Launched by minister of trade and industry, S Iswaran at Grand Hyatt Singapore yesterday, Singapore’s hotel Industry Transformation Map (ITM) aims “to accelerate business transformation”.

Comprising about 400 establishments, the hotel industry employs about 1% of Singapore’s workforce and contributes close to 1% of the nation’s GDP. Aimed to forge a competitive industry supported by a future-ready workforce, the plan is focused around four key areas:

  • Nurture a strong pipeline of talent, and deep skills in the local workforce;
  • Build manpower-lean business models through productivity;
  • Develop new solutions through innovation;
  • Grow businesses with internationalisation.

Nurture a strong pipeline of talent, and deep skills in the local workforce

The hotel ITM is looking to create 200 new PMET jobs annually until 2020, Iswaran announced.

“We are also redesigning rank and file jobs for better wage and career progression.  Some hotels have gone a step further by introducing robots to take on manual work and to ease the rank and file manpower crunch.  This has allowed hotel employees to spend time on higher value work such as guest interaction and room inspection,” commented Iswaran in his speech.

Looking at how about 20% of staff in housekeeping functions are above 55 years in age, he encouraged the industry to adopt progressive HR practices taking Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts as an example. The hotel had taken steps to transform its Traders brand to Hotel Jen. This rebranding resulted in jobs being redesigned where traditional roles such as receptionists, bell hops and telephone operators were streamlined to allow employees to perform a variety of job tasks.

“At Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore, we encourage the process of ‘multi-skilling’ so as to allow the new generation of staff to explore different areas of operations and be constantly learning something different," commented Judy Yeoh, director of human resources, Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore.

Additionally, STB and WSG will partner with SHA to support more hotels in adopting progressive HR practices and redesigning jobs to build a pipeline of future talent.

Building manpower-lean business models

Iswaran highlighted how “the only sustainable way to address our (industry’s) manpower shortage is to raise our productivity levels systematically through infrastructure and process redesign”.

A survey by Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) last year found “more than 30 hotels highlighted that their existing building structures have constrained them in adopting productive technologies and redesigning processes”. To counter that, Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has launched a new time-limited retrofitting grant April this year for older hotels to redesign their existing premises and implement productivity-enhancing solutions. Citing an example, he said Shangri-La Hotel Singapore is working on a project to retrofit the hotel’s kitchen and Horizon Club Lounge, expecting to benefit from man-hour savings of up to 45% in the service and culinary functions.

Additionally, Workforce Singapore (WSG) and STB have collaborated with McKinsey & Company to develope a Lean Hotel Initiative – a four-month programme that helps hotels in identifying and implementing productivity initiatives through a ‘field-and-forum’ approach. The programme is scheduled to kick off with 16 hotels in the first quarter of next year.

Develop new solutions through innovation

During the event, Iswaran emphasised the importance of being future-proof by having developed new and innovative solutions through the Hotel Innovation Committee (HIC). Led by SHA, the HIC was formed in February 2016 to implement industry-wide initiatives and upcoming projects that might not have been possible if done by individual properties.

For example, Hilton Singapore and Conrad Centennial Singapore adopt a mobile e-housekeeping platform that allows housekeeping team members to send out status updates at the press of a button as soon as they have finished cleaning a room. This message is then instantly transmitted to the front office, informing them that the room is available for guest check-in.

Hilton stated, "These are just a few of the initiatives that we continue to explore in order to help our team members perform more efficiently and ultimately create a seamless, memorable experience for our guests."

Iswaran also took another example of the RFID technology deployment by STB and A*STAR’s Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology - whereby workers no longer need to spend time manually counting and keeping paper records for linen, uniforms and even decorative items in hotel rooms.

Not only has this reduced human error, he noted, but has been deployed in over 10 hotels, with average man-hour savings of about 60%.

When asked about Ramada and Days Hotels (RDH) on its approach to sustainability, its general manager, Tony Cousens responded, "since we opened Ramada and Days Hotels Singapore, we have been developing a structured career development framework for every job designation with their career progression both vertically and laterally clearly mapped out.

"With the recently launched skills framework for the hotel sector, we took special attention to review our training roadmap and updated our training plan to map it and be more aligned with the framework. We believe in leadership sustainability and have a succession planning roadmap which includes regional exposure through projects overseas – one of our executive committee members was recently seconded as part of his training program as a general manager in a Wyndham Hotel Group property in Phuket. It is important for new hires to understand the opportunities that are available in this industry".

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Grow businesses with internationalisation

The next strategy of the ITM is “to help hotels internationalise into regional and global markets”. One such example is the upcoming launch of Amara’s new 343-room hotel in Shanghai as it heads towards a regional expansion path.

Working with IE Singapore, the hotel established a division to oversee its overseas training and development plans. Raising the importance of scaling its workforce internationally while keeping the "deeply-rooted Singapore corportate culture",  its director of strategic planning and corporate development, Dawn Teo commented, "IE Singapore has been a key supporter of our internationalisation strategy, especially in the areas of growing the Amara brand and developing Singaporean talents to take on key positions in regional and offshore roles".

Not only this did help the brand build a pipeline of talent for global roles, it also creates more job opportunities for Singaporeans.

Additionally, also an international brand with team members in more than 100 countries , Hilton commented on the benefits of internationalisation: "We have the opportunity to draw on a rich resource of expertise internally in various specialty fields such as information technology (IT), human resources (HR), and engineering, to name a few."

"Team members with high potential also get the chance to work closely with their counterparts from various countries as part of the South East Asia Management Trainee program, where they exchange knowledge and skills while being posted to new markets like Myanmar. At the same time, we are also welcoming management trainees from India to our hotels in South East Asia in their first year. Such international exchanges allow our team members to learn from each other in a global setting."

Ending his speech, he stated how all four strategies will require the collective effort of all stakeholders – industry, associations, unions, workers and the government – to succeed. “Together, we can ensure that our hotel industry stays competitive and achieves sustainable growth”, he concluded.

Photo / 123RF