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AC נכסים TMH בזק בנלאומי קבוצת ברן

The David InterContinental Hotel – In Favor of Integration and Equal Rights / by Hila Yaakobi

The InterContinental Hotels Group in an international chain with 3,600 hotels in 140 countries.
The David InterContinental in Tel Aviv was built ten years ago as a business hotel and features the largest hotel conference center in the Middle East. It has 555 rooms and suites and 500 employees occupying a wide range of jobs.
We spoke with Ronit Edri, the hotel's human resources director, and her assistant Sigal Gazel, about the nature of jobs in the hotel industry, training the hotel staff and the career and advancement tracks available to employees.

What is the breakdown of employees at the hotel?
Sigal: We employ workers in a range of jobs from all sectors and all strata of the population. Ours is a 24/7 operation, 365 days a year, in all areas of hotel operations. At the hotel the work is divided into two different kinds of operations: back of the house operations, such as cooks, maintenance personnel, room cleaners and general housecleaning, the uniform storeroom and a range of other services, and front of the house operations, such as receptionists, bellboys, waiters and sales personnel.
Ronit: Our operations can be divided into the hotel and the conference center.

What is the range of population groups represented on the hotel staff?
Ronit: We have Sudanese, Ethiopian, Arab and Russian workers – both new immigrants and long-time citizens.
Sigal: We welcome everyone. We're in favor of integration and equal rights, and we employ workers from every population segment, religion, race, gender and color. We don't have discrimination.
Ronit: Also, as part of the hotel's activities, which are meant to make a contribution to the community, we employ a large group of people with special needs and who work in the Polishing Department and the Kitchen Department.


Human Resources Director Ronit Edri (left) and her assistant Sigal Gazel (right)

Who does the hotel's conference center serve?
Ronit: Among the important events held here you can find the Globes Business Conference, which brought together ranking executives from around the country, physicians' conferences, the IBM conference, The Marker conference, etc.
Sigal: At our hotel we host prominent and famous figures, and the embassies launch various initiatives.

That probably means hotel employees have to know at least Hebrew and English at a high level. Is that one of the job requirements?
Ronit: Employees in front positions, i.e. in direct communication with hotel guests, must know English because this is a business hotel and the guests who come to us are primarily foreign businessmen.
Sigal: Of course we're also very glad to take in speakers of other languages in addition to English and Hebrew.

Are all of the 500 workers employed by the hotel?
Ronit: There are two departments where workers are outsourced – the room cleaners and security. All the rest are under our employ.

How do you conduct the screening process?
Sigal: The process begins with an interview at Human Resources, and if we find the candidate suitable for a certain department he's sent to the respective department manager for a follow-up interview.
Ronit: Every candidate is interviewed at least twice. In the case of a high-level position, the candidate is also interviewed by the division manager or the CEO or the deputy director. After the interviews and references checking, we administer a computerized credibility test and, for higher-level positions, the candidate does a handwriting analysis.

Which recruitment sources do you make use of?
Personnel companies, the government employment service, hotel schools, cooking schools, the hotel union and ads on the Internet and in the printed media.

Which integration processes do new workers go through?
Ronit: Every new employee receives an initial training program for his integration at the hotel. Every position has its own training program, of course. We have a total of over 100 training programs to cover each of the various positions. The training course includes four mandatory courses that every new employee has to take during the first year on the job. In addition, during the first month on the job we hold an orientation day for new employees. It's a full-day program that provides a glimpse of a range of topics – service, human resources, employee benefits, company events, security, kashrut, etc.

How long does the training period for new employees last?
Ronit: That depends on the job. There are positions that require a two-week training program, while others can last a month or more. Receptionists, for example, go through a one-month training program, and so do the waiters in the lobby.

How do you handle the personal development and advancement of hotel employees?
Sigal: Every employee has a defined job and we examine how we can develop him in accordance with his abilities, his progress in his job and his interpersonal relations. The hotel has a training department that works in cooperation with the Human Resources Department, which sees to the worker's development.
Ronit: Every year we hold an employee assessment process in which the manager sits down with the worker and reviews his performance during the past year and constructs a development plan for him, setting personal and department goals that must be met. Sometimes the development plan includes a transfer to another department or job, and sometimes it calls for development within the current position or promotion within the department.

Can employees also take courses that are for enrichment and personal development unrelated to the job?
Sigal: We have many free courses designed for the employees' personal enrichment, including sushi making, chocolate workshops, wine-tasting, a makeup course, a diet class, a French course, basic English, business English, etc.
Ronit: Sometimes we send employees to training programs at other hotels in the chain to provide them professional exposure.

Which courses held in other countries do you send employees to?
Ronit: Not long ago a delegation of five people were sent to take a new training course in hotel software assimilation held at one of the hotels abroad, and two managers flew to Budapest for a course in leadership development and management skills development. That's a course for managers who we'd like to develop and promote, and for people in whom we see managerial potential.

Are there people in the managerial ranks who worked their way up from within the company?
Ronit: A significant number of managers worked their way up from within the company. There are really quite few management people who came from the outside.
Sigal: I'm an example of this. I started out here as a reservations representative before the hotel had even opened. After a year I got promoted to the position of team leader, later I was promoted to assistant manager of the reservations department and from there I transferred to the Human Resources Department.

How do you bring together 500 people from such different backgrounds and create a feeling of identity and belonging?
Sigal: The training programs and courses contribute to the feeling of belonging and to the employees' development, giving them a challenge and a desire to press on.
Ronit: Every quarter all of the employees meet with the director of the hotel. At this meeting he provides an overview of the past quarter and an update on topical issues. He also announces outstanding employees.
Sigal: Company activities is a highly developed aspect of the hotel. We organize a whole lot of activities for the employees and their family members, which contributes toward unity and a feeling of belonging.

What company activities do you hold?
Ronit: We're not a high-tech company. I know high-tech companies lead in this area because they have enormous budgets for employee benefits and the competition among them is fierce, but relative to other hotels we have a very extensive list of activities.
Sigal: It begins with the most basic thing – birthdays. At the beginning of every month we send personalized birthday greetings to each of the workers celebrating a birthday that month. Along with the greetings card is an invitation for a meal at the hotel's prestigious restaurant with the hotel director and the director of human resources. They also receive a gift from the hotel.
Ronit: Once a year we hold a part for the employees and their spouses.
Sigal: Our parties are the best in the city. We put a lot of effort into organizing them, including guest artists and a lavish dinner. We also have department fun days. Every year we mark International Women's Day with an event for all the women on the staff with a lavish breakfast, a guest artist and a gift. In August, in order to make it easier for hotel employees, we operate a two-week day camp here for their kids, charging just a token fee.

Do you reward outstanding employees?
Ronit: Of course. We select an Outstanding Employee of the Month and an Outstanding Employee of the Year. The Employee of the Month receives a vacation for two at one of our hotels in Israel. The Employee of the Year receives roundtrip airfare for two and hotel accommodations at various foreign destinations.

What measures do you take to retain employees in a system where the natural turnover rate is high?
Sigal: We do all we can to retain our employees. I think the warm atmosphere and the feeling of belonging are more important than the pay. We make a point of making the employee feel he belongs, that he's a part of the organization, and we try to be attentive and caring, and of course periodically we conduct pay surveys to compare with our competitors and update the salary scales accordingly.

What is the employee turnover rate at the hotel?
Ronit: The turnover rate is normal for the industry. For most positions the turnover rate is not high.
Sigal: Forty percent of the hotel staff that was here the day the hotel opened are still working here today, which means they've been with us for ten years. All of the kitchen, maintenance and finance employees have been here from the very start.

Which jobs have a higher turnover rate?
Ronit: The highest turnover rate is among the waiters and security personnel. Hotel work is classified as preferred employment by the government. Most of the waiters were recently discharged from the military. They come here for a short time to make some money and move on.

Does the fact the staff is so diversified sometimes create tensions?
Sigal: I won't tell you everything's fabulous and rosy. Like at every company, especially one like this where there are so many people from so many different sectors, there can be tension and friction. This is why we have department get-together days and on a day-to-day basis the managers are on hand to monitor the situation closely. It's in the department manager's interest for his department to be well bonded. It affects productivity and the level at which the department functions.

How involved is the Human Resources Department in relations between the workers and the managers and between the workers in different departments?
Sigal: As the Human Resources Department we oversee and ensure the department managers really do watch the situation closely. It's important to us that the atmosphere here be positive, that the employee feel he is being listened to, that he has a place to turn to and somebody to talk with if necessary.
Ronit: We promote an open-door policy and always make employees feel welcome to come and speak with any of us here in the HR Department. Workers turn to us regarding every possible matter, including problems in their private lives. If we hear that a worker has a problem and didn't come to us, we'll reach out to him and initiate a meeting with him.
Sigal: Because we're a very attentive department, in most cases employees turn to us.

For five years the David InterContinental Hotel has won first place in the human resources competition for promoting employment in Israel. Can you tell us what that's all that about?
Sigal: This hotel does a lot for the sake of the community. This comes across in donations of food, bedding and towels. Also, five years ago it was decided to open a cooking course here for youth rehabilitation centers, which are for young people with special needs.

How does this work in practice?
Sigal: We adopted the youth rehab center in Jaffa and every year we take in 8-10 young men ages 18-23 and they come here for eight months, studying both theoretical and practical studies, and train to serve as chef's assistants. We teach them the theoretical material and three times a week they work in the kitchen and practice under our chefs. At the end of the course we hold a festive event where a gourmet meal they prepared themselves is served. Their parents are invited and during the course of the event they receive a certificate of completion and a letter of recommendation from the hotel.
Ronit: It's an annual course the hotel has been running voluntarily for five years and it's based on the cooks' training curriculum formulated by the Labor Ministry.

Are there workers who are hired by the hotel at the end of the course?
Sigal: At the end of every course the top student remains here at the hotel.
Ronit: We already have five workers who passed the course and are working in the Kitchen Department.

The hotel has attracted various celebrities over the years. What are the big names on the list?
Ronit: Madonna was here twice. Clinton came twice. We even have a suite named after him.
Sigal: Condoleezza Rice, Demi Moore and Ashton [Kutcher, her husband], Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith, the Princess of Thailand, the Prime Minister of China, soccer teams from Milan and Chelsea, and many more.
Most of the VIPs who came to Israel and stayed in Tel Aviv were guests here.

Do you make special arrangements during such circumstances?
Sigal: In addition to tighter security arrangements, when Madonna was here our operational chef served as her private chef. We made every effort to make her feel at home. Our pastry chef is one of the most famous pastry chefs in the country and when Clinton was here he built an enormous chocolate saxophone in his honor. When [Israeli tennis star] Shachar Pe'er stayed here he prepared a gigantic cake in the shape of a tennis racket.

To wrap up, what are the advantages of working in the hotel industry, and at the David InterContinental specifically?
Ronit: The job terms are very amenable for young people working at preferred jobs. Working at the hotel allows the flexibility students need. We have a lot of students for whom the working shifts are very convenient.
Sigal: For those who want to get ahead in the hotel industry, the David InterContinental is a great place to learn.
Ronit: The most notable advantage of working at an international chain is the opportunity to develop and advance at other hotels around the world that belong to the InterContinental Hotels Group. There are two managers who worked at the hotel in Tel Aviv for about five years and today they occupy high-level management positions at the InterContinental in Budapest and in New Orleans.
The InterContinental Hotel Group is slated to open several hotels in Eastern Europe and will allow a portion of the employees in Israel to take part in the opening of these hotels and take up positions on the staffs there.


For the Hebrew Article  

 
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