About People in Hospitality

This blog is about the people and the people practices in Hospitality. For years the Cruise Industry has been that elusive side of Hospitality, where HR Practices and efficiencies where often perceived as inaccessible.

This blog is committed to sharing the practices the industry follows and at the same time share some efficiencies that make the service standards on modern cruise ships second to none.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

HR and the Hospitality Advantage

Recently I was helping a friend of mine in the Tech industry with developing a new recognition and motivation program based on their new “Employment Value Proposition”. He found out I was on vacation and that we had recently done the same at my organization, so he figured I could add some valuable ideas and suggestions. We were both in for quite a ride. Having been in the HR profession exclusively in the Hospitality industry for nearly ten years I was quite disconnected with how HR is delivered across other industries. In other words, I always thought Human Resources was about providing service to the employees as opposed to providing services to the employees. The Hospitality industry is based on customer service, without this key component any organization won’t even get started before it collapses. This is so fundamental in our business that it is constantly forgotten, it’s “a given”. However there are thousands of HR Professionals in an incredibly diverse range of organizations or businesses that struggle with this principle, since they have never been trained or exposed to our profession in the Hospitality industry. Back to my story… As we started developing the rewards and recognition program for my friends organization, I very quickly realized that as a tech company they had the resources and creativity to come up with some very neat ideas for this program, some of this stuff they decided to implement I can only dream of, which was not much of a surprise to me, however I was almost shocked when the moment of implementing the program came. My biggest struggle was not communicating and implementing the program itself, most of the leadership teams understood and liked the programs, it was the delivery part that they could not get their heads around. It is as if the new program was part of a different company and they were unable to grasp on how to execute it, like asking an engineer to perform surgery. At this point it dawned on me, as HR Professionals we benefit from becoming hospitality providers for our employees. At the end of the day as HR Professionals we are here to provide service to our customers, to enable executives, managers and supervisors to execute the employment experience in our organizations. We are not here to hand over a manual and expect people whom have never had to deal with anything like this before to all of a sudden become butlers. I would encourage any colleague or fellow HR Professional to go out and experience a premium Hotel or Cruise experience and pay close attention to how service is delivered, brand programs implemented and executed, Staff Responsiveness to the guests needs delivered and how each member of the organization interacts with the guests\customers. Once you have experienced this, try to draw the parallels with services and programs within your organization and start bridging the gaps. Soon you will find yourself delivering an HR experience comparable to your last vacation at the Ritz.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Succession Planning… What is your game plan?

When I moved into Human Resources, one of my first tasks was to organize the Succession planning program for the Cruise Line I was working at. I was well familiar with performance assessment models and performance management tools, however the concept of Succession Planning was new to me. Today I am of the school of thought that an organization without a strong Succession Planning program is an organization without a plan for the future.

I have had the opportunity to work in a number of businesses that had so called Succession planning strategies or models, but when reviewed closely in reality, what they had was “Replacement planning” programs.

So what is the difference? From a very basic point of view; replacement planning is a strategy in which an organization has “Identified” either one or a number of potentially qualified candidates to take over a role of responsibility (Management or Senior Management) when the role becomes available. In reality there is not much “Planning” that goes into this practice, but more of a process of identifying good performers that are willing to take on the new role.

Succession Planning, on the other hand is a strategy in which an organization carefully identifies, reviews, develops and prepares a candidate within a specific time frame for a very specific role. In other words once the candidate or candidates are identified they are trained and groomed specifically for that role within a specified timeframe.

So what are the advantages of “Succession Planning”? Well, besides the obvious (Having candidates ready for future openings, without having to hire external talent) a properly designed and executed program also carries considerable value in the areas of organizational knowledge, business memory, employee motivation and substantial financial advantages.

Organizational Knowledge: An effective succession planning process is a process that could range from 12 to 24 months depending on the role the candidate is being groomed for. During this time a training plan, development plan and mentoring program would be implemented in which the candidate is developed against specific core competencies for the next role. Besides learning and developing skills for their next role the candidate is also gaining a brand new perspective on the organization which allow him to use his knowledge and experience that they currently have in their role and use this to apply to the new information they are receiving and in the process creating continuity of knowledge within the organization.

Business Memory: One of the most tragic effects that happens when senior talent (Management or executives) leave an organization is the “Memory loss” that occurs when the person leaves. In organizations where internal promotions and internal talent development is predominant, candidates at management and senior management levels have tremendous “Memory” value which they have accumulated over the many years in which they moved through and up the organization until the level they are today. When one of these employees leaves the organization all this memory leaves with them, in most cases never to return and in worst case scenarios setting the organization back in this area months or even years. I once worked in a large and high profile organization with over 15 years in business that almost went bankrupt due to the departure of a high number of management and executives around the same time period. After closely reviewing this event it became clear that the issue was not the loss of talent (As a matter of fact the company was able to bring in replacements for the management that left within a record time frame) but due to the loss of organizational memory.

An effective succession planning process could have and would have avoided this memory loss by having a solid pool of candidates ready and groomed for the roles that opened up.

Employee Motivation: Effective succession planning is by nature a very strong motivator, not only to the people within the program but also those considering long-term careers within the organization.

For those members within the program it establishes a very clear set of expectations and guidelines for them to develop their career to where they want it to go. They are being trained and coached for their next step within the business and in most cases they have mentors (Normally more senior members of the organization) constantly guiding them and helping them with valuable exposure and recognition for their efforts. In addition the best Succession planning programs even establish the timeframes in which the candidates will reach their next role, giving them a specific goal in which they will reach the next level.

For members of the organization not yet within the process but willing and waiting to go though it, it gives them a clear and transparent picture of the organizational values, expectation and culture and at the same time it provides clear expectations for the next steps in their career.

Financial Advantages: Even though there are additional costs in Succession planning programs, such as: Assessment tools, development plans, training costs, mentoring time, administration costs, etc These costs are significantly less than hiring external candidates for the new roles or than promoting a candidate that might not be ready or able to perform the new role. Some of these risks are: Loss of consumer confidence, loss of employee loyalty, demotivated workforce, cultural incompatibility, etc which in turn could result in incremental loss of business performance at all levels of the organization.

So what is an effective “Succession Planning” Strategy? Well, that depends on the organization, it’s values, culture, industry, goals and objectives and so on, however there are a series of basics that are required to have a good and effective succession planning process:

Transparency: Many attempts have been made to develop succession planning strategies that are so robust and sophisticated that they wind up being confusing or complicated to understand. This, in turn winds up in creating a degree of confusion around the process itself leading to loss of credibility or efficiency.

A good process needs to be robust, yet transparent and simple enough that even though designed for senior level roles only it could be easily viewed and understood at any level of the organization so that all members of it can develop trust and confidence not just about the process but also those that go through it and eventually end up leading their organization.

Consistency: Once a process has been developed and implemented it should remain consistent and unchanged with the exception of significant organizational changes that need to be adjusted in the process.

For example, if the process establishes eligibility criteria for senior executives stating that they must be with the organization at least 3 years before being able to participate in the program, this should remain this way as long as the program is in place. If the program changes arbitrarily each year it will wind up hurting the credibility of the program and in turn loosing it’s efficiency.

Time sensitiveness: This is most likely the most difficult part of any Succession plan process. To be effective the process must establish a reasonable time frame in which a candidate could expect to move into a role. With reasonable I mean within 6 months. If you extend this timeframe you might wind up with “Disenchanted” candidates since the timeframe becomes intangible (It is difficult for anyone to picture a career move 12 or 18 months out, it is to long).

I am of the opinion that an organization that invests time and effort in a strong and effective succession plan program and strategy is making a great investment in their future, their people and their prosperity, since they are investing in the continuity of their people, their culture and their identity and at the same time creating a people culture that reflects solid business practices and establishes trust in their employees.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Proactive vs. Reactive recruitment

Do you ever wonder what the sign "Now Hiring" means? each time I see this sign on a door or on a Sunday ad, I ask myself if this is "Proactive or is it Reactive" recruitment.

For clarification purposes "Proactive" recruitment is the type of recruitment initiative where an organization forecasts their specific "people" needs and estimates their recruitment needs for that period of time. This initiative is not limited exclusively to recruitment, but also carries great career development and succession planning along with it. However an effective organization will have developed methods\programs to manage this effectively at a medium to long term period.

"Reactive" recruitment on the other hand is the type of recruitment based on immediate people needs. An organization using this method is either to small to establish proactive recruitment practices, is in the middle of a significant period of growth or is not prepared for their people needs. One example of this is often seen at your local fast food stores, when a staff member leaves or is let go, immediately the manager will put up the sign "Now Hiring" which means that at this stage there is a gap in their staffing levels which is leading the store to have to incur in extra over time expenses, re-scheduling added frustrations by the manager and the remainder of their staff and other inherent challenges.

There is no question than out of the two methods "Proactive" recruitment is the most effective of the two, however it is not for every organization. In the case of the small to medium sized organization reactive recruitment is more advantageous since this practice is much more cost effective and allows the members of that organization to focus on their specific tasks and focus on making the business run.

The cruise industry as a growing industry has established Pro-active recruitment as their exclusive recruitment effort. At the pace the industry is growing today they establish their people needs sometimes as far as 18 months out, in order to cover their people needs.

For any organization wishing to establish a pro-active approach to recruitment here are some areas to consider:

Succession Planing: Does your organization have a succession planing program in place to cover future openings from within the organization? As each organization would benefit from external hires at all levels there needs to be a "Healthy Balance" of external to internal candidates to move into the different positions.

Career Development: All organizations would benefit form a formal\standardized career development program that would allow members of the organization to develop a career path with the help of their Management and HR Departments. This process is of great benefit to the employee since it motivates them and guides them to the next level and to the organization because it generates a picture of what available talent they have internally and externally.

Effective Scheduling: Before going out to look for new staff, when the possibility of an opening within the business takes place it is a good time to re-evaluate the staffing needs of that business unit. Do you really need another part time staff member? or could you promote other part time staff members to full time. Is the role opening still essential to the functionality of your business? Sometimes as an organization grows and matures some roles become obsolete or redundant, a job opening is a good time for the management and HR departments to determine if that role is necessary or is it time to re-asses the organizational structure and eliminate\shift the position.

Recruitment Tiers: Once your organization has established their internal talent pool and re-assessed your scheduling and organizational structure, it is time to define a recruitment strategy. An effective recruitment strategy should be divided into different timeframe tiers, in order to plan and execute an effective talent management strategy.

An example of a tiered recruitment strategy often used by leading hospitality organizations is as follows:

12 to 18 months: The organization should review their succession plans and career development plans for candidates for senior management and middle management roles and identify what additional recruits they will need for the organization's management roles, and recruit candidates based on this needs analysis.

6 to 12 months: Should be the timeframe where the business looks for senior level staff members, direct customer contact roles or roles with advanced skill requirements within the organization. This tier should rely heavily on internal candidates and lean heavily on the succession planning process. Even though all organizations should balance their internal and external candidate processes, relying to heavily on external candidates at this level could and will lead to the loss of organizational knowledge and potential could demotivate internal candidates since there are normally less positions within the organization at this level.

0 to 6 months: This is the timeframe where an organization should focus on recruiting entry level staff. This level of employees is more easily accessible, either via walk in applications, online or newsletter adds, word to word recruitment or a well placed "Now Hiring" sign. An effective organization should utilize this recruitment tier to "Backfill" the other tiers and enable their succession planing and career development processes. It is at this level where an organization should rely heavily on their brand and their employment branding (Employment value proposition) in order to attract qualified and valuable candidates to the organization.

Of course a strategy like this is not for everybody, however I am confident that any organization can benefit from some parts of the above, by either taking individual components, scaling down or scaling up some of the above.