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Having been brought up in the hospitality industry, Barry Robinson, (president and MD, Wyndham Vacation Resorts Asia Pacific; and Wyndham Hotel Group South East Asia and Pacific Rim), uses his advantage to develop a high-potential team, by advocating employee promotions from within.
Q. You’ve been in hospitality since you started your career in 1997. What steered you to this path?
I was brought up in the hospitality industry, my parents owned hotels. So from an early age we were taught about being customer centric and having an eye for detail.
Q. Having been with Wyndham in your current capacity since 2003, what are the biggest ways you’ve seen it evolve – specifically in terms of its talent?
We believe in recruiting high-potential individuals and nurturing them into leaders. Our team is encouraged to develop their personal brand value by performing well in their role and going the extra mile.
This is in line with our Count On Me! service promise in which each associate aims to be responsive, respectful and deliver great experiences to our customers, guests, partners and communities, and to each other.
Our company is a strong advocate for promotion from within; we noticed that when we reward our staff they are more motivated, perform better and stay longer in our organisation. When their personal brand value increases, their external brand value increases in the general marketplace too.
Q. What would you list as your career’s most memorable achievement so far?
There have been so many and hopefully still more to come. However, I would say that creating a great team around me and seeing people grow and blossom throughout their career is always memorable.
Being ‘first to market’ – being a market leader in lots of our initiatives over the years both with Wyndham and Choice Hotels.
We noticed that when we reward our staff they are more motivated, perform better and stay longer in our organisation.
Q. You’ve been known to take a very hands-on approach to your team. As a business leader, what drives you work so closely in an HR role?
Our pool of talent is the most important resource in our service-driven industry and everyone plays an integral role in the organisation. It is my responsibility to ensure that our HR strategies are in line with the company’s overall business objectives.
I believe in open dialogue and engaging with everyone in the organisation. When they know you as a leader on a personal level, it motivates them and aligns their interest with the business.
We receive critical feedback that could have been lost in the noise of a traditional corporate bureaucracy and we are able to perform more efficiently.
Q. With a new HR leader joining the team soon, what is your expectation and accountability from this role, to order to work as business partners?
The HR director will report to our senior VP of HR, Bruce Harkness and is expected to be commercial, strategic and forward-thinking. Ultimately, the person has to contribute to the bottom line. Traditional HR process although important may not necessarily move an organisation forward.
Hence, it is critical for our HR leader to be business focused and help the company increase sales and profitability by recruiting, training and developing the right talents.
Q. Can you describe one HR campaign at Wyndham that others can learn from?
We have a “Be Well” employee wellness programme designed to help our staff lead a better life. As part of this programme, we aim to cover four different aspects of wellness by providing talks on financial security, counsellors to promote emotional wellbeing, fitness classes and periodic health checks.
We strongly believe that our employees have to be well before they can take care of our business, it is a mutual relationship.
Q. The latest manpower sectoral plan by Singapore’s MOM focuses on upskilling the workforce. Do you have any campaigns to contribute to this?
We have specific skills development courses in compliance, sales, on-property management, and transformational leadership training.
One such example is our executive leaders’ orientation workshop for general managers of our hotels.
During this workshop, a certified trainer will cover a variety of brand experience initiatives such as operations, sales, customer service, the latest updates in technology as well as revenue management strategies and best practice.
This also gives them an opportunity to network with industry professionals and to grow their personal network.
Q. What was the toughest day you’ve faced at work, and how did you deal with it?
The global financial crisis when we had to lay off 500 people just before the festive season.
I had to focus on the positives and the people remaining in the business, how to ensure it moved forward so we didn’t lose the business completely. From that point, we ended up with double digit growth throughout 2009 and 2010 onwards.
Q. How do you spend your free time, or your weekends?
Surfing, snow skiing and quality time with family and friends.