As hotel companies look to grow their portfolios, especially overseas, there has been a lot of talk about staffing. As recently discussed on this website, major universities such as Florida International University have begun hospitality education programs to teach a new generation of hospitality workers in places such as China the western model of hotel operations (see “Hospitality Education in China”). But current employees are also key cogs to realizing the type of expansion that many hotel companies have in their plans.
I recently discussed this subject with Jim Abrahamson, president, the Americas, at IHG, and Mark Carrier, chairman of IAHI, the owners association for IHG, during interviews for an article I’m writing for an upcoming issue of the magazine. What became apparent during those discussions is that while hotel brands seek to expand in places such as China, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, the competition for quality employees will increase.
“We’re not the only hotel company opening hotels in China today, so there’s competition for the best talent,” Abrahamson told me. “In addition, the cost of acquiring, developing, and training employees is quite high because of the extra work that it takes to be able to open that many hotels, especially in a dynamic market like China.”
Carrier agreed, saying that a brand’s employees are central to building a strong brand whether it’s during expansion into a new market or maintaining an edge in your current market. “To truly execute on brand values and service levels that are necessary to compete in today’s environment, we have to be very good about our people skills. Our employees throughout the entire system are a direct reflection of the brand values,” he told me. “The quality of selection, training, motivation, and encouragement are vital to guest satisfaction. It’s not just about the soap or bed scarf that you have. Having competency in terms of product is important, but if you don’t have excellent service you can’t beat the competition.”
Recently, IHG held its inaugural “Celebrate Service Week” in which it celebrated the importance of all 330,000 of its worldwide employees. We’ll have more on the company’s program as well as its ongoing efforts to honor the importance of employees in the November issue of Lodging. But for now, I’d like to know, what types of efforts are hotel companies making to build quality staffs for expansion plans, particularly in emerging markets? Any thoughts?