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Awards countdown: HR Person of the Year

September 29th, 2009

Ten HR professionals have been long-listed for the title of HR Person of the Year at the Hotelier Middle East Awards 2009.

The HR Person of the Year Award, sponsored by hotel recruitment site, recognises the individual who has contributed most to their hotel.

Employee satisfaction is difficult to maintain in difficult times and this impressive list of HR managers proves that going above and beyond the call of duty does produce results.

An independent panel of judges selected by Hotelier Middle East will judge the nominees, with the winner to be announced at a glamorous awards ceremony on October 14 at Madinat Jumeirah.

The 10 nominees that have reached the long-list all report significant achievements and a dedication to their role, but who is your favourite to win?

Karen Thorburn
Regional director of training
Kempinski Hotels Middle East & Africa

Australian Karen Thorburn has been with Kempinski Hotels for more than three years.

She led Palazzo Versace in the building of its worldwide recognised hotel school and developed a national framework for hoteliers’ learning and development at TAFE.

Through her warm and whole-hearted personality she has led a team of
600, while increasing performance and nurturing employee satisfaction.

Karen has turned around 13 hotels in the region, working closely alongside the hotels’ general managers.

Her training methods have been recognised companywide and have gained her the unofficial title of ‘global director of FISH management’.

Her 'Fish' philosophy is built around the traits 'be there', 'play', 'make their
day' and 'chose your attitude'.

“Karen is leading by example, with the highest level of integrity and heart,” said Kempinski regional assistant manager people management Michael Wierling.

“She is the embodiment of leadership for me and for many others at our company.”

Kaustav Sen
Director human resources
Taj Palace Hotel, Dubai

Kaustav Sen has made a number of significant improvements at the Taj Palace Hotel, including the formation of the Staff Welfare Committee.

He has also implemented the STARS strategy (Special Thanks and Recognition system) and an HR Champions Committee formed to support, coordinate and lead in HR initiatives around the hotel.

Furthermore, he developed a hotline/round table with staff of various departments on a monthly basis.

Much to the delight of his managers, he reduced the staff accommodation bill by 25% in last six months.

New joiners are now greeted with a welcome kit and everyone benefits from motivational posters, live cooking stations in the staff room and thoughts for the day.

Marieke Schellen
Director of casting
W Doha Hotel & Residences

As a director of casting (that is human resources in W language) it takes a lot of guts and creativity to postpone an opening twice with a team already in place.

Marieke single handedly (well, a few managers helped a little, but with a close supervision from her) looked after sourcing 500 staff from around the world for the opening of the first W in the Middle East.

She has trained and promoted within the company whenever possible and her track record of all her previous trainees now working for the company is impressive.

She has street credibility among the managers as she knows what she is talking

The understanding of operations is critical to any effective HR person and Marieke is an example of an HR director who not only supports operations, but guides and coaches, making a valuable impact in a leadership role and the bottom line of the hotel.

Jose Ramirez
Assistant director of human resources
Four Seasons Doha

Jose is renowned for diving into the culture and lifestyle of the Middle East, having transferred from Four Seasons in Chicago.

He joined the hotel during the pre-opening period of the Doha Hotel as the HR
Coordinator but climbed the ladder to become the HR Manager in a couple of years. By 2008,

Jose’s interpersonal skills and cultural sensitivity have not only helped him to get along well with employees and managers of different nationalities and backgrounds, but also to gain their trust and respect.

His employers are amazed by Jose’s ability to integrate Western, Arabic and Latin employees with European, and Asians.

Furthermore, when the Four Seasons Hotel Dubai project was brought to a halt and the Four Seasons Golf Club was closed down, it was Jose who brought strong leadership as well as hard work and genuine compassion to the team in Dubai, becoming a support to many employees who were facing this exceptionally challenging situation.

“There are very few professionals who can compete with Jose’s tenacity, strong work ethic, and commitment to success — he has truly emerged a star,” said Four Seasons Doha director of human resources Samar Eraky.

Noora Al Nabri
Human resources manager
Park Inn Muscat

Noora Al Nabri is an Omani National who has been working in the hospitality industry for nine years and is a shining example for the new generation of hotelier in Oman.

She joined the Park Inn project in October, 2008, and is one of the pioneers of the hotel in her first HR manager position.

During the stressful period of preopening, Noora simultaneously lead the hotel recruitment drive, while pursuing her university studies.

She is a master trainer for both group training techniques and on the job skills. 

She is also certified to teach her company corporate training modules, which she does fluently in both English and Arabic.

A passionate believer in driving optimum customer service levels through extensive training sessions, she also grabs every opportunity to meet with guests.

“Noora allies vitality, energy and ambition with the goal of managing her own hotel in the future — she can achieve it,” said general manager Francois Galoisy.

Josephine Raikuna
Assistant director, human resources
Fairmont Dubai

Josephine is someone who views herself as a training consultant, with the hotel’s employees her clients.

With a passion for providing training programmes, she sought ways to maximise business results through the development of human capital.

Through her detailed and consistent training and development calendars, employee engagement scores have risen from 74% in 2007 to 87% in 2009.

The biggest challenge was to relocate more than 60 colleagues and leaders to Abu Dhabi.

Her work with the Abu Dhabi transfers did not go unnoticed when in May 2009; Josephine was recognized from a group of 200 leaders with the ‘Leader of the Month’ award from Service Plus, a company wide colleague recognition programme.

With more than 600 employees it is not always easy to remember everyone’s name, however Jo set out on a mission to ensure that she knew how to say “hello” in the mother tongue of all 45 different nationalities in the hotel.

You can always find her checking in with various departments through the day, ensuring she has her finger on the pulse of the hotel.

Louise Forrester
Corporate director of human resources
EMAAR Hospitality Group LLC & EMAAR Hotels and Resorts LLC

The secret to the success of Emaar Hospitality Group (EHG) is through the selection of its associates.

Louise is directly responsible for the selection, training and developing of a team of 4000 multicultural associates.

As a leader in the HR field she can be role modelled by the way she practices the company culture as part of her daily interaction.

Louise’s commitment to living the values and culture of the company speaks a lot about her leadership.

However, she dares to be different and takes calculated risks, while treating people with respect, warmth and humility.

Louise has created the organisation structure for all businesses to support
multi-skilling needs at as many levels as possible.

Financially, Louise has delivered financial HR strategies that has had to cater to a varied portfolio, which necessitated the establishment of a viable and uniform compensation and
benefits structure.

Furthermore, Louise has created an independent subsection of HR that deals purely with Emiratisation and Government Relations.

Khalid Basalama
Human resources manager
Dar Al Iman InterContinental

Khalid is responsible for a staff satisfaction figure of 89.3%, a ranking of fourth out of 64 hotels in the MENA region.

He has implemented an E-Government solution for colleagues’ personal needs from
external agencies as well as establishing an E-Library (including all IHG available products) in the hotel server.

Khalid has also ensured colleagues’ satisfaction was enhanced by incorporating 24/7 wireless internet facilities, recreation and gym facilities in the staff housing.

With a door that is always open to staff, employees are encouraged to speak out and share their difficulties, distress, feelings, views, advices and ideas.

As well as looking after the recreational side of hotel life, frequently arranging inter-departmental and inter-hotels sport competition as well as indoor games, Khalid has created cultural awareness between the 20 nationalities working together in the hotel.

Bryan Guerrero Labrador
Accommodation supervisor
Hilton Kuwait Resort

Labrador is responsible for ensuring team housing operates as smoothly and efficiently as the hotel does.

Believing that the back-of-house should be of the same standard as the front-of-house creates a challenge, especially when you are dealing with twenty-four different nationalities under one roof.

Labrador knew he needed to become multi-skilled so he carried out cross-training in the
engineering department and learned how to paint so he could maintain the apartments.

Recently, one of the team restaurant supervisors resigned so every Sunday he supervises the team restaurant.

Furthermore, during the vacation of the HR administrator, Labrador trained to fill their shoes and is now able to hold the fort for a month, together with the director of human resources and training.

Marion Gay
Director human resources
Crowne Plaza Dubai Sheikh Zayed Road

People trust Marion and she brings out the best in people.

Her sheer determination, energy, sense of fairness, and focus on what matters which
she brings to everything she does, inspires all of the staff at the hotel, according to general manager Laurent Rigaud.

With mounting pressure from all sides to cut costs, Marion’s ability to understand the business, engage with owners and think ahead has enabled employees to remain on target in both employee engagement and guest experience.

Despite a tough year of uncertainty the hotel saw its employee engagement score increase by 11 points above target.

Marion also created such an effective budget for the year she created six new positions in staff transport, bought two new buses and saved AED 250,000.

More than 500 personal development plans are now in place.