Learning & Development Asia 2024
Suite Talk: MD Simon Manning shares 'Nina’s Way' to engage and care for its employees

Suite Talk: MD Simon Manning shares 'Nina’s Way' to engage and care for its employees


Five-day work week, employee assistance programme, wellness programme – the leader aims to foster an inclusive culture where everybody’s opinion is listened to and valued at Nina Hospitality.

With a vision to create a leading hospitality group in Hong Kong, Simon Manning has been guiding the transformation of Nina Hospitality since he joined the company in 2021.

From developing a business model, creating a service philosophy, establishing a people culture, and building individual hotel improvement plans, to relaunching the brand, his goal has been to establish a unique value proposition that will enable Nina to stand out in the market and captivate a broader audience.

As the brand repositioned from a local midscale operator to a multi-brand hospitality group, apart from developing new products and services and delivering higher guest satisfaction, in this exclusive interview, he shares with HRO's Tracy Chan how to enable employees to grow and develop.

Q: What in your view is the biggest talent-related challenge and opportunity in your industry at the moment?

Selection and turnover are the biggest challenges in our industry. However, we focus on our five key HR processes – selection, orientation, training, certification, and reward and recognition – which have proven effective in reducing turnover.

We provide an enjoyable working environment for our employees, and make sure that our staff benefits are on par with industry standards. We also prioritise wellbeing activities to support our employees’ physical and mental health. These help to reduce the challenges and bring our turnover rate below the market level.

Q: Nina Hospitality has recently repositioned its brand. What is the motivation behind this? How has this development influenced the hotel’s people strategies?

We see that our real estate has higher potential to grow from the previous mid-scale positioning to an upscale lodging brand. We started the transformation process of Nina Hospitality in 2021, aiming to bring the brand alive and showcase its fresh new image to everybody.

To undertake the repositioning, we created ‘Nina’s Way’, our service philosophy. It includes five components – our brand slogan ‘surprise yourself’; five core values; service steps; service principles; as well as our employee promise.

Q: Employee wellbeing has always been at the heart of Nina Hospitality, and one of your passions as well. How do you take care of the wellness of your employees and yourself?

Our definition of employee wellbeing is linked to how we enhance our employees’ work environment and benefits, which indirectly improves their mental, physical, and social wellbeing.

All our hotel and corporate staff are on a five-day work week. We have also appointed a professional service provider for our employee assistance programme of which hotline services and face-to-face consultation by certified counsellors and psychologists are provided to our staff and family members.

We have a wellness programme in place designed by an in-house nutritionist that features a healthy staff cafeteria menu, regular wellness talks related to building a healthier lifestyle, consultation during pregnancy, etc. We have formed various social clubs and organised recreation and social activities for our employees on a regular basis.

From regular town halls to training, everyone in the group is involved from top to bottom. We not only listen to our employees’ opinions, but also address their questions actively.

We have made improvements to all back-of-house areas, including new canteens and changing rooms. At Nina’s corporate office, our parent company Chinachem Group transformed the office with a new design, fostering a more user-friendly and health-conscious work environment.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

Be the very best version of myself and try to set myself as an example to others. As a transparent leader, I aim to foster an inclusive culture where everybody’s opinion is listened and valued. This creates a happy and modern working environment.

As a leader, I need to be focused and disciplined, able to drive and set a vision, as well as being an effective communicator, so all employees are aligned with the company vision. We have daily power-up sessions and regular Nina’s ‘way refresher’ sessions at hotels and our corporate office, aiming to ensure everyone understands our service philosophy and business model.

Q: With your past experiences in sales & marketing, how have they taught you some essential learnings for your role as MD?

Coming from a sales and marketing background, you are trained to be customer focused above all else. If you take care of your customers, your top line will ultimately be achieved.

Q: Looking forward, in an industry where employee turnover is high, what are you looking at to attract, engage, and retain top talent?

People work for people they like. It’s about involvement and alignment.

If our employees are involved and feel that they are contributing to the core objective and vision of the company, it allows people to find that they are fulfilling their development and growth, while believing in the future of the company.

Q: Concluding our interview, any big plans for the hotel this year?

We have spent the past two years strengthening our brand, getting our performance up to market level, and making our products and services unique. We are now ready for expansion, and we are looking for opportunities in the Greater Bay Area, London, Singapore, and Sydney.

Q: What are some perks in the hospitality sector we don’t know about?

Working in our industry, we get the opportunity to travel because the skill set is transferable to any country or city that you wish to choose to work in. We are very open to existing and new talent; this enables people from our industry to move while other industries are not so flexible.

This article first appeared in the H2 2023 edition of Human Resources Online's Hong Kong e-magazine. View the e-magazine here, where you'll find power-packed features and interviews with leaders from Hong Kong and across Asia!

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Image / Provided (Lead image: Simon Manning, Managing Director, Nina Hospitality)

ALSO READ: Nina Hospitality adds two days of wellbeing leave for all employees

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