Hol­i­day Inn Se­lect Ho­tel & Suites - Kanata

Ottawa Business Journal - HR Update - - Awards 2009-10 -

Kris­tine Demp­ster, gen­eral man­ager of the Hol­i­day Inn Se­lect Ho­tel & Suites in Kanata, says she doesn’t al­ways re­ceive hand­writ­ten let­ters of ap­pre­ci­a­tion prais­ing staff. But one re­ally took the cake. It ex­pressed grat­i­tude for one front-desk worker who, al­though ter­ri­bly busy, took the time to give the let­ter-writer di­rec­tions. The kicker: it seems that the au­thor wasn’t even a guest. More likely, she says, he was driv­ing around, lost, saw the ho­tel sign, and dropped in to ask for help.

That the em­ployee took the time to pro­vide top-notch ser­vices to some­one not even pay­ing for them ex­em­pli­fies the staff ’s over­all men­tal­ity, Ms. Demp­ster says. “Some­thing as sim­ple as giv­ing his at­ten­tion – it doesn’t sound like much, but it makes all the dif­fer­ence.”

And that the gen­eral man­ager no­tices when staff mem­bers go above and be­yond is re­flected in em­ployee com­ments in this year’s Em­ploy­ees’ Choice Awards sur­vey re­sponses. Com­ments such as, “I feel good in my job be­cause they rec­og­nize my progress,” “The man­age­ment have cre­ated a pleas­ant work­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” and “The gen­eral man­ager has an open-door pol­icy and re­ally lis­tens to what I’m say­ing” pep­per the re­sults.

Cer­tainly th­ese sorts of ac­co­lades don’t come without plenty of HR ground­work.

“The first step is to get the base right,” Ms. Demp­ster says. “To do that, you have to en­sure that the ben­e­fits and com­pen­sa­tion we of­fer need to be com­pet­i­tive, so em­ploy­ees feel val­ued.”

Next, it’s a mat­ter of giv­ing em­ploy­ees the tools they need to suc­ceed. “It’s very im­por­tant that we en­sure they have an op­por­tu­nity to be suc­cess­ful – that they have very solid train­ing pro­grams, and the op­por­tu­nity to pro­vide feed­back in both a struc­tured and un­struc­tured en­vi­ron­ment.”

The ho­tel sends out a re­port from its Real World Host Pro­gram, which sees staff mem­bers stake out a po­si­tion near the main door to meet guests arriving for spe­cial func­tions or dur­ing busy times. The re­port keeps staff in­formed about what’s hap­pen­ing out front, en­sur­ing all as­pects of the ho­tel op­er­ate in har­mony. “It re­ally builds a cul­ture of com­mu­ni­ca­tion,” says James King, di­rec­tor of sales.

The ho­tel also engages em­ploy­ees through in­cen­tive pro­grams de­signed to in­crease guest en­rol­ment in the cor­po­rate loy­alty pro­gram, and in­crease restau­rant sales. So­cial ac­tiv­i­ties play a role as well. “We just came from a 10th an­niver­sary-week plan­ning ses­sion, where we want to rec­og­nize not only the guests but cer­tainly the staff,” Ms. Demp­ster says.

Com­pet­i­tive salaries, train­ing pro­grams, and a cul­ture of empowerment – em­ploy­ees are en­cour­aged to make their own de­ci­sions to sat­isfy guests, rather than wait for the GM’s ap­proval – help the Inn re­tain staff mem­bers. The kitchen work­ers, for in­stance, have formed a for­mi­da­ble team.

“We’ve cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment in culi­nary train­ing and coach­ing,” Ms. Demp­ster says. “In­di­vid­u­als truly in­spired to ex­plore that pro­fes­sion re­ally need to be en­trenched in an en­vi­ron­ment where they can re­ceive that coun­selling about how they can im­prove them­selves over time, to be more com­pet­i­tive and seize other op­por­tu­ni­ties in the fu­ture.”

Busi­ness suc­cess seems to be closely con­nected with the em­ploy­ees for this es­tab­lish­ment. “There might not be much dif­fer­ence from ho­tel to ho­tel in terms of the ob­jec­tives,” Ms. Demp­ster adds. “The dif­fer­ence is in how that’s achieved. We achieve that through de­vel­op­ing an em­ployee cul­ture that engages those em­ploy­ees.”

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