Rachel Moosa, AccorHotels senior vice president for talent and culture  Middle East and Africa (MEA). Rachel Moosa, AccorHotels senior vice president for talent and culture Middle East and Africa (MEA).

AccorHotels has noticeably been on an expansion spree lately. Just in the first half of 2018, the French company has acquired Australia-based Mantra Group, Chilean hotel group Atton Hotels, and ResDiary, a platform for restaurant reservation and table management.

In April, after rumours spread through the grapevine, AccorHotels confirmed the acquisition of Mövenpick Hotels and Resorts for US$567 million, and recently, the hotel company also forged a deal to buy Adoria, a catering tech company. For all of the acquisition and growth, AccorHotels senior vice president for talent and culture – Middle East and Africa (MEA), Rachel Moosa attributes the moves to the company’s “French spirit of conquest”.

But with a rapidly growing portfolio, the company needs an equally large number of employees. With a regional development strategy that has targeted opening up to 100 hotels, with a total of 50,000 rooms by 2020, AccorHotels has an ambitious plan to reach an employee mark of 50,000 by 2021 to ensure a smooth expansion process. “There’s a French spirit of conquest with Accor and so we brave (it out) and we have all these different ideas. We are driven to expand and grow but when you bring people, you have to help people understand that they are joining Accor,” Moosa points out. But AccorHotels MEA has been thriving in this department lately.

With a current total staff pool of 35,000 in the region, the company experienced a 16% growth in its colleague engagement score. The MEA region also outperformed when benchmarked against other hospitality companies and industries in the region, namely 70,000 organisations and 68 industries, which amounted to a total of 8.6 million employees who were surveyed for a review on colleague engagement.

The survey was also conducted a year after AccorHotels acquired three hotel brands in 2016: Fairmont, Raffles and Swissôtel. The survey, which was conducted by Aeon Hewitt, was polled by 250,000 employees globally and across 4,300 hotels. The questions in the survey, AccorHotels revealed to Hotelier Middle East, centred on the qualities of the organisation and employee job satisfaction. The upwards engagement growth, Moosa claims, has a lot to do with some of the internal initiatives the company has adopted to help build colleague engagement and contend with mobility and inevitable turnover rates in the hospitality industry.

“We have a new Heartist Day, which is a programme when we bring people together in the same city in a massive way – whether they are working for an ibis hotel or a Fairmont property or a Pullman – they spend that day together understanding who Accor is and how we operate,” Moosa explains. “That builds a common platform of understanding that it’s about what we give and not necessarily about what we get from Accor. So it’s all about how we treat people, how we care about people – it’s part of what we do,” she adds.

The turnover rates, Moosa points out, are also something the company takes pride in. She says: “Our turnover rates are low compared to other organisations in our industry; we do benchmark that. Generally, hotels have a turnover rate of about 30% and ours is in the low 20s. There is no doubt that people leave jobs for higher pay or a promotion they can’t get within the same hotel, that’s understandable.

But there are couple of reasons why people enjoy staying with us, too.” Moosa recounts an incident when former employees chose to come back to the company. “A few years back in Fairmont Dubai, we had 36 colleagues leave for a high profile opening of a competitor hotel in Dubai and every single one of them applied to come back within the year. Even though they left for a pay rise or a promotion, they missed the culture of our organisation and that’s how we retain people – by being a good place to work,” Moosa recounts. But in order to rapidly and heavily add talent to the staff pool will require quite a bit of strategy and place mechanisms to engage with various organisations to build it.  The recruitment target plan, Moosa says, has also allowed AccorHotels MEA to seize the opportunity to develop the female talent pipeline as well efforts to localise the staff pool. Moosa points out that the company has doubled its number of female general managers in just the last year, including the appointment of the company’s first female GM in Saudi Arabia, Hessa Al Mazrou who heads the Novotel Suites Riyadh Olaya Hotel.

Accor MEA also has a fast track programme in place to develop future female GMs within the company. Besides these initiatives, in 2015, the company also signed onto the HeForShe United Nations campaign for the advancement of gender equality. But to enable female employee growth within the company Moosa says it’s all about bringing any bias into consciousness, especially when it comes to hiring, flexible maternity leaves or providing equal opportunity to either gender. But Moosa points out that “focusing on it (female hiring)” has yielded much better results for the company overall. This also rings true for hiring locals within the MEA region.

Currently Accor in MEA has established a special management programme, tailor-made for Saudi nationals, called the Saudi Management Training Programme (SMTP). Currently, the company has 1,700 Saudi nationals working in the region, out of which there are 270 women and it plans to recruit 5,000 Saudis by 2020. But in order to rev up the hiring process to meet its 50,000 by 2021 staff target, Accor will have to opt for alternative options other than recruitment as it’s fast becoming “obsolete” as it believes talented people are not looking, but rather get noticed by employers for what they’re best at doing.

The company went so far as to renaming the human resources team as the talent and culture team, to express the sentiment. “It’s about who people are naturally and what talents they bring to the table – we like to look at those talents and put people in the right position,” Moosa explains.

But most of all, Moosa says it’s about placing people at the centre of hospitality. “You have to put your people first. Because if you do, it will the drive the rest of the results across your business,” Moosa concludes.

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