THE CUSTOMER-CENTRIC TEAM
John McDonnell, executive general manager, HR, Accor Australia
NUMBER OF HR EMPLOYEES:
90 HR representatives
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES IN AUSTRALIA:
HR’s influence on customer or client satisfaction has traditionally been viewed as tenuous at best. However, as sectors like retail and leisure and hospitality can attest, employers that place customer centricity at the heart of the employee value proposition can and do make an impact. This is what Accor has prioritised – John McDonnell and COO Simon McGrath have, since 2008, set an expectation of making sure the business has customers at the very heart of its culture.
“In 2011 we recognised that our employees needed new tools and resources to deliver better customer service, but above all an opportunity to change the way they approached working with colleagues and customers,” McDonnell says.
The executive team spent much time deliberating and eventually developing a new service culture for all employees. ‘Peopleology’ at Accor was born. It provides employees with tools to be the ‘Real Deal’ at Accor and take on a new approach to communicating with colleagues and customers.
“We want animation at all levels and not part of the everyday mundane service many customers have grown to accept,” McDonnell says.
McDonnell says reshaping the culture of the HR network was essential to this strategy, and the task was to ensure that the divisional HRDs and corporate HR team clearly aligned themselves to the new way of thinking. This, McDonnell believes, is what sets his HR team apart.
“We have a terrific HR leadership team that works in an open and transparent manner, continually driving new ideas to improve the way we work and delivering a service model to our internal partners that provides a working environment that offers our employees the best opportunity to either excel in their role or choose Accor for the long term,” he says. He notes that “it’s an old cliché” but the people are everything at Accor – as it is for any organisation with so many client-facing roles.
“Being shortlisted for the HR Team of the Year is a testament to not only the 90 HR representatives but all leaders across the group; it’s an absolute honour to represent the organisation,” he says.
The company operates a hybrid of traditional HR leadership and business partnering to suit the different brand models (including Sofitel, Novotel, Mercure and Ibis, among many).
The national team based in Sydney comprises L&D, talent management, group compensation, diversity and workplace health and safety. This team is responsible for overseeing strategy and policy, with customer service underpinning every decision.
“If we deliver activity that does not support customer service or operating effectiveness, it has no place in our business,” McDonnell says.
In addition, the operational HR teams are supported by four divisional HRDs and a network of 80 HR practitioners, from business unit HR managers to assistant managers.
McDonnell says HR structures or operating models are dependent on many aspects, with the CEO, the business model, and the economic business climate being just three factors to consider. The important feature of an HR structure is to ensure it responds to the business needs while supporting the performance of the organisation, McDonnell adds.
“HR structures need to flex when the need arises. I’ve seen many examples in the past few years when businesses having financial or technological challenges move towards a partnering model or outsource model. Is it the best? Probably for that company, but when you have 200 hotels working 24/7, that’s a lot of customers who deserve the best from us.”
‘Peopleology’ is also helping to address future HR challenges. Given a competitive job market, and through a desire to be a more diverse employer, Accor is spending time creating a work environment that fits many different working groups, including mature-age workers, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees, and female talent — specifically implementing an ambitious plan to drive stronger awareness and career management for female talent within Accor.