Staff seen as vital link in hotel chain InterContinental Hotels Group puts its money where its mouth is and, this year, invested $10m (£5.4m) in a global employee engagement programme.
David Anderson, vice president of global brand innovation, headed the project, which involved 140 hotels in some 69 countries.
"A couple of years ago, the company started a brand repositioning project. It’s so easy to talk about brands in terms of beds, pillows and pillowcases, but our staff are a key selling point for the brand.
"We wanted to really get our people excited about InterContinental and internalise the new brand position," he explains.
As part of the engagement programme, the firm held courses for staff, focusing on bringing the new brand to life through local knowledge, customer experience and the personal touch. Next year, the focus will move to employee benefits, beginning with the launch of a voluntary benefits scheme in January.
"Employee benefits is the big focus for early 2007. It’s no surprise that reward and recognition has an impact [on engagement levels] and I’m looking at how we can integrate engagement, so if you decide to work with the brand then you’re rewarded for that."
Its benefits package currently includes a defined contribution pension scheme with contributions of 3%, 4% or 5%, private medical insurance and an employee assistance programme. Then there are the perks of the industry: free meals, dry cleaning and half-price room rates.
Hotels are judged on the service they provide, so it is in the firm’s interest to ensure staff are happy. "Obviously it’s proven that if you improve how you treat your colleagues that has a massive impact on service. There’s a real service-employee profit chain," he says.
InterContinental runs two surveys: one to track employee engagement and another to measure guest satisfaction. Anderson believes there’s a strong correlation between the two polls, with engaged employees equalling satisfied guests. "Early signs are [that] the programme has been extremely successful," he says.