Value Hospitality Group
Regional General Manager
My name is John Augustin and I am the Regional General Manager for Value Hospitality Group in East Malaysia. We manage nine hotels at the moment – ranging from four star to two star properties. We are in the people business. We employ 850 staff in our hotels and it is a very labour intensive industry. We have come to realize that the people we hire typically leave school as soon as they can and, unable to find job openings in other industries because they lack qualifications, discover that they can work as a bell boy or train to become a chef. At this point, they start their journey in the hospitality business.
The industry has grown rapidly in Malaysia, so quickly in fact that there has been a shortfall in manpower of around 50,000 people since about 1985. Due to the shortage, hotels are constantly searching for staff with a basic educational background and/or prior knowledge and experience of the hotel industry. The problem is so great that there are many managers in executive positions who have few if any qualifications.
Our company has many initiatives that are not typical of the hospitality business. We operate a quality circles quality control system and a six sigma programme coupled with an innovative problem diagnosis system. When we launch projects like these, it is a slow and difficult process – mainly because of the comparatively low levels of educational attainment in our workforce. But then we heard about GULL and we sat and talked to their representative about this challenge. Value Hospitality views its employees as assets and we are always ready to invest in ways that will assist with their development. We are in the business of dealing with people and so we need our people to be as effective as possible in this regard – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We have sent people away for academic study in the past (at Bachelor and Master degree levels) and they came back and told us that they had learnt a lot of things, but not many of these were related to the industry or to our business. The GULL system offers a different way. I realized that our work environment is the place where our people should be able to learn too. The agenda should be related to the things that they do everyday at work and in their life. The advance would be to do this in a systematic way so that our staff can test and apply the things that they already know and make changes where necessary to ensure that our business operates as effectively as possible.
The former Minister of Tourism encouraged us to use local people in the frontline roles. But we have a problem with our own local people because they don’t aspire to be receptionists or waiters, let alone a bell boy. The problem is even worse for Value Hospitality: we are at the bottom of the preferred list of prospective employers because the hotel school graduates want to work for Shangri La, Hyatt, Mandarin Oriental, Sheraton and the other big international brands. So, returning to our partnership with GULL, we can see that there is an opportunity to improve the prestige and appeal of our company. I have a cadre of executives who are very good at what they do – they possess the technical knowledge and experience, but they lack the certification. Today, we are embarked on a programme that will give this group of managers the opportunity to advance their learning and professionalism, to be certified and to hold a certificate that confirms that they know what they are doing. I’m happy because many of our people are progressing on either the professional Bachelor or Master degree pathway and I can see that their performance in the company has improved – they have raised the bar!
The CBS concept is all about putting to better use the things that we all know – and that’s exactly what we want for all our employees. Now that we have our own corporate business school, we can help our staff to be truly expert professionals with the prospect of securing a job anywhere if they choose to leave us. We guarantee employability – not a job for life - we cannot operate like a social welfare institution.
Human resource is a huge challenge in my industry – the turnover rates are very high, but with our own corporate school, we hope that we can become a preferred choice employer in the near future. We really believe in the GULL system and approach.