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Up the ranks: Yi Zhang takes up the role of SVP HR, APAC at Hyatt

Up the ranks: Yi Zhang takes up the role of SVP HR, APAC at Hyatt

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In the coming year, Zhang's top priority is to further develop the learning strategy and framework for the hotel group in the region. 

HR leader Yi Zhang has joined Hyatt as Senior Vice President for Human Resources in Asia Pacific.

Based in Hong Kong, Zhang’s core responsibilities are to oversee the HR functions and initiatives within the organisation including:

  • Developing and implementing HR strategies that align with Hyatt’s overall goals and objectives such as driving its DE&I strategy ‘Change Starts Here’, and talent-development initiatives.
  • Ensuring positive Hyatt employee experience and culture; managing any employee-related issues that may arise within the region.
  • Overseeing the end-to-end talent acquisition and talent management within the region to ensure a strong internal and external talent pipeline.
  • Developing and implementing programmes for colleagues’ career growth.
  • Leading and managing the HR team in the APAC region. Ensuring the HR team is effectively delivering HR outcome-based objectives.

Zhang reports to David Udell, Executive Vice President and Group President of Asia Pacific, and functionally reports to Malaika Myers, CHRO, at Hyatt Hotels Corporation.

As an HR veteran with two decades of industry experience across various industries such as energy management/industrial, retail, and luxury, Zhang brings a diverse range of HR practices and expertise to his role at Hyatt in the hospitality sector, formerly Richemont's HR Director, Northeast Asia.

“While HR practices may differ across industries, the fundamental value chain of businesses remains similar, and HR can play a pivotal role in unleashing the potential of employees,” he spoke exclusively to HRO.

“At the core, it is about caring for people and enabling them to perform at their best. I am dedicated to ensuring that every individual is supported and empowered to reach their fullest potential within the organisation.”

Zhang joins Hyatt at a critical time when the hotel group is in the midst of transformative growth in the region with a strategic focus on luxury, as it positions itself to become the premier brand for the high-end guest in each segment of the industry in which it operates. And this is where Zhang’s luxury goods experience comes into play.

In the face of a talent shortage in the industry, as many veterans changed careers during the pandemic, Zhang sees many people eager to join Hyatt. With a pipeline of openings across the Asia Pacific that will nearly double the company’s existing footprint, much of which is in Mainland China, the hotel group seeks to ramp up the recruitment and development of talent to meet surging post-pandemic talent demand, as well as develop a whole new generation of hospitality professionals.

“People and experiences are at the centre of our business, so it’s vital to have a fine sense of how to connect and engage with those inside and outside the organisation. As Hyatt expands in markets across Asia Pacific, it will be ever-more important to be able to connect with people in a meaningful way, throughout our diverse region,” he said.

In that sense, developing a distinctive employer value proposition (EVP), and delivering it consistently in the day-to-day, is key. Hyatt is therefore rolling out a comprehensive campaign centred around the three core pillars of its EVP to connect with highly skilled professionals throughout the region.

Serving as the foundation of the company culture and how it presents itself as an employer, these three core pillars are:

  1. Discovery: Nurture curiosity and provide opportunities for discovery and development, under the theory that there’s a home for every stage of your career.
  2. Belonging: With the passion for diversity, equity, and inclusion, build its global teams which are a mosaic of cultures, ethnicities, genders, ages, abilities, and identities. Make sure people feel welcome and at home, and give all people the space to be themselves.
  3. Care: Based on its overall mission of care, place colleagues within that through a culture of warmth, empathy, and respect. Treat each other with the same care and respect with which they treat their guests.

In line with its purpose of care, Hyatt strives to represent and connect with the communities it serves. This sees the implementation of various development and diversity initiatives. For example:

  • Creating 10,000 employment opportunities for youth from underprivileged backgrounds across the region through its initiative 'RiseHY';
  • Extending its efforts with 'EMPower', which focuses on creating a supportive space for ethnic-minority team members;
  • Co-sponsoring the 'Diversity Champions' internship programme with partners from other industries, including insurance company Manulife and law firm Herbert Smith Freehills, to provide diverse youth with valuable exposure to corporate offices across industries. This initiative allows participants to gain firsthand experience and insight into corporate environments, fostering their personal and professional growth. 

"Our diversity goals serve as a measure of our success in this mission. By fostering an inclusive environment, we not only enhance our competitiveness but also embody our core values," he affirmed.

In the coming year, Zhang's top priority is to further develop the learning strategy and framework for the hotel group in the region. This includes enhancing leadership skills, fostering cross-functional competencies, and strengthening functional and expertise knowledge.

In addition, the hotel group will also focus on leadership acceleration (including women's leadership) to meet the growth of the business, increasing the weight of experiential and peer learning opportunities.

“Although our learning infrastructure – such as the 'MyLearning@Hyatt' platform, 'IDEAS' for functional knowledge sharing, and 'TYPSY' operational skills learning – is very solid, given the challenging impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the hospitality industry, it is crucial to prioritise and revitalise learning and development initiatives,” he shared. “By nurturing a learning culture that enables and empowers individuals to learn anytime and anywhere, we aim to create a positive and dynamic environment where continuous development thrives.”

"Attracting and developing the best talent requires a strong focus on learning and development with which to prepare, grow, and accelerate them, as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion, which is a reflection of our purpose. At Hyatt, we care for people so they can be their best. We prioritise these aspects as part of our mission of care. We actively seek out individuals with diverse backgrounds and work towards their professional development," he affirmed.


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