TO ensure that it delivers a level of service befitting one of Singapore's leading hotels, Royal Plaza on Scotts has invested heavily in the development of its most critical resource: manpower.

To deal with the chronic labour crunch that has afflicted the hospitality sector, the hotel has introduced various innovative measures aimed at retaining employees and boosting productivity.

"Productivity is an area which we are working on, with the introduction of new technology and multi-skilling," said Patrick Fiat, chief experience officer of Royal Plaza on Scotts.

It has recruited some staff under its Women Back to Work initiative as well as offered flexible work arrangements for mature employees seeking to spend more time with their family.

For instance, management has granted requests by some older workers to work on a permanent afternoon shift so that they can look after their grandchildren earlier in the day.

With the aid of automation, employees can also now carry out their tasks more effectively within a shorter time and with less risk of injury. Housekeeping attendants are equipped with motorised trolleys that reduce the energy and time required to push and transport amenities from room to room.

This has halved the amount of time needed to do the job and resulted in a drop in workplace injuries.

Meanwhile, Royal Plaza on Scotts employees from other departments are being trained to undertake housekeeping work, and helping to alleviate the burden of this overworked department, said Mr Fiat.

"It is one of the departments under the pressure of the current situation and housekeeping employees have been working overtime in order to cope with the hotel's operational needs."

Key to this strategy is the hotel's ability to keep its employees happy and motivated. The hotel encourages continual learning and upgrading to develop its talent pool.

Besides opportunities to grow within the organisation, programmes to recognise good performance are also in place, such as awards for those who show high potential and top performers.

Associates are also given first priority for promotion opportunities when there are suitable candidates and positions.

"The hotel recognises that our people are our best assets, which differentiates us from the rest. We build on the organisation's culture to establish a stronger emotional connection with our employees," said Mr Fiat.

Engagement sessions with different age groups are conducted on a regular basis to find out what employees are looking for in an organisation.

"The highly-connected younger generations are enthusiastic and full of passion to make differences and bring new ideas into the company, but the experienced older generations have their pool of knowledge that the organisation can tap. The management needs to strike a balance."

For its efforts the hotel received the He Xie Award, a special award that recognises employers with outstanding human resource strategies. Royal Plaza on Scotts was also awarded "Best Employer 2013" and "Best Employer for Commitment to Engagement" by Aon Hewitt.

GETTING FIT

Promoting a healthy lifestyle is also a key part of Royal Plaza on Scotts' strategy to create a happy workplace. It has implemented a series of initiatives to share the importance of healthy living with employees and encourage them to adopt healthy lifestyle habits. For instance, talks were conducted to educate employees on ways to protect themselves against hypertension, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Employees are also taught a simple range of exercises designed for working professionals to stay fit in the workplace, while cooking demonstrations and games such as futsal and bowling have also been introduced.

The hotel also looked at improving the mental well being of the staff by conducting workshops to help them cope with stress. Employees were taught to unwind with simple techniques such as abdominal breathing and progressive muscle relaxation.

They also picked up tips on how to achieve work-life balance through effective goal setting, manage their time and overcome obstacles brought about by changes. The hotel received a grant of S$7,800 from the Health Promotion Board in support of its workplace health programme.

"When employees find fulfilment in both their personal lives and work through healthier lifestyles and work-life integration, they will be more willing to put in the extra effort and make a difference in the organisation," said Mr Fiat.

Productivity will also increase as employees are more effective and efficient in their work. Ultimately, we believe that happy employees make happy guests."

STAYING AHEAD

To stay competitive in a crowded market, Royal Plaza on Scotts aims to provide a unique brand of service that aims to provide both personal and emotional satisfaction for both guests as well as internal stakeholders, said Mr Fiat. He noted that being an independent hotel also allows it the flexibility to respond to a fast changing market.

"Service Quality and Innovation have always been at the forefront of our organisational priorities at Royal Plaza on Scotts. The hotel's brand values are anchored on specific attributes that distinctly differentiate the service delivered by our associates," he said.

Besides being Singapore's first 100 per cent smoke-free business hotel, the hotel also pioneered thoughtful add-ons to its 511 guestrooms such as complimentary high-speed Internet access and gourmet coffee from Nespresso machines and beverage bars.

"Everything that we do as an organisation is aligned with our brand values - from hiring talent to managing performance to delivering business results. We constantly look at ways and means on how we can improve guests' experiences."

BOND TO HAVE FUN

ROYAL Plaza on Scotts takes the welfare of its employees seriously. It introduced the "Bond to have Fun" fund this year for colleagues to get together to do something fun.

If a minimum of eight colleagues from two departments engage in an activity together, they will be granted a subsidy of S$200. Among other things, the subsidy can be used to rent sports equipment or venues, to pay marathon registration fees, or for overseas trips and workshops.

To keep employees happy, the hotel has rolled out a series of weekly surprises for them. This can be as simple as a cup of fresh cut fruits hand-delivered to the offices or back of the house area or an additional signature dish on the canteen's menu by chefs from the hotel's award-winning buffet restaurant, Carousel. Activities such as amazing race, family days and recreational trips overseas are also held to help employees and their family members bond across all levels.

During special occasions such as Valentine's Day, Halloween and Christmas, the hotel engages associates to join in the fun. Earlier this year, the hotel's general manager dressed up as the God of Wealth to convey his well wishes to associates during the Chinese New Year celebrations as he distributed mandarin oranges and red packets.