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‘We follow an open culture and welcome new ideas and perspective’

Monday, November 11, 2019, 16:08 Hrs  [IST]

Skilled human resource crunch has always been an issue in the hospitality industry in emerging markets like India because of multiple reasons like demand-supply imbalance, high attrition, poaching within the industry, etc. Talent Management, therefore, is a key issue before the industry. Anna-Maria Dreesen-El Achcar, Vice President – Human Resource, IMEA & Global Luxury Talent talks exclusively to Hospitality Biz on the issue of talent management.

Q With IHG on a rapid expansion in the region, what are the challenges the group is facing in terms of finding talent to support that growth and expansion?
The hospitality industry in India is growing at a significant pace and there is a strong need for a skilled workforce to sustain this growth. One of the reasons for this gap is that the talent being trained at the hospitality institutes in the country is attracted by a wider industry beyond hospitality, and they explore career opportunities in sectors such as BPOs, KPOs, airlines, banks etc, which reduces the pool of skilled talent dedicated to the hospitality sector.

Also, there is a need for the sector to be positioned suitably to inspire youth and encourage them to explore a career in hospitality.

Q The customer base of the hospitality industry is largely shifting from the baby boomers' generations to more millennials. The product and service design expectations are also different for the millennial guests. How does this changing customer profile reflects in hiring of work force and their skill levels?
In our endeavour to align with our guests' requirements, we have always evolved our product and services. We stay abreast with the customer trends and rely on our multiple intensive training modules to equip our colleagues to deliver standardized services suitable to the changing customer profile.

Additionally, to ensure we have an inclusive work environment, we have maintained a balanced workforce comprising of millennials and have also adopted a leadership style that is more suitable to work with the new-age talent.

Q The hospitality industry in India always thrived on poaching for talent? As a HR person, what are the pitfalls of that strategy? How IHG look at the overall talent issue and identifying and grooming the right talent?
To address the talent challenge, we follow a three-pronged approach: 1. Recruiting the right talent and giving them the room to have a great start. 2. Building internal talent: We have always placed a strong emphasis on growing, developing, and retaining our people by creating an inclusive culture, and an environment to learn and grow. 3. Internal movement of talent: IHG is one of the world's leading hotel companies operating across nearly 100 countries. We have a diverse portfolio of quality brands which sets us apart in the industry. This translates into a world of opportunities for our colleagues, and depending on the business requirements, we facilitate internal movements for talent who is keen to explore and further develop a career in the hospitality sector. Simultaneously, we work towards recruiting talent for requirements that cannot be met from the existing workforce, through mapping the right people in the market.

Q How IHG Academy initiative helped IHG groom its talent pool? How do you plan to expand the initiative?
IHG Academy has been instrumental in increasing the proportion of the employable workforce for IHG and India's hospitality industry, in general. In 2018 alone, IHG Academy trained more than 900 participants. We have 22 hotels participating in 43 IHG Academy Programmes across India.

We also have a strategic tie up with Vedatya Institute to develop Revenue Management professionals for IHG. Till 2018, we have trained 24 Students in revenue management. As we grow in geographies, there will be growth in the number of IHG Academy, as well.

Q Attrition is a major challenge in the industry? How is IHG able to contain the workforce attrition?
As one of the leading hotel companies in the world, hiring and retaining the right people is critical to our success. We are a fast-growing company with a global footprint. This gives us an opportunity to proactively support our colleagues and give them opportunities to work across geographies, functions and roles under our expansive portfolio of brands.

Q The millennial work force is quite technology savvy and may have novel ideas which can be nurtured at the unit and brand level. How IHG HR strategy is aligned to exploit such talent and out of the box ideas?
At IHG, we follow an open culture and welcome new ideas and perspective. We encourage all employees to have open discussion and share their thoughts and suggestions. For instance, at our hotels in India, we run a program which gives an opportunity to our colleagues to interact with the General Manager of the hotel and share their suggestions on hotel operations. Similarly, we have other impactful platforms which allows employees to come together and share innovative ideas related to all aspects of the business.

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