Middle East hoteliers say employee engagement is key for retention and training

45.74% of the respondents on the Hotelier Middle East 2018 Salary Survey said their company had made them aware of a career road map

Salary Survey 2018.
Salary Survey 2018.

In the Middle Eastern hospitality sector, with stagnant salary concerns and issues with job satisfaction, how is the industry going to build a steadfast, loyal employee base? AccorHotels senior vice president, talent & culture MEA Rachel Moosa says the effort has to start from the company via a cultural transformation. Moosa highlights the “qualitative shift” required after all the business changes AccorHotels has undergone in the past 24 months, such as acquisitions and growth, brand strategy and expansion into different business streams.

By implementing employee engagement programmes like the Heartist, AccorHotels reneged the focus from just profitability onto actually developing the talent resource and delivering its brand promise of ‘Feel Welcome, Feel Valued’ to its employees, according to Moosa. El Khoury says that establishing a career path for employees from the beginning encourages retention. He said: “Within Crowne Plaza Dubai, as part of a reputable hotel chain and owning company, we look after all our team members. Delivering a proper career path for employees is very important and plays a major role in employee retention, hence our turnover ratio is very low compared to the industry.

“Crowne Plaza Dubai has an extensive range of over 100 training programmes which support our brand ethos of creating environments, which give colleagues ‘room to grow’ and career safety.  We have a clear career path internally within the hotel, and externally throughout the company, as it is expanding in the region.  There are multiple assessments which have been put in place to ensure colleagues can plan their personal development and career growth,” he explains. This rings true in the Hotelier Middle East 2018 Salary Survey too, as 45.74% of the respondents said their company had made them aware of a career road map or development route within the organisation as part of their employment.

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El Khoury also points out that recognition is also integral for employee engagement. “We have a key focus on team and individual recognition which we believe is critical to retaining employees; and provides our team members huge opportunities to grow and develop. Every month teams and team members are recognised for demonstrating behaviour that matches the company’s brand promises,” he says. Besides engagement and recognition, incentives, according to Hilton vice president human resources Middle East, Africa & Turkey Koray Genckul, play a big role as well.

“At Hilton, we firmly believe that providing great rewards and career opportunities helps us recruit and retain team members. Last year, we launched our new team member value proposition, Thrive@Hilton. Through initiatives such as building in time to recharge during the work day, sabbaticals and modern tools for increasing recognition, we enable team members to flourish in body, mind and spirit. In addition, we offer world-class rewards and benefits such as the Team Member Travel Programme which allows all team members discounted rates at Hilton hotels. Last year, we introduced a minimum of 12 weeks’ fully-paid maternity leave in the Middle East and Africa,” Genkul relays.

MOVING UPWARD

The hospitality sector in the Middle East is growing rapidly in certain parts such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia while other regions are strengthening their pace too. But, this very growth, TRI Consulting’s Christopher Hewett says, has created a shortage of employee force as the supply of jobs is tilting the scale more than there are takers for it. “It’s hard to generalise, however this appears to be the case in individual markets in the region, particularly in the GCC where the hospitality sector has been booming. Markets such as Saudi Arabia and UAE are experiencing significant shortage in supply of highly skilled/qualified staff due to exponential growth in supply there,” Hewett points out.

The shortage might have something to do with the high turnover rate as well. 49.06% expressed they would leave the Middle East if they had the opportunity to move, while 32.02% expressed that they were keen to move to the UAE. But all things considered, the hospitality sector has no dearth of ambition. For the second year in a row, Marriott International took the top spot for the company employees would love to work for. 46.43% of the respondents want to shift to the hospitality giant, which has revealed plans to expand its presence in the Middle East and Africa region by 50% within the next five years. This would increase Marriott’s MEA portfolio to nearly 370 hotels.

With a motivated hospitality workforce ready to jump ships to reach higher, what’s the secret to building a loyal employee base? Moosa says it’s pretty simple: “It’s not rocket science. It’s about being good, kind, caring and respectful. It’s about what we give and not necessarily about what we get. It’s about how we treat people, care about people and this is at the heart of what we do.”

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