Sunday, April 26, 2009

No. 3 Taj Hotels

Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces

Industry: Hospitality
Employees: 13,500
Workplace Units: 43
Business units: 64
Unique roles: 395

WHEN TERRORISTS ATTACKED MUMBAI’S TAJ MAHAL HOTEL ON November 26, last year, hotel employees immediately swung into action trying to save the lives of the guests trapped inside. The heroic manner in which they saved the lives of hundreds, at great personal cost, is well known. When the ordeal was over, the Taj Group not only had to undertake the huge task of restoring the 106-year-old structure to its erstwhile glory, but also to renew the confidence of its traumatised employees.

While some were scared of getting back to work, others were wondering if they had a job to go back to. The day after the attack was snuffed out, the company set up a trauma centre, and with the help of 15 counsellors and psychiatrists from the Tata Institute of Social Services, got each employee and his/her family counselled. “We convinced them that the Taj was safe and so were their jobs,” reminisces an emotional HN Shrinivas, Senior Vice- President, Human Resources, Taj Hotels. “Each one of them had their share of anxieties, but in the end, they all pledged to work together to once again make the Taj Mahal the best hotel in Mumbai.”

Tata Group Chairman Ratan Tata personally met the families of the deceased, and distributed a compensation package of Rs 7 crore. This included a lumpsum payment and other facilities such as ensuring a spouse got the last-drawn salary of the deceased throughout his or her lifetime, taking care of the children’s education, and so on.

This humanitarian approach has underlined how the Taj Group backs its employees even during times of crisis. Employee well-being, says Raymond Bickson, Managing Director, Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces, has always been a priority. “We want to be recognised among the best employers in the country.” It is the people who are in the trenches that have made the Taj what it is, he says. A guest at the Taj interacts with the hotel staff on at least 42 occasions each day, right from getting a wake-up call from the operator and getting room service to getting information at the front desk and being greeted by the doorman, says Bickson. “All these employees can be at their best only if they love what they do and feel a sense of belonging.”

To instill this, the company has put in place several programmes such as the ‘speed programme’, through which it identifies good performers and gives them a double promotion. It has also put together an ‘emerging leaders programme’, under which hundreds of managers with leadership potential have been selected and put through a rigorous training programme. “We need 2,000 leaders in the next 10 years and we have already charted out a career plan for these candidates,” says Bickson.

Good employee retention practices help maintain market share and margins. “There are 37 global hospitality brands wanting to enter India and we have to keep up with the times.”

Despite the economic slowdown, the Taj Group is expanding aggressively. The hotel chain plans to double its rooms from 10,000 to 20,000 in the next couple of years. To do so, it will need a lot of manpower. “One can’t open hotels and not hire. However, we will first look at internal movements,” says Bickson.

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