Travel Daily chats with Stephen Ho, president of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Asia Pacific, about the company’s plans to hire approximately 25,000 new staff across the region…
Q) You will be recruiting 25,000 staff in Asia Pacific this year; which countries will see the most number of new recruits?
In line with our growth strategies, the key markets that we will be focusing on will be Greater China and South Asia. With high growth in these markets along with our other regions, our commitment and focus lies not in recruitment but on attracting, developing and retaining the right talent and setting ourselves apart as an employer of choice across the markets that we operate in. This commitment is central to how we succeed in our industry, and we do so through our people. And so our need for the right talent will continue to accelerate as we continue with our growth in Greater China and the rest of Asia Pacific.
Q) What are the challenges in undertaking such a huge international recruitment drive?
The various markets will have varying human capital challenges and needs, and so it is imperative that our Starwood Careers Day event resonates to the talents from these markets that we operate in. What we stand for as an employer of choice remains the same – in that we remain people-focused and will continue to provide good prospects and opportunities for personal and professional growth. In Starwood, winning with and through our Talent is a leadership priority and we remain committed to our people as we continue our growth in Asia Pacific.
Q) Why should young Asians embark on a career with Starwood?
There are many ways and opportunities to embark on a career with Starwood, from an internship programme to a full-time associate. Starwood’s portfolio of over 260 hotels in more than 17 countries in Asia Pacific and the fact that our company carries nine distinctive lifestyle brands provide a great opportunity for young and passionate professionals to explore their careers with us.
Starwood is committed to preparing our associates to reach their career potential and achieve their aspirations. To do so, we have developed a talent development programme called ‘Starwood Careers’ where equal opportunities are extended to all associates from different levels, functions and locations, advancing diversity and inclusion across Asia Pacific.
I believe our caring culture and career development programmes set us apart, and these are relevant and important to young professionals (regardless of their race, gender or ethnicity) who are making career decisions in choosing the right organisation. With our commitment to groom and develop our human capital, Starwood has a strong company culture of promoting from within. Having worked with Starwood for over 30 years, I am a testament of its caring culture and commitment to cultivating its talent. The same can be said of the other senior executives whom I work with, as their average tenure is around 20 years. Personally, I have received many opportunities and undergone countless developmental experiences at Starwood and today, I am happy to be in the position that allows me to further the company’s commitment. This, I believe, speaks volumes of Starwood’s people promise.
Q) What is Starwood’s average staff-guest ratio, and does this differ depending on the hotel brand or country?
We are committed to delivering personalised experiences to our guests and our associates lie at the heart of this commitment. Starwood’s Associate to guest room ratio fits the norm of what we can expect in the hospitality industry. However, there are several factors that may affect such a ratio – from the size of the hotel, complexity of service operations offered in the hotel and the hotel brands. Being a global hotel company with differentiated lifestyle brands, guests can rest assured that going beyond our guests’ expectations is our top priority. We also continue to innovate and invest in developing technology that allow us to be more efficient while enabling our associates to provide great personalised services to our guests.
Q) Do you see new technology enabling hotel companies to reduce staff numbers in future?
Technology is definitely reshaping the way in which we connect with our guests and our people, and we see technology as an enabler to do things differently. However, our business imperative remains in knowing what our guests want and then delivering upon a differentiated and personalised experience. Our people remain critical in delivering upon that guests’ experience, and so I see technology not as a way to reduce employee numbers but as an enabler to deliver better and more personalised experiences. In short, no technology can replace the human touch in our industry.
Q) Will 2014’s recruitment drive provide the base for future expansion, do will you be embarking on further hiring drives in the coming years?
Before Starwood Careers Day in 2014, we need to give credence to our first pilot in Greater China back in 2012. Named Starwood Recruitment Day back then, it was an organised recruitment event piloted in 50 cities all across China, attracting 16,000 candidates. The following year in 2013, this very same recruitment event was embraced across all six key regions in Asia Pacific. We had 200 participating hotels across 85 locations in Asia Pacific, and we attracted 20,000 candidates. So, 2013 was really Starwood Asia Pacific’s first division-wide effort to attract talents to join Starwood.
The Asia Pacific Division continues to be the fastest growing division in Starwood and by 2015, we are expecting 25,000 new jobs to be added to our division alone. With this expansion, we are refocusing our efforts and not just looking at recruitment per se but really branding ourselves as an employer of choice across the markets that we operate in. This branding objective is an opportunity to reach out to potential talent, getting to know them and know of their career aspirations and having them choose Starwood as an employer. So, Starwood Careers day will continue to be a signature event in our people strategy, as we seek out the best talent to fuel our talent needs given our growth in Asia Pacific.