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Reflection on Personal Journey of Securing Industrial Placement

Discuss About The Placement Intercontinental Sydney Double?

I have always wanted to have a career that would make me face new challenges every day, improve my skills, and most importantly, keep me well-paid. Hotel Management certainly ticks all the right boxes; and I was more drawn to this field as in an ever-fortifying economy like Australia, there is ample need of premium hotels and with that, efficient service.  I did some online research regarding the career opportunities in this line and with help from a friend, enrolled for my industrial placement at Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay, which I eventually acquired. The following report deals with my experience of serving as an intern at ISDB. I have provided an overview of the hotel and the induction process. I have analysed the organisation’s training program and the strategies it employs to achieve its targets. As expected, hard work is the only explanation of ISDB’s notable success. Perseverance is the key to creating and maintaining a hotel that lives up to its motto- “Great Hotels Guests Love.”.

Into the penultimate year of Hotel Management studies at Blue Mountains International Hotel School, Australia, I was eager to secure an industrial placement in a leading Australian hotel, in order to kick start my career with on-field work experience. I finally decided on Intercontinental Hotel Double Bay, Sydney, a five-star facility which serves as the perfect place for a new-comer like me to learn the tricks of the trade in order to become a successful Hotel Management Executive in the future. I worked as an intern (as a club attendant) at ICH from 31st January 2016, 2017 to 30th July, 2017; after securing my internship placement in mid-January.

The first task was to search for the ideal hotel and the right position that fits my qualifications and criteria of placement. I was already aware of IHG, one of the leading chains of hotels in the world; and right since I got into college it has been my desire to work there someday. IHG guarantees a productive career and a fair share of promotions and incentives after a considerable period of service.

The official IHG career website lays out all the necessary information regarding the Intercontinental Group, training facilities, job openings, and an array of other features. The search-results display vacancies and job openings in a specified location. The job descriptions include the position applied for and the hotel’s offerings in such positions; while also incorporating other features like standards of service, working-hour flexibility, Responsible Service of Alcohol Certificate, individual employee aptitudes, and so on (ihg.taleo.net, 2017). After comparing and contrasting with a few other available options and after recommendation from a senior at Blue Mountains, I applied at Intercontinental Hotel Double Bay, Sydney for the position of Club Attendant.

Job-Search Procedures and Personal Experience

There are several techniques and approaches as to searching for hotel management jobs such as career websites, and online placement consultancies. It is necessary to create account in some of these websites and keep updating the candidates resume, preferences and personal information. Searches can be made on popular sites like seek.com.au, Indeed.com.au and so on ("Job Search | Indeed", 2017); (seek.com.au, 2017). Whenever the candidate’s profile with an available vacancy, the websites automatically send emails and text messages to the candidate. LinkedIn is another great platform which helps candidates apply for jobs online while also building up professional contacts.

Personally I faced a couple of issues while applying for and getting this job, as I was a fresher had no prior experience in online job searching. I had a few hitches setting the proper parameters for my search and deciding upon the available options. Moreover, vacancies are not always available in hotel management internships, and I had to wait for about three weeks after applying before the application received feedback from the employer’s end. However, with time and several attempts, I was able to use the sites properly to my benefit.

IHG is reported to have a staff-strength of about 300,000 across its chain of hotels around the globe. IHG is said to have a staff-engagement of 82%; which appears quite futuristic and enhanced, in comparison to a figure of 62%, the average in the cordiality industry. It has also been observed in a survey that 8 out of 10 employees recommend Intercontinental as a favourable workplace; and every second employee has moved higher up the staff-hierarchy through promotions and rewards (Pollitt, 2008). For the interview, it is necessary that the candidate is aware of the hotel-authority’s requirements and presents himself as the right person for the job. IHG has a fair and equitable process of interviewing and appointment, where each candidate faces a series of questions and situations, depending upon the particular field of work he has applied for. This ensures that all appointments are carried out based on merit and skills, and not on the basis of personal favouritism or personal gains.

 During my interview with the Food and Beverages Manager and the Guest Relations Manager, I was asked a series of questions regarding my studies, prior experience in the field, future plans and so on. I was also given several situations and asked how I would respond to them and react during certain emergencies. Situation-management helps the employer assess the inherent aptitudes and possible strengths and weaknesses of a candidate; and also helps shortlist the ones to be employed (Endsley & Jones, 2013).

Employer’s Perspective behind Industry Placement

Overview of Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay

Intercontinental Hotel Sydney Double Bay (ISDB) is a part of the Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG), which runs a chain of over one hundred and eighty hotels, in more than sixty countries across the world. The group also has shares in over 5000 subsidiary hotels, operating in a hundred countries. The Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay is a magnificent five star luxury hotel situated in the eastern parts of the Sydney suburbs of Double Bay. The hotel-building was opened in 1991, then known as the Ritz Carlton Double Bay (Boyd, 2017). The Ritz Carlton was one of the most sought after luxury hotels in New South Wales, attracting celebrities, corporate personalities and world leaders like Princess Diana and former US President George W Bush. The wedding ceremony of former Prime Minister Bob Howke, and Blanche d’ Alpuget was also conducted here in 1995. In 2001, the lodging was subject to financial turbulence leading to a takeover, and was renamed the Stanford Plaza Hotel (Patterson, 2017).

In 2013, about 22 years after its formal opening, the property was purchased by Royal Hotels Australia, who made an agreement with the Intercontinental Hotels Group regarding new ownership and management (Thomsen, 2014). This marked the inception of the Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay, a state-of-the-art facility which lives by the core value of its motto: “Great Hotels Guests Love”. ISDB is one of the forerunning hotels of the IHG hotels’ chain. It has 140 guest rooms and suites accommodated in luxurious private balconies and residences. The main building overlooks the Double Bay Beach, local villages and specimens of old French architecture. It is surrounded by themed restaurants and cafes, bars, shopping facilities, boutiques, and lastly, pristine beaches (De Vires & De Vires, 2014 ). ISDB has a long array of facilities, like the Club Lounge which overlooks the French courtyards, and The Rooftop Bar and Lounge that provides a direct view of the Bay (Sydney, 2017). There is the Stock Room restaurant, a multi cuisine restaurant, which specialises in its unique botanical-inspired dishes. The Stillery is a cocktail lounge with a 1940s-inspired theme; while High Tea and High Martini are smaller facilities serving top-notch drinks and beverages ("Dine & Drink", 2017). ISDB also has provisions for hosting meeting and conferences; and events like weddings, kosher events, private parties and so on.

Every leading company has its own process of induction, by which they welcome new employees, and introduce them to the workplace, their colleagues and also brief them about the nature of work and the organisation’s goals (Marchington et al., 2016). This may involve taking the employee on a tour around the property and let him get used to the lounges, food and beverage stores, lobbies, and other public areas of the hotel (Strebinger, 2014). At Intercontinental Sydney, the process of induction is initiated before the employee joins work on his first day. The staff members are sent emails regarding the new employee, which enables them to give him or her a warm welcome, and the employee to interact and make friends with his new colleagues.

Overview of the Organisation and Evaluation of the Induction Process

On my first day, a senior executive of the Club Intercontinental gave me an insight on the department and how it functions. I was introduced to the other staff members who were very hospitable and helpful towards me. My line of work at the Club Intercontinental involves both the front offices and the Food and Beverages Department. The job requires working in quite a few locations inside the hotel premises and to help me get used to the compound and the people manned thereat. My colleagues introduced me to several of the departmental heads, from whom I learned about my duties and obligations; although the main highlight was Club Intercontinental and the Food and Beverages Department, as my primary work involves these two in particular (Walker, 2012). Lastly, the Human Resources Manager at ISDB had a short induction session with me where he laid out the necessary information regarding my job, payments and benefits. He also had me fill up some official paperwork about my personal details; along with an online HR Induction form (Hoque, 2013).

A proper induction process is one of the most important steps for a new appointment as it considerably curdles the high staff turnover cost. The induction process should include all the required information for the candidate to start working without facing too many hitches along the way. It should be planned and should focus particularly on the department the candidate will function in. The induction process should have an optimum length, that is, it must not be too long and elaborate, nor too short (Cheng & Brown, 1998). The idea is to welcome a new employee and prepare him for the job so that on the field of work, he can function seamlessly and most productively. It is also advisable to provide the candidates with some training manuals and information booklets which they could consult if no help is available (Armstrong & Taylor, 2014).

The IHG Academy

The Intercontinental Hotels Group hosts the IHG academy, through which Intercontinental Hotels collaborate with a number of community groups and institutes in order to assist candidates build up hospitality skills and improve their ability to get placed in hotel-management jobs (Turner, 2017). Operating globally, IHG Academies are tailor-made to fit the needs of the local group they cater to. Each academy has three common objectives: collaborating with local institutes and community groups, provide guaranteed placements, and give feedbacks to every person in every position. The IHG Institute was inaugurated in 2006, and ever since it has been growing steadily and now covers over sixty countries (Soekrino, 2017).

IHG also offers a host of openings and opportunities for talented and aspiring individuals who wish to become team leaders or senior executives in the future; through a training program called I-grad (Soekrino, 2017). The eighteen month course enables the candidates to pick up the necessary tactics and fundamental ideas on how to run a hotel business, while also developing their respective set of skills. The hotel management business, along with its various aspects and features, is taught from scratch to candidates in order to help them realise their career aspirations. The program has a large number of stages in which a candidate will work in a different branch of the hotel like Food and Beverage, Rooms Division, Room Service and so on; but keeping the focus on the distinct field of work (ihg.com, 2017). The program gives practical experience of work with the front office team and also instils the ability to be responsible for operations as one climbs up the supervisory hierarchy. All the stages are carefully devised to train the candidates for maximum career growth.

The eighteen month course is segregated into three phases of six months each. They are as follows:

In the opening six months, candidates are made to spend most of their working hours with front line staff and observe how they contribute collectively towards the overall goal of the brand. This period helps build strong inter and intra-departmental relations; with most of the work  in the Front Office, Banquets, Clubs, Food and Beverages and so on (Andrews, 2013).

The next six months aim at specialisation at the candidates’ respective departments, focusing on the supervisory level to impart employee-specific information. I-grad trainees are given leadership-specific responsibilities which aid them in leading a team and taking the brand-name forward.

This program deals with what lies in a candidate’s career or life after completion of I-Grad. The Future Leaders’ Program encourage graduate candidates to explore their work related aptitudes and innate creativity in correlation to how they can implement their skills in their lives and career.

The main contrast between IHG and other leading hotel chains is the fact that the company does not presume the graduates’ aims and aspirations; they ask and act accordingly. If we consider Accor for comparison, they provide an Executive Leaders Program which is a two-year course and also requires a minimum work-experience of two years in a supervisory role. However, it requires more time than I-Grad and is also not open to fresher candidates. The Marriot group offers a Management Development Program (MDP), which gives training on departments like Housekeeping, Room Divisions, Food and Beverage, Loss Prevention and so on. This course is usually 6-12 months long, with most of the work on the Front Offices. In a way the duration of IHG’s I-Grad program is optimum for graduate and under-graduate aspirants (ihgplc.com, 2017). IHG stand out from the rest due to their futuristic outlook of tailoring their training program suited perfectly to both hotel and individual needs. 

As already stated, Intercontinental Hotel Group’s brand is to incept and maintain “Great Hotels Guests Love”. IHG emphasise on creating first-rate development, for which they maintain sustained and reliable growth in benefits and income over a long period. IHG are of the view that with such an optimistic model, the company focuses on creating esteem. This is done through constructing top brands, scale leveraging and income-delivery through the most cost-efficient media. Aided by organised execution and the promise of cooperation and dependence, IHG’s target portfolio will definitely extract hefty returns for their shareholders (Xie, Zhang & Zhang, 2014).

The chief blueprint of IHG regarding enhanced growth aims at reinforcing the various portfolio of segregated brands, establishing identity in leading markets, creating lifetime relationships with guests and transferring profits to hotels through the most direct and cost-efficient channels. At the heart of such technology lies potent innovation and aggressive proprietary policies; thereby drawing in huge returns (Jin, 2015). The IHG Annual Report 2016 states that there has been a gigantic increase in digital sales (ihgplc.com, 2017). These include booking and payments through websites and mobile apps. IHG has surpassed 3 billion users and have an annual growth rate of 300 million new users. The company calculated a 40% hike in booking via the mobile app, creating additional sales of over $1.2 billion (Turner, 2017).

IHG also considerate to the requirements of visitors, with the constant motto of serving the needs of the customer to the fullest potential. It has been reported that almost 70% guests are eager to pay greater room-rates for more facilities and better choice of rooms. IHG has also created a digital guest reservation portal called Amadeus, a system grants the visitor a level of discretion and customisation unlike any other framework operational in the present market (Sydney, 2016). Such a strategy will make the reservation system more flexible and provide a competitive edge to IHG. Never again will the visitor be bound by the rigid offline system where they have very little chance of choosing room-types, that too, based on vacancy (Tan, 2017). With Amadeus, they would now be able to add their own tweaks in their reservation based o their personal preferences.  For the hotel staff, this means more customer interaction which augments the management process (Perez et al., 2003).

The IHG Academy has been making great progress in recent years, building hospitality skills in domestic regions since ten years. It recorded 11985 new members in 2016 alone and the program now operates in 75 nations. The IHG Foundation support aspirants and help improve their skills and employability. It is due to their unique approach that the candidate-strength boosted from 6,666 in 2014 to n11985 in 2016. The CEO of IHG, Mr. Richard Solomons declared in the 2016 Annual Report that IHG will maximise their revenue and the turnovers through such operations, while building customer good will and fulfilling all necessary parameters (ihgplc.com,

In order to realise the organisation’s aim, the one to produce the highest revenue, ISDB offers various packages and bonuses to their visitors in order for them to widen their stay. These include special Food and Beverage vouchers, club vouchers, room discounts, package upgrades and so on. For instance, ISDB gives a ‘Double Delight’ offer on IHG outlets and special reward points (ihg.com, 2017). The hotel also has exclusive facilities for the Rewards Club Members like bonus points for visitors who book in to a certain criteria of accommodation ; such points can later be gelled together to  be availed against a particular service like transport or a complementary stay. Guests can also improve their stay by availing the Club service which is supervised by Club InterContinental (Harris & Mongiello, 2006). The offer is inclusive of complementary breakfast, tea in the afternoon with canapés; and day-long complementary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. This service comes at a lucrative additional charge of just A$ 165 a night for two adults. Most of the frequent guests avail the Club service to optimise the value of their stay.

However, no brand can succeed without dedicated support and perseverance from the staff; and IHG are totally conscious of the fact. The staff is equally as responsible as the management or the ownership behind the luxurious experience the guests have during their stay (Enz, 2009). To this effect, the Human Resource Department of ISDB sincerely looks after the needs and requirements of the staff. IHG has created a stepping-ground for staff-enhancement with several staff-education and development procedures (Chand & Katou, 2017). The Annual report states that there are opportunities to grow for every employee to reach the IHG Leadership Academy Program (ihgplc.com, 2017). The staff is applauded and rewarded for notable performances; and every month, there are token rewards for Employee of the Month, Manager of the Month and so on. IHG staff are granted special discounts for rooms or all IHG hotels on the world and 25% rebate on food and beverages in their respective property. Such concern and care about the needs of the staff will help IHG maintain their stellar level of staff performance

Types of Stakeholders

The involvement and exchange between the company and its partners is a primary requisite for the business of hotel management. Stakeholders (not to be confused with stock-holders or shareholders) are of two main types- Internal and External (Davies & Chum, 2002). In IHG’s case like any other global hotel chain, the employees, workers, owners, board members and shareholders constitute the internal stakeholders; while customers, corporate visitors, guests, suppliers and competitors are considered as external stake holders (Hwang & Der-Jang, 2005). It is imperative to understand the needs of both internal and external stakeholders and develop an all-inclusive policy to balance both sides in order to achieve the brand’s goals. No business can survive without proper correlation and harmony between the internal and external stake holders. From the perspective of an industry placement candidate, it is easily possible to classify the stakeholders in to internal and external.

The collective contribution of all the stakeholders adds up to generating the company’s revenue. Club Intercontinental aims at providing premium services to customers as the primary objective- as customers are one of the most effective means of promotion and revenue generation (ihg.com, 2017). For instance, if a guest stays at the hotel, avails the Club Continental facilities, and receives unparalleled service, he would feel at home with the brand. He would come back and avail those services again and definitely recommend the hotel and club to his friends, family and colleagues. This serves the role of a promotion when customers indulge in verbal and conversational publicity. From the hotel’s viewpoint, this form of publicity yields additional revenue as customers are influenced more and more, and from the verbal advertising , will look forward to visiting the hotel to avail similar premium services. Online reviews by customers have now become a major form of publicity these days (Jeong & Jeong, 2008). Using hotel-review websites and blogs, people can now decide upon a suitable hotel and get a qualitative and quantitative analysis, sitting at home or office (Park & Allen, 2013).

Hotel suppliers are considered as important stakeholders, and their role is vital to the company achieving its targeted revenue figures. ISDB always emphasises on making transparent trade with the hotel suppliers and local forms of supply (Lambert, Cooper & Pagh, 1998). From ISDB’s perspective, it is profitable to trade with local merchants who provide premium products at lower rates, instead of large-scale storage facilities, who charge a lot higher but often do not make it up with the quality. Trading with local businesses is also more sensible as it cuts the expenses of transportation and duties (Sigala, 2008). This would further help the local businesses grow and create immense job opportunities in the region. The locals would realise the positive role of the hotel and feel included in its plan, resulting in recommending and promoting its name and goodwill (Holcomb, 2007). Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay collaborates with several local businesses. For instance it has a tie-up with a local florist, which serves both internal and guest requirements at the hotel. In this way, the florist’s business is augmented while ISDB gets the flowers at a much lower rate their value in the market. Since ISDB is not the largest property with but 140 rooms for guests, it joins hands with several local trades for guest-facilities- it has a contractual agreement with Trumps Spa and Snap Fitness. Such tie-ups also help the employees of local businesses who can avail special services at the hotel (ihg.com, 2017).

Shareholders of the brand constitute an integral part of ISDB’s external stakeholders. Whenever the hotel requires capital for its business purposes, it asks assistance from its shareholders to invest the necessary funds. Such an engagement has to be profitable for both the hotel and the shareholder. For instance, for the renovation of the interior of Club Continental, the huge amount of money required needs to come from the shareholders end. The hotel needs to initiate and acquaint the shareholders regarding the type of investment and the foreseeable returns. In ISDB’s case, the board of trustees have their own executives to review and analyse the nature and scale of such investments before they are requested or sanctioned (ighplc.com, 2017). With a perfect harmony and correspondence between the hotel and its share holders, more investors can be attracted, and the revenues can be increased manifold, almost in geometric proportions, unlike verbal and online promotions. In 2006, IHG recorded a gross annual revenue of  A$ 1.7 billion, and an unsurpassed 48.8% profit from its free revenues (Turner, 2017). Following the hotel’s massive growth and gigantic revenue figures, in May 2017, the property housing ISDB was purchased from Royal Hotels by the Shanghai United Real Estate Inc. And Zobon Real Estate Group & Co , Ltd., for a reported 140 million dollars (Boyd, 201

My internship at Intercontinental Sydney Double Bay is probably the most productive 18 months in my academic life so far. I have learned the basics of the hotel management business from scratch here at ISDB, starting from manning the Club InterContinental front desk to working with the room-service staff. This has been a period of effective self-evaluation and assessment for me. My reflections on the period of industrial placement are as follows:

Customer-handling

I always fancied if I would be able to manage and satisfy a large number of customers at a given time, which is a requisite for hotel management. Here at ISDB I have definitely learnt the ropes of customer-handling. While my duty hours, assisting the Club Intercontinental Receptionist, I followed what my supervisor was doing and learned how to deal with the visitors one at a time, yet maintaining a brisk space. By the end of my stay, I was quite confidently manning the Front Desk at the Club, under supervision.

Anticipating Customer Needs

I have often observed that while ordering at clubs in particular and restaurants in general, customers are often confused as to the quantity of food or drinks they require, owing to varying numbers and quantities in different restaurants and bars. While in the club, the couple of shots they have had before, do not help either. This results in surplus orders and consequent wastage of both food and the customer’s money. Although they profit the hotel just a tad bit, this kind of gain is not the aim of a state-of-the-art facility like ISDB. Since my elder-brother is a senior bartender in Melbourne and went through the same course, I ‘ve had some order-taking  lessons from him. I utilised that knowledge while taking food and alcoholic beverages orders, and more often than not, helped the customers order the correct number of plates or the proper quantity of liquor. It helps them get acquainted with the hotel’s facilities and also save money. Both the desk operator at Stillery and the Rooftop Restaurant Manager appreciated my aptitude in guessing customer requirements.

While working at the front desk of Club Intercontinental  here was one occasion when a visitor had received a wrong bill of $225 whereas his actual expenses had been $124 only. A fuss at the front desk escalated to a heated argument which as usual, spoiled such an elegant atmosphere. I was quick enough to get in touch with the billing department to trace the last receipt amounting to $225. When I found out that the person who should have got the $225 bill was fortunately a boarder, I immediately enquired room service about his room number and with all the details, initiated the Receptionist about the cause of this hitch. He then got the proper bills to reach the respective customers and resolved the matter. Later he complemented me infront of the other staff and said that it was great situation management on my part to quickly find out the root of the mistake that lead to sn unpleasant situation. The senior staff also followed up with a pat on my back.

Areas to Improve On

Management of Time

The greatest issue I felt was hindering my progress was time utilisation. During my first few months, I found it extremely difficult to reach the productivity targets at the Club Intercontinental billing section. The volume of orders is huge and it is quite challenging to generate all the bills in time and most importantly, without errors. I was working there during the Christmas week and this resulted in huge numbers of orders. Quite a few times, I had to ask senior staff members to help me out and even share some of my workload, which they efficiently did, while carrying out their own tasks. My speed has improved a bit, but I will have to be faster if I am to reach the topm of this Hotel Management hierarchy.

House-keeping

The fact that I could not change bed sheets properly without help, will always embarass me throughout the rest of my career. Several times, I have slowed down the rest of the house-keeping team, courtesy my poor sheet-changing and bed-making skills. I am also not adept when it comes to tea-making. Although I fixed great martinis and screwdrivers back at the Club Intercontinental, my tea was at times quite bitter and one training session, one of the supervisors sprayed it out after the first sip. Since that training, it was advised that I stick to harder drinks at the Club, although I am still working on my tea-making.

During my training, I always made it a point to observe my supervisors and seniors. I tried to learn as much as I could from how the Managers and Senior Executives dealt with tricky situations, and put them into practice. Leadership is one of the necessary qualities to have a successful career in hotel management, and there is ample scope to learn it during industrial placement at ISDB. While managing staff in a hotel, a manager needs to have a calm temperament and assess each situation independently in an unbiased manner. It is necesary to keep the subordinates motivated and play active parts in realising the company’s aspirations. Each employee has different skill-sets and mentalities. A leader needs to extract the maximum out of such differences and make sure that each person is working in such a line of work that maximum productivity can  be attained, while maintaining the employee’s job-satisfaction and motivation.

As already stated in the report, my goal is to become a successful hotel management executive in the future. In a year, I want to get a permanent placement as a club attendant at a leading hotel in Australia. In Australia which is an already developed yet rapidly growing economy, the requirement of skilled staff in hotels is forever on the rise. However, the competition is also high, as more and more students are gaining awareness of the field of Hotel Management and the immense possibilities it holds. I wish to carry on my academic development in the field and at the same time, gain more first-hand experience by enrolling into another prominent hotel in Australia. I want to keep learning , while increasing my work-experience as most top-notch hotels pay equal value to job-experience and academic qualifications. Most of all, I have to stay focused on my goal and have confidence on my abilities to carve out a promising career.

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