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91615 19 Nov 2018

Hozpitality Round table:- Would HR be soon taking a role of a GM?

Hozpitality Group talks to top HR leaders in UAE to discuss the future of HR professionals in Hospitality Industry in UAE and Middle East.

We believe HR is now actively involved in PR and Marketing of a hotel and hoping soon we would see many HR professionals taking a GM role. Traditional HR was involved in recruitment, payroll and staff retention but in past few years there is a tremendous change in job role. We have seen them actively advertising, marketing, CSR and maintaining PR with rest of the world, especially in the UAE.


Stephanie Lewis, Multi Property Director of HR. JW Marriott Marquis Hotel & JW Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites.

Stephane Del Prete, Director, Talent & Culture, Swissôtel Al Ghurair & Swissôtel Living Al Ghurair

Lyn Federico, HR Director, Dusit Thani Dubai

Eddie Ignatius, Corp Director of Quality & Business Excellence, Time Hotels

Hany Radwan, Director of HR, Ghaya Grand Hotel

Aseem Kapoor, Corporate Director of HR, Emaar Hospitality Group

Haskar Hamza, Asst. HR Administration Manager, Park Regis Dubai

Hozpitality Group:- General Manager in a hotel comes with a background of Hospitality Operations or Sales Departments but normally not from HR background. Do you believe that we are getting closer to of having more GM’s from HR background in upcoming days?

Stephanie Lewis:- Marriott International are on a continuous drive to upskill our workforce on all levels.  We try to ensure that all employees understand our business; what RGI, REVPAR, ADR, GOP etc. means and how it impacts their work, and how associates can make a continuous impact.  Historically the HR has spent too long as a personnel department focusing on operational administration.  HR individuals must be knowledgeable in recruitment, training, performance management, administration including UAE Labour law framework. Hotels across many Groups have traditionally been steered by a GM and a DOF.  Marriott International strive to get HR a seat at that table.  When a DHR can explain how he/she has influenced payroll versus revenue, how they have impacted bottom line GOP, how their training or actions have had an input into F&B margins they will be on the right track. Right now, I would challenge our Hotel HR community to read and understand an STR report. Understand its cause and effect. If you asked me if my aspiration is to be a GM, I would tell you no, did I have an opportunity, absolutely.

Aseem Kapoor:- Yes, definitely.  The contributions that HR business heads make have significantly changed when compared to the past.  Moving away from the transactional has been gaining momentum in any case but more importantly the focus of HR heads is no longer just to maintain and deliver an engaging talent cycle.  Involvement in business critical decisions, deployment of talent to achieve business results and being fully responsible for the payroll budget and it's management in line with business are just some of the aspects that have become more critical over the last few years.  This is definitely supported by a changing mindset at the C-Suite level as well about the value that HR now brings to the table. 

With a huge level of automation and digitization facing us - most of which will get actualized in the next 3 to 5 years - people skills and talent development will become more to the forefront in maintaining the competitive edge and help businesses deliver a differentiated customer experience.  HR professionals are most equipped with these skills but their success as business leaders will be in how well they ingrain themselves into all aspects of the business and position other leaders as growth facilitators within the organization.

Stephane Del Prete:- I would say, everything is possible providing the proper training program and development opportunity. In the time being,  it seems unlikely as the business mind set of HR specialist is different from sales or operational departments. Collectively as a hotel team we have the same goals that we aim to achieve, but when it comes to HR goals we focuses more on our acquiring the right talents, development of our people and their satisfaction; more than the financial results.

Lyn Federico:- It’s not impossible, as I can be a living testimony when I took over the position of GM of  Acacia Hotel in Ras Al Khaimah from being HR Director. In any business, the most important asset is PEOPLE, and the key element to its success is the happiness of its people and the customer. Nobody understands more the people in the organization than the HR, so I believe that when HR will be given a chance, they will rock!

Eddie Ignatius:- Hospitality is very dynamic and as such we should not limit the GM based on specific background and roles.  As long as the core competencies of the General Manager are met, and a clear development plan has been followed prior to applying for the role, I do not see any reason why a hospitality professional with a HR background should be unable to progress to the role of GM.

Hany Radwan:- Traditionally, HR deals with issues related to compensation, performance management, organization development, safety, wellness, benefits, employee motivation, training and so on. However, in the Modern Hospitality we focus on going an extra mile. It is firmly believed that everyone is a sales person and should be directly involved in the business operation, which may include but is not limited to Marketing, Advertising or Public Relations. In general, the HR department is considered as a Non Profitable department but it is not always true. Nowadays, HR gets involved in all Hospitality operations which includes Sales & Marketing, F&B, Room selling, etc.

I personally believe that if a Human Resources Director is a good leader (not only a manager), it automatically qualifies you to the next level as a General Manager. Leadership is actually a fine balance of several different skills. An individual needs to have vision and strategic leadership skills – be able to spot opportunities to seize and pitfalls to avoid. An individual also needs to have a good handle on finance and budgeting because all your vision is useless if it outpaces your capital potential. And you need to inspire your teams – this takes communicating your vision well, having a sense of what each team member can contribute, and then coaxing their best skills out of them. Great leaders tend to be born with a never-ending curiosity and a desire to learn. They possess an ability to communicate their vision and inspire others to follow it. In that way, leaders are born to lead and I foresee this as an opportunity of having many General Managers from HR background in the near future.

Haskar Hamza:- At the present moment I do not feel that we are at a stage yet where the trend of having hotel GMs from HR backgrounds will grow significantly. By the same token, nor do I objectively feel that it would necessarily be a practical or prudent development unless the particular individual hailing from an HR background, also already has had significant in-depth knowledge as well as working experience in the other necessary fields vis-à-vis actual hotel operations of one sphere or another, since the backbone of any hotel business is invariably its operations. 

Anyone who was trusted to be given the position of GM whether is from HR or any other areas of the hotel operation, his/ her success really lies on their knowledge, experience, skills and abilities to manage successfully.

Hozpitality Group:- What other qualification and expertise do you think will equip any HR professional to achieve the GM role?

Stephanie Lewis:- I think attitude is key here. HR must immerse themselves in operations and finance. If you have a senior HR individual who engages in the operations, understands a rooms, restaurant and engineering P&L and update their knowledge regularly in sales strategy understanding market dynamics, then the profession will be headed along the right lines. Professional qualifications are valued that test your critical analytical strategic skills and take you out of your comfort zone, I am testimony to this by studying for my CIPD Level 7 Advanced Diploma with Oakwood International (first Level 7 cohort within UAE).

Aseem Kapoor:- Financial acumen and business expertise is critical.  Many HR professionals tend not to have a strong understanding of the actual business as they remain focused on people issues.  Getting into the depth if understanding business nuances, market dynamics and revenue trends will help to create a business owner mindset that is critical in today's ever changing and fast evolving market.  Whilst charting out the development plan for growing into such a role, it is critical for HR Professionals to map their strengths against an ideal business leader benchmark and then define the areas in which they need to develop since at this level the growth plan will have to be customized based on a one-size-fits-one approach. 

Commercial acumen, business decision making, managing expectations, revenue management, trend analysis, leading change and change management along with inspirational leadership will be key areas of expertise required.  However, gaining practical experience into all aspects of the business, participating in business review meetings and any other operational projects will definitely add more value to enhance an overall understanding of the business.

Stephane Del Prete:- HR professional would need to have the knowledge in business development, revenue management and operations, that is in addition to passion in driving results. There should also be an educational background in one of these fields to be able to have a comprehensive understanding of the operation.

Lyn Federico:- HR Professionals already have the most important qualifications when it comes to managing and directing the people which is the most essential element in running the business. The only thing I think they need to understand more is role on being a business partner… to be an enabler and driver of the business.  Develop more the on marketing and statistics skills which includes thorough  involvement and understanding of the P&L,  thinking commercially and engaging in more surveys to collect more data or information .

Eddie Ignatius:- The General Manager is responsible for all aspects of operations at the hotel – from day-to-day staff management to ensuring guest satisfaction. They work very closely with the hotel owners and other key stakeholders.

As well as being an ambassador for the brand and hotel, the GM should provide leadership and oversee strategic planning for all departments.

Confidence and experience in people management and being adaptable as well as possessing excellent analytical skills and commercial awareness are key for any hospitality professional looking to achieve the role of GM.

Hany Radwan:- Firstly, I would like to say that any specific qualification or expertise does not fully qualify any HR professional to achieve the GM role. In earlier years, a degree qualification used to be a major deciding factor in who gets the job, but especially over recent years, more emphasis is given on one’s experience and the style of working. Again, this may vary greatly depending on the field of work, but considerable work experience is a must.

Many, successful HR Professionals already possess the basic skills of decision making, which are crucial for the GM role. However, the ability to prioritize initiatives will propel the management career forward.

Haskar Hamza:- In as much as non-operational executives may be good and talented at what they do, hotel operations is intrinsically a unique beast in and of its own that no amount of theoretical training or even stints of cross exposure can truly prepare for, except if that non-operational executive has as said, rolled up his/her sleeves to get their hands dirty for a relatively extended period of time. Only then would the individual be well-rounded in the intricacies of internal and external operations vis-à-vis managing differing processes for colleagues and customers simultaneously.

Hozpitality Group:- Do you think the new interns in HR are being trained to help them move the ladders to a GM position in future?

Stephanie Lewis:- Internships come in many different forms across hospitality field and for most interns it is their first practical exposure to hospitality operations. It’s way too early to define a career of an intern.  Not only would they potentially not know what path they want to take, but neither would we as a business. 

Aseem Kapoor:- The focus for interns in HR still remains very HR focused which may not necessarily place them on the path of being a GM.  Unless there is dedicated programme created with this specific scope and outcome in mind, it will be a more challenging efforts.  Internship programmes today need to be revamped so that they cut across functions and prepare young talent to be business leaders irrespective of the function that they specialize in.  Learning today, happens in a multitude of ways and we need to ensure that Hospitality Internship programmes follow new norms of learning to create holistic business leaders rather than just remain operationally focused.

Stephane Del Prete:- Intern choosing HR in hotel, would most probably be choosing HR due to their interest and passion they have for this field and not necessary for the hospitality industry.

Unless, coming from a hotel school, some interns would have to spend time during their internship, to understand better the Hotel HR functions; that is part of a learning program to gain knowledge of all hotel front and back of house departments. Once someone develops this type of experience of different types of hotel functions, then she or he could be qualified for a GM role in the future.

Lyn Federico:- Yes they are. They just need to be inspired and motivated to climb the ladder of success. A right understanding from the start will give them a big leap and edge to their vision of being a GM.

Eddie Ignatius:- Interns should be trained in various areas that will equip them to become a future leader. When taking on intern it is important that a clear development plan is created for them – allowing them to undergo practical training and providing them with first-hand real-life operational knowledge and exposure to various areas of the hotel.

Hany Radwan:- To train new interns requires placing them in an environment where they have opportunities to handle multiple key disciplines; where there is collaboration and open communication; and where there are opportunities to advance into bigger roles that enhance their careers. An intern is given an opportunity to work as a regular staff, while being offered opportunities to understand managerial roles too. If trained in a skilful way, the intern can develop the most essential qualities required to move to the next level as a GM.

Haskar Hamza:- Millennials are different. As you may are aware of, the millennial generation’s particular challenge is a new set of workplace expectations that demand value in a very realistic way.

This is reflected in the internship world, and incoming Millennials are prioritizing uniqueness over the status quo. They’re just valuing specialization over optimization. And there’s a need for constant skill development in order to stay relevant and achieve the intended goals.