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Retaining the NewGen Talent

Friday, February 17, 2017, 15:46 Hrs  [IST]

Unlike their generational cousins, the new generation of workforce across industries looks for work places which are exciting in terms of not only salaries and perks but also in terms of the work environment, work-life balance, and opportunities for career growth. Hotel industry which has not so appreciable record in manpower retention has the onus on itself to make amends to its manpower management strategies so that the talent is identified, recognised and retained through a seamless engagement process. Hospitality Biz tries to understand how the industry gears up to these challenges.

In a recent meeting of Tourism & Hospitality Skill Council, a sector skill council under National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC), Arun Nanda, Chairman of the Council made a realistic remark on the much talked about “demographic advantage” India as a country boasts of. Yes, the country has the highest percentage of young population in the world. It is important that this demographic advantage is well tapped for the growth and socio-economic development of the country. Failing in channelising that energy in a productive way would result in serious social problems, he said. The whole objective of skilling India by the government is to make people employable in different productive sectors of the country.

However, gaining professional degrees, skill sets required for jobs, etc., are just the beginning. Then comes the interface with the industry. It is important that the industry guides, mentors and provides opportunities for career growth for those who comes with aspirations. It should not only attract the new generation workforce, but has to cultivate and configure the talent entering the profession properly.

Need to revisit HR policies
Unlike the earlier generations, the millennial workforce comes with its own typical generational traits which have to be understood, taken care of and reflected in the HR policies and the whole culture of the

organisation should be built around people. Even people with vast experience and expertise in HR management recognise this issue.

“Conventional HR practices won’t work in the changed scenario. The new generation staff wants lot of freedom, respect and work-life balance. Unless the industry puts ‘human resource first’ as a philosophy, it won’t be able to retain them for long,” informs Douglas Peter, Vice President – HR, Training & Strategies, The Quorum Hotels & Resorts. Agreeing to this, M Nagaraj, Senior Manager - HR, Brigade Hospitality Group also stressed on the need for “people-centred policies” for man management in the current environment. “Organisations need to ensure that employment policies and practices provide developmental opportunities, career planning, reduction of work–family conflict, and mentoring for disadvantaged groups. More than serving as ‘policy police’, HR managers can be chief facilitators of a culture in which highly-ethical decisions are the norm and values considerations are embedded in the corporate psyche,” he observed.

Having said this, employee-friendly policies are still a far cry in hospitality sector. People associated with the industry for long do concede that baring a few reputed brands, the hotel sector by and large is still reluctant to instill a work culture with prominence on people. “If you are a visionary HR person, you won’t see fitment in many Indian hotels.

Many hotels do not even follow the law of the land with respect to minimum wages,” laments an HR professional.

However, hotel industry can of course take credit in the remarkable achievement of few brands like Marriott, The Oberoi Hotels, Lemon Tree Hotels, etc., which figured in the top 10 rank of ‘Great Places to Work’ list in 2016. Lemon Tree Hotels has gone a step further and achieved the number one company in “Workplace culture transformation case study’ last year.

What they do?
Hospitality Biz approached few HR heads from leading hotel groups in the country to understand what they do and practice to motivate, reassure and keep the millennial human capital happy. The responses were encouraging at least in the sense that there is clearly a mind-set change that is emerging out of the HR cabins.

“We do understand the new generation would like to work hard and party harder, keeping this thought in mind, we at Chancery Hotels have announced six days off in a month for all employees, so that, when they are at work they give their best and make our guest feel at home and on the other side the management takes care of team members by providing them enough time to rejuvenate and return happy at work.

We do encourage youth to get more advanced in technology and we support the cause by providing free wifi internet to our team members in our heart of house areas where employees can connect to the world for learning, fun and leisure,” says Yogesh Sharma, HR Manager, The Chancery Group, Bengaluru.

Demographics in any workplace in the current context, include almost five generations of people, says Sujata Guin, Corporate Director & AVP – HR, Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels Ltd (The Park). These include the baby boomers, the traditionalists, the gen X, the millenials (gen Y) and the iGen also known as gen Z who have recently started interning and training. Therefore, it is vital to create synergy and connect among the diverse groups for smooth functioning of any unit, she informs. “In terms of the new generation, we have been consistently realigning our internal people processes and policies to ensure we are able to engage, groom and retain them. There is a conscious focus on the use of social media and the digital space ranging from our brand site; the career page and our Park Connect group on Facebook to the high end ESS module of SAP ERP. This enables team members to login from the comfort of their desk/handheld device and manage their attendance/leave or complete appraisals. Additionally, with the soaring aspirations of the new gen, we ensure their continuous skilling and competency building so that they can be groomed for and assigned challenging projects and roles. We also ensure that our practices afford sufficient autonomy and empowerment to them. Work-life balance is another important need. Currently we work five and a half days and the aim is to further enhance this balance.”

Hilton Hotels has piloted a five-day-week work program in their hotels, says Sabu Raghavan, Senior Director- HR (South East Asia & India) for Hilton Hotels. “We want to redefine work-life balance in the industry and are the first hospitality company in India to undertake this initiative,” he states. “Hilton is in the business of people serving people and we believe that our team members are the ‘secret sauce’ to our success. For this reason, we are committed to create meaningful opportunities for our team members so that they can be successful in their careers with Hilton and realise their aspirations with us. Being named as one of the world’s 25 best multinational workplaces and one of India’s best companies to work for according to the great place to work institute last year indicates that we are on the right track and we certainly want to continue to build on our relationship with them.”

Lemon Tree Hotels boasts of one of the youngest team on the shop floor with an average age of less than 25. Accordingly their HR policies are designed to “constructively engage” that young team in the overall growth and progress of the company, says Rajesh Kumar, VP - HR, The Lemon Tree Hotels. “It is essential to keep them ‘constructively engaged’ by providing them with challenging tasks so that they not only learn in the course of completing them, but also get a sense of the objective of the exercise and its impact on the business in the long term. We provide umpteen learning opportunities which are linked to our career progression programs, to achieve the above. All high potential employees are enrolled into one of the many learning programs. They are required to qualify to a set of must-knows, and cross train in different departments, before becoming eligible for elevation to next level,” Lemon Tree Hotels is one of the hotel companies which employs people with disabilities, and currently has over 1,300 employees in their roll who are hearing and speech impaired or from economically disadvantaged sections. “They are treated equal to their fully-abled peers and get similar opportunities to learn, groom and grow,” Kumar said.

While the industry leaders talk high on the employment generation potential of the hospitality industry through the roof at every conference, convention, etc., to fetch additional subsidies and incentives from the government, the human resource record of the industry continues to be quite poor. The attrition levels in the industry are far from desirable compared to many other industries. Yes, there are a few emulatable examples in the industry, but there is still a long way before this service industry is called truly a ‘people’s industry’.

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