Hiring the right people is a given; making sure they grow and thrive in their jobs is even more important—and that’s why hotel companies have developed programs to ensure their newest employees make the most of their opportunities.
Hyatt has taken a comprehensive approach to this goal with its Brand Ambassadors initiative, which connects new employees to “role model” ambassadors at every Hyatt hotel. Those ambassadors nurture their new colleagues through five phases: welcome; recognition and appreciation through the year; education and development; “thank-yous” for when a staff member decides to leave; and departure, even if the person is moving to a competitor. “That associate might still be a lifetime guest or recommend others to work at Hyatt,” says Doug Patrick, SVP, human resources.
The Brand Ambassador concept emerged in 2010 in conjunction with a refocusing on the employee experience called the People Brand, with Hyatt aiming to mirror the employee experience with the guest experience, Patrick says. For instance, the guest’s check-in is mirrored by an introduction process where new associates learn about the hotel and the culture by their ambassador.
Brand ambassadors are selected through a process that aims to find those who can best deliver that guest-like experience to their new colleagues. On the first day of their job, associates will be paired with ambassadors who will welcome them, see that they have everything they need, and show them where everything is located at the property. “It’s almost like a personal concierge for a new hire,” Patrick says.
New associates are matched with colleagues in their own departments or in similar ones. A large convention hotel may have as many as 20 or 25 ambassadors, while a smaller one might have five or 10. The duration of each relationship depends on how long the person needs to be assisted; then, of course, their bond will remain.
For the ambassadors, Patrick says, “it’s a nice piece of recognition that they have been selected to a place where they can contribute to the property’s success beyond their day-to-day responsibilities. They might be an engineer from 8 to 4, then help set up a recognition event in the afternoon.”
Hotels can take the ambassador program and be as creative as they like with it. One community suffered a flood, and ambassadors gathered together to help both their colleagues and others find housing and services.
Other major hospitality companies also recognize the importance of giving new employees a leg up—and maintaining their satisfaction levels. At Wyndham Hotel Group, a “buddy system” establishes a relationship with an existing employee for associates new to the company so they have a connection for any questions or concerns, says Faye Tylee, executive vice president of HR.
As a mega-franchisor, Wyndham also wants to get owners on board this train, and that’s done in a number of ways, including a leadership certification program for owners, GMs, and others at the managerial level to make sure they understand the importance of maintaining employee satisfaction.
Part of that involvement is Wyndham’s training program, which recently saw the launch of a new online learning management system aimed at enhancing and expanding training opportunities for franchisees and their associates. According to Tylee, it encompasses 94 separate training programs and enables training for every area of expertise and job development. The system provides hotel GMs with easy access to a wide variety of self-paced training courses and webinars. It also gives managers the ability to enroll new team members, create customized learning paths, and monitor team progress.
Finally, Wyndham has worked to ensure that the right people are being hired through an internship program that has become far more robust in the last four or five years, Tylee says. “We have made a number of permanent hires through that program because we have provided those people with real jobs and on-the-job training where we could learn that they were a right fit for Wyndham and that Wyndham was the right fit for them.”