott Hotel ‘associates’ show their guests the same respect, care and consideration they regularly get from the company.
Photo: JW Marriott Hotel
Mark Conklin
General manager, JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong

JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong is the winner of this year’s Aon Hewitt Best Employer in Hong Kong award.

“The word that comes to mind is ‘euphoric’,” says the hotel’s general manager Mark Conklin. “Since we were recognised, we came up with a little credo: ‘It takes each and every one of us to make the hotel such a wonderful success. We are JW Marriott Hong Kong-proud.’”

The hotel JW Marriott has about 750 employees in Hong Kong, most of them having worked many of whom have been with JW Marriott the hotel for unusually long lengths of service time. 95 have been there since the hotel opened 22 years ago and 250 have been there for 15 years. Its annualised staff turnover in 2010 was just over 9 nine per cent – the lowest rate turnover of any five-star hotel in the city.

So what is making employees stay so long, in a sector with notoriously high turnover rates?

Conklin – who himself has been with JW Marriott for 30 years – puts it down to a genuine culture of caring for staff. “Fundamentally, there’s a deeply held respect, and care and consideration. And that, personally as general manager, is why I come to work. In the service business especially, it’s got to come from the heart. You can’t fake that.”

The care and consideration are no fakes. Indeed, as Conklin strolls through the hotel, he is greeted warmly recognised and smiled at by everyone he meets. And he knows them, too, not just their names and jobs, but also their recent work achievements and at work, their recent milestones in their personal milestones. or family lives. Underlying this clear camaraderie is a detailed training and development programme, an extensive two-way communication system and a generous bonus scheme linked to performance. -linked bonus system.

That consideration starts with the careful choice of words, and works its way into all aspects of people management. For starters, the word ‘employee’ is rarely used here, says Conklin.

“The term we use in Marriott is ‘associates’ because when you call somebody an employee, it implies that they work for you. When you call someone an associate, it implies that they work with you. It’s a very subtle distinction but I think it’s very powerful,” he says.

The hotel Marriott builds its service culture through a four-stage process of selection, training, communication and celebration.

Potential employees must pass at least three interviews which Conklin says take time but ultimately ensures a better fit.

New hires undergo three days of orientation, before starting work, followed by and then follow an extensive certification programme designed for each position that allows them to see clearly the courses and skills they need before they can be promoted for promotion.

Daily stand-up communication meetings and a newsletter supplemented by a daily newsletter, ensure everybody is informed of hotel news, recognition stories and guest feedback. In turn, staff share their views staff give feedback through an annual survey. Associate Engagement Survey. The hotel has just started running has recently started to run two-hour sessions with groups blocks of 25 staff to discuss core values and solicit feedback.

Celebration and recognition are the natural by-product of good selection, training and communication, says Conklin, who issues at least five handwritten “thank you” notes to his associates every day. Celebrations include regular staff outings – last month, the hotel treated everybody taken to an Ocean Park trip. Bonuses are linked to business results and performance. In 2010, staff received a three-month bonus based on the hotel’s financial results. “Our bonus scheme ties in with the business goals, so everybody’s very clear about the direction,” Conklin says.

Ultimately, the hotel’s success is down to its soul, he adds.

“I think there are a lot of definitions for leadership, but at the crux of it, leaders have to care about the people they lead and I think there’s a sense of genuine caring that permeates this hotel,” he says.

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