The biggest challenge facing hotels in the Middle East over the next five years is to recruit and retain staff, and managers are finding ways of tackling this issue.
Traditional recruitment markets in emerging countries are drying up; rising inflation rates, a weaker dollar and greater demand for experienced managers are all influencing factors.
Although to a lesser degree, political unrest in a few regions of the Middle East was also cited by hotel groups as a factor influencing recruitment drives.
Mِvenpick Hotels & Resorts and Rotana Hotels are both seeking 15,000 staff members over the next five years. “Our selection criteria has changed more than anything and now the emphasis is more on finding ‘raw talent’ with potential who can be trained to succeed rather than someone who is instantly the right person for the job,” said Craig Cochrane, director of human resources Middle East & Asia, Mِvenpick Hotels & Resorts.
Mark Lee, general manager, Arabian Park Hotel has experienced an increase in staff turnover due to the increasing competition in Dubai and the low value of the dollar.
“Staff retention is crucial and at Arabian Park Hotel this is controlled by endeavouring to operate in a healthy, challenging and motivating work environment.
“These challenges can be turned into opportunities by looking at internal promotion of existing team members and also to implement an ongoing plan of training within their respective departments. More often I find that an extremely common question being asked at interviews is ‘What are my opportunities for growth and promotion within Arabian Park Hotel?’”
The Radisson SAS Hotel Dubai Media City has a similar approach. “We have a policy of internal transfers and promotions,” says Poonam Verma Dabur, HR and training manager, who finds the UAE “a very challenging market” in terms of getting the right talent for the right job.
“Some positions are more difficult than others, such as specialised chefs, and the most challenging part is the motivation level of the people. People take on jobs but lose motivation soon after that and start looking for another job.”
Radisson SAS uses the Rezidor training centre known as Business School, which offers various training programmes for senior executives, managers and departmental heads.
“Business school is organised two to three times a year at different places within one of the properties of Rezidor. People get together from various group properties and not only attend the course but also share best practices. Business school is a great event and provides everyone working in Radisson with a great opportunity to learn and grow.”
Regarding Mِvenpick Hotels & Resorts, Cochrane says, “We have the business academy which will be rolled out this year and is aimed at developing management competency in high potential colleagues. We are also developing strong ties with hotel schools both in Dubai and Switzerland.”
The hotel group also attempts to diversify their workforce and recruit from different areas of Africa, South East Asia, Central Asia and the subcontinent. “India and Pakistan are still very viable recruitment sources - our industry values international experience and it is always possible to attract people to work outside their home country, even when they have favourable employment conditions at home (like in India now).”
The Arabian Park Hotel has also gone to different countries in order to maintain a multinational and cosmopolitan mix of people. “We currently have 20 nationalities working here and I have just recently returned from a recruitment trip to Sri Lanka. When we opened Arabian Park Hotel in May 2006 I went to Morocco, India, Uzbekistan, Indonesia and Kenya on recruitment trips and we also gave the opportunity of many existing employees within the Wafi food and beverage division the opportunity of growing their careers by being involved in an exciting new hotel opening,” said Lee. Within this Wafi division is a training department which Arabian Park Hotel offers staff for initial orienteering and on going training schemes.
See also Industry Round Up on page 3