Interview with Aseem Kapoor, Corporate Director of HR, Emaar Hospitality Group

23/11/2018
Emaar Hospitality Group owns and manages a diversified portfolio of assets including hotels, serviced residences, golf clubs, polo clubs, marina and lifestyle dining restaurants. psd Managing Director Lesley Reynolds speaks to Aseem Kapoor about structuring the Human Resource function for the Group.
Emaar Hospitality Group

Aseem, can you set the scene as to what some of your key objectives in HR have been for Emaar Hospitality Group over the past 2 years?

During the last two years we have seen a significant shift in the role that HR plays within an organisation. HR as a function continues to enhance the value it adds to the business, whilst becoming more efficient in order to provide sustainable solutions in a dynamic and ever-changing market.  The focus therefore has been to set a shared service model with no HR presence at property level – which is fairly unique in the hospitality industry – yet enhance the employee experience and ensure that HR is always available to staff through technology and digital solutions.

A huge drive on automation has led to almost 80% of our processes becoming automated or digitised, allowing a lean mind-set but focussing on what is most important for us, our people.  We typically run an ‘eradicate admin’ campaign internally within the HR department, and we aim to go paperless by the end of 2018.

One of your objectives has been to engage better with your employees.  Can you share some of the initiatives in this regard?

Engagement is key in our industry, and we try to focus our energies on how we better engage with our Associates – or PALs (Passionate About Life) as we refer to them in our Group – so as to provide fast and prompt response.  We introduced a daily PALs Pulse Survey in which PALs provide feedback on how their work day was, which allows us to track satisfaction on a daily basis.  Rather than wait until the end of the year to get satisfaction results from an Annual Survey, we now get information on a daily basis.  This helps us to define engagement activities and initiatives, while allowing us to address issues and challenges. We clearly positioned daily PALs Pulse Survey for the GMs and Department Heads to use in order to manage their teams and drive engagement.  After all, if we can track our guests feedback on a daily basis and take action, why not from our employees?

Rather than wait until the end of the year to get satisfaction results from an Annual Survey, we now get information on a daily basis.  This helps us to define engagement activities and initiatives, while allowing us to address issues and challenges.

We have also introduced Yammer as our internal communication platform.  Everyone in the Group can post pictures, make comments, share successes and celebrations which has created a huge level of engagement across the hotels and functions.  Today we have almost 3,500 active members on Yammer.

PALs Portal – a SharePoint based platform – has also been introduced which allows us to communicate the latest news, openings and activities that are happening across the Group. PALs can access their own basic data and details such as tenure and leave days, which has cut down on the number of transactional enquiries that we receive.  We also enable a “Google-esque” search engine for our policies and procedures for PALs to have easy access.  Very soon we will also be introducing an Innovation Hub which will allow PALs to share their ideas to be voted for implementation, thereby engaging the entire workforce to take the company to the next level.

Emaar Hotels

Tell us about Amber and SOFEA – the Groups two new HR team members in 2018.  How long did it take to customise their contribution?

As a part of the Digital Transformation Journey within the EHG HR function, we started experimenting with Artificial Intelligence and the role that it can play in enhancing our PALs experience whilst they work with us.  This is a key upcoming trend and in our endeavour to remain innovative in our approach, we have launched two Artificiality Intelligent Chatbots within EHG.

AMBER

We were among the first Hospitality companies to introduce Artificial Intelligence for real-time PALs sentiment analysis.  Positioned as our CEO’s Artificially Intelligent assistant, Amber connects with our PALs regularly which helps the HR team to proactively address issues for those who may be unhappy or disengaged.  When piloting the Chatbot, we rolled it out to those with less than one year of service with the Group, in order to reduce our turnover in the first year of service.

SOFEA

With SOFEA (Sophisticated Online Functional Emaar Agent), our Level 1 support Chatbot, we aim to be one of the first companies to develop in-house an exclusive HR Bot with customizable functionality.  Her scope is to interact with PALs for most of their transactional requests initially and then grow to manage more intuitive queries through machine learning.  She is available on the PALs portal and still learning!

Have there been any significant challenges with the implementation of this automation?  How have employees responded to automated responses?

As with any change, there is a level of mind-set change that is needed.  We addressed this by spreading awareness with internal campaigns, pre-launch activities and many more interventions in collaboration with the GMs of our hotels.  We made the interface as easy to use as possible, so that PALs are able to adapt quicker and can see the benefits themselves.  Once we did this, it was easier to have PALs adapt and adopt.

Online learning has been another big success in Emaar. Can you share with us some of the successes with this and how it works?

Learning on the go is more important today than ever before.  With lean and efficient organisations, many don’t have time to attend long workshops and classroom sessions.  Learning has to be available, bespoke, customised and easy to access.  Classroom sessions – if needed – have to be fast paced and impactful.  We faced all the issues of a traditional approach to learning and over the last couple of years we have changed that significantly.  With key collaborations we changed the way we deliver learning – making it ‘to the point’ and punchy – with much higher engagement and learning outcome.

One of our key issues was getting PALs to use online learning platforms.  At one time, we had an amazing platform available to everyone but we had no engagement.  Gradually it became mandatory, becoming a part of KPI’s and very soon it was made into a tick box activity just so a KPI could be achieved.  Again a complete thought change was needed.  We scrapped the platform and partnered with more creative and innovative platforms and introduced the concept of the ‘eLearning lottery’.  Now PALs register for an on-line course and win it though a lottery system.  The result?  We have waiting lists for the next 4 lotteries, lots of engagement, and PALs looking forward to bettering themselves through online Learning.

One of our key issues was getting PALs to use online learning platforms.  At one time, we had an amazing platform available to everyone but we had no engagement.

 Culturally you have led an HR team that has shifted dramatically from measuring processes to measuring outputs. What are the benefits to the business of this focus within the team?

We suffered from the typical challenge in where process is given more importance, therefore measures of success were set in line with measuring the process.  Not to take away the importance of the process, which is critical to everything running smoothly and efficiently, but it is always the end result which counts.  So rather than measure the recruitment turnaround time, we began to measure the percentage of manning on board.  Rather than the number of times we do Talent Reviews, we measured the retention of our high potentials and successors.  And rather than measure the number of training hours for successors, we stared measuring the percentage of leadership roles filled internally – and this has made all the difference for us.  A key outcome of this approach is the reduction of the generally cumbersome administrative actions needed to track and report on the process.

 

Emaar Hospitality Group 

Emaar Hospitality Group LLC is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Emaar Properties PJSC, the Dubai-based global property developer, and manages Emaar’s hospitality and leisure projects globally.

Defining its competency in managing mixed-use property developments, Emaar Hospitality Group owns and manages a diversified portfolio of assets including hotels, serviced residences, golf clubs, polo club, marina and lifestyle dining restaurants.

Emaar Hospitality Group has defined its credentials in the hotel industry with the launch of three brands, each with a distinct niche – Address Hotels + Resorts, Vida Hotels and Resorts and Rove Hotels.

About

Aseem Kapoor

Corporate Director of HR, Emaar Hospitality Group

Aseem Kapoor, Corporate Director of Human Resources, is one of the original members present in the infancy stage of Emaar Hospitality Group. He brings over 17 years’ experience of managing HR function. With immense knowledge and hands on experience in the hospitality industry, Aseem has had major influence in structuring the Human Resource function for Emaar Hospitality Group.

Aseem is responsible for strategic talent & culture direction of Emaar Hospitality Group within Dubai and internationally. He leads the HR functions with a keen focus on talent sourcing, engagement and leadership development.  Driving a strong shared services approach within HR, employee experience, automation and digital transformation of the HR function are at the forefront of deliverables to the organisation.