-Wrapping up with a Hotel Human Resource Consultant-Part 1

by Egi Gaisie

Our Guest is Kodjo Hazel, a professional Human Resource Consultant and the Group HR Manager for the Safari Group of Companies. He worked as the HR and Training Manager for the Golden Tulip Accra for nineteen years and, after, played the same role at the Alisa Hotel for five years.  He also served for four years as the HR and Training Manager for the Aqua Safari before being moved to serve as the Group HR Manager for the Group Holding Company.

Employee training, capacity building and HR strategy are his areas of interest.

HOST:The last time I had you on this platform, our discussion was on the attitudes of people towards hotel jobs and towards working in the hotel industry in Ghana in “Who we employ matters: something must change

We bemoaned the general lack of the requisite professionals in the industry.

Now here we are in a pandemic situation where we have observed most hotel operators generally responding to the crisis by first letting go of casuals, asking permanent personnel to take their outstanding paid leaves and currently are beset with meeting their obligations towards permanent employees.

What are your views?

GUEST: It is unfortunate that most hotel operators took advantage of COVID-19 pandemic to offload staff in a manner that disrespected the contributions of staff to the growth of those hotels. To some extent, that action may be understandable, taking into consideration the sudden manner in which the lockdown was announced. In most industries, including ours, the main pillars for driving growth are the staff, the customers and the business profits. When constructing the ladder of preference, most operators put the customer first, business profits second and the staff third.

These days studies have taught us to re-order the ladder of preference, putting the people (staff) first, customers second and business profits last. What this means is that staff are the prime-movers of our industry because if the staff are professional and well-trained, they affect the customers positively which ultimately improves business processes and profits.

The panic button pressed to send so many workers home may well be understood because the situation was not anticipated. If there was time, what HR Managements should have done was to engage the staff in more ways than one to arrive at a consensus. That way a healthy roadmap would have been arrived at, to avoid the current anxieties among the workforce.

HOST: It has been said, ‘the greatest assets in our hotels are its people’, I have been having dialogues with personnel in the industry. As you know, in Part 1, “A Case in Point”, we saw a Housekeeping Manager, with a permanent employee status, terminated. Part 2 saw a Restaurant Supervisor, with a casual employment status terminated. Part 3 is a narration of a departmental head on the efforts made by the staff and an understanding among management and staff. A similar observation can be said about out last episode on ‘A Case in Point’ by a Hotel Manager.

How would you reconcile this belief that the greatest assets in our hotels is our employees to the experiences each of these individuals has recounted?

GUEST: This is a paradoxical question. At one level, workers are acclaimed to be the prime assets; yet at another level, they are the exit scape-goats when the business processes start failing. The hotel operators who terminate staff at all levels without recourse to the professionalism they will be losing, belong to the class who believes more in profit maximization than in the creative and professional strength of people.

If you happen to be in an aircraft which is about to crash, there may not be time for dialogue, discussion and consensus-building.

But we happen to be living here on earth; we are not experiencing an air-crash situation. Constructive engagement and discussions with all staff could find an escape valve into safety.

Progressive management thinking and structuring, well laid-out, could have prevented some of these unbearable situations we are experiencing currently.

HOST: In our first series of discussions, our HR Guests helped us to appreciate the role of HRs in organizations. Where there are no HRs, which I know applies to most of our hotels, we find Hotel -Owner managers playing both roles. Having worked a lot with the private sector, on what basis would you say personnel-related decisions taken by hotels are fair?

GUEST: Well, it may surprise you to know that there are more than enough professional HRs employed in most hotels.  The difficulty is that Hotel Owners are constantly ‘breathing over their necks’ and interfering with their professional practices.

Most HRs survive under the apron strings of Owners and dare not advise on matters that threaten the profits of their hotels. Most critical staff decisions be they in the areas of training, welfare, compensation, job re-alignment, promotions, disciplinary issues, etc. may have to receive the approval of the Owner before implementation. Some decisions may be fair; but most of them have not been without undue interferences.

HOST: Considering the current situation we find ourselves in, most hotels will have to operate with fewer personnel. Those which closed and are planning to resume operations are calling back a reduced number of their staff.  Is there a particular guideline you recommend for identifying who should be reinstated?

GUEST: Most hotels may be preparing to reset and restart their organizations. Operations will start with very low occupancies and, therefore, it stands to reason that they cannot operate with full staff strength. To allay fears of all stakeholders, HR Managers must guide this exercise with objective criteria that would sound reasonable and fair to all. I will advise HR Managers to come up with clearly set-out criteria that is discussed and understood by all.

Once HR gets into agreement with the relevant stakeholders, the process must be closely monitored, together with Heads of Department to avoid favoritism and undue bias in the re-selection exercise.

Our Resort recently undertook this exercise and before implementation, the HR Department put in place   weighted ten-point criteria which was discussed and agreed on by all departmental Managers.

The whole process should be documented with appropriate tools and instruments to safeguard any unexpected challenges and petitions. The weight to be attached to each reselection criteria must be objective and consensual.

To be continued

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