Hotel human resource directors regularly evaluate questions of competency, casting wide influence on decisions concerning the hiring or continuing employment of fellow employees. But how do we evaluate HR’s competency? What factors should we be considering?
A basic competency model builds a job description and analyzes job duties to determine required skills and attributes. If hiring a bus person, for example, we know physical stamina, ability to follow directions and a pleasant demeanor are required. At the reception desk, fluency in a second language and diplomatic savvy might be key competency requirements.
As jobs grow in complexity—and HR is one of the most challenging in any hotel—required competencies and our mastery of them expand exponentially.
Which of these competencies does your hotel’s HR team possess, and which are yet to be acquired?
1. Language skills. HR staff must be able to communicate with employees whose first language is not English. Once a “nice to have” competency, this is no longer optional if all employees are to have the same access to HR services. Why do advertisers and advocacy groups such as unions and government regulators sometimes do a better job of reaching out to employees than HR does? They speak the employees’ language.
2. Cultural diversity skills. To compete for the best employees and to help employees find a home at your hotel, HR must understand and respect cultural differences among the hotel’s work force.
3. Financial skills. An oft-heard complaint of senior management is that HR doesn’t always have a good basic understanding of the hotel’s financial statement. Set aside time for each member of the HR staff to meet with the hotel’s controller or financial manager.
4. Negotiation, advocacy and persuasion skills. If HR is to be the “change agent” in the hotel, its staff must be the world’s best negotiators. Compromise, consensus and win/win move organizations forward. Whether HR is helping employees understand the reasons for change, explaining to a department head why he shouldn’t fire an employee, resolving a union grievance or settling a dispute between two employees, without the time-honed arts of persuasion, advocacy and negotiation HR will be a “toothless tiger.” Teach these skills to all HR staff members regardless of their job assignment, and reinforce them daily.
5. Social networking skills. There clearly is a difference of opinion in our industry among hospitality employers about whether social networking is an important employee issue. This debate sometimes ignores the obvious: Whether or not your hotel sponsors a Facebook or Twitter account is irrelevant. Your employees already have their own public and private pages up and running. Here they wax poetically—and candidly—about what it’s like to work at your hotel. HR must be aware of the public pages and how postings there impact the work force; ignorance is not bliss. Strive to enact a policy that achieves balance between hotel needs and employee empowerment.
6. Ethics skills. Media reports abound of people in leadership positions who allegedly have chosen to abandon their duty in favor of quenching personal thirsts. In HR we know we must model ethical behavior as we encourage others to follow us. Written codes of conduct are important, of course, but employees will always have more faith in leaders whose actions are open and transparent, who say what they mean and to whom all rules and consequences apply.
7. Government affairs skills. Every member of the HR staff should have at least one responsibility in monitoring and/or participating in (with the general manager’s approval) our government’s involvement in employee governance. Your PR department or investor relations may handle some issues but, without a doubt, the government regulations most affecting hotel profitability deal with employment matters (think health care or the Employee Free Choice Act). If you’re in the dark, you will always be playing catch-up.
Making HR competency a priority
- HR staff should have their competency certified by an organization such as the Human Resources Certification Institute, which sponsors the Professional in Human Resources and Senior Professional in Human Resources examinations, among others. More information is at www.hrci.org.
- Other ideas:
Watch for HR-focused articles from respected hospitality HR educators such as J. Bruce Tracey from Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration.
- Schoonover Associates has published “HR Competencies for the New Century,” at http://www.schoonover.com/pdf/HR_Competencies_for_the_New_Century_Final.pdf.
- View a comprehensive and easily understood model by the International Personnel Management Association and author Patrick A. Parsons, which can be found at http://www.opm.gov/studies/transapp.pdf
Chuck Conine is a 35-year veteran of hospitality human resources and risk management, a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and a certified Senior Professional in Human Resources. He provides hotel employers advice through Hospitality HR Solutions. Write Chuck at: email@example.com.