'There is a large, untapped pool of talent'

The Ritz-Carlton, Singapore Millenia's HR executive on implementing a successful talent attraction and retention strategy

'There is a large, untapped pool of talent'

There are a number of key skills Audrey Lim, director of human resources at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, believes are important for success in an HR role.

“The expected ones are your ability to communicate, empathise and all of that,” Lim told HRD Asia. “But actually, what I'm emphasising more and more in the team – and if I were to hire – is the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of our business leaders and understand what talent challenges and needs are keeping them awake at night.”

For Lim, it’s about HR leaders not working in a silo but striving to solve business problems and have a business impact. Another skill she mentioned was the ability to analyse trends and anticipate future challenges so that the organisation can plan ahead for them.

“Sometimes, things happen and you react but we need to develop a skill of understanding our current talent landscape and planning for the future,” she said.

Joining Ritz-Carlton

Lim joined The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore earlier in 2024 after nearly five years at luxury goods powerhouse LVMH, where she looked after the Southeast Asia markets for watches and jewellery.

Having worked in luxury retail, it was an ideal opportunity for Lim to move into the luxury hotel industry.

“The new luxury is not about owning things but owning experiences,” she said. “Walking into a hotel, you never know what goes behind the scenes of creating an experience. And I've just been very blown away since I've joined to learn all of the various fronts and how all of that comes together.”

Lim also believes in the future growth of the hotel industry.

“We need a business that keeps growing in order to do great things for our people,” she said. “So I really believe in the future of this business as people choose more to put their money and savings into unique experiences.”

Initiatives at the Ritz-Carlton

Lim highlighted two key initiatives she has been focusing on during her time at the Ritz-Carlton so far. The first is about campus relations – helping young people consider an education or internship to potentially have a career in hospitality.

“It's a very, very big passion of mine,” Lim said. “Particularly in Singapore, where the industry may not be as well-known or well favoured over being a doctor or a lawyer. It's very important for us to go in early and touch the hearts as well as the minds of young people.

“First to let them know about what the industry really entails and a great career that you can have – particularly in a brand like Ritz-Carlton and within a group like Marriott – but also touch their hearts because I think most people who stay here just love it and feel very strongly about it and never want to leave.”

The other initiative Lim has been looking at is what she calls an alternative sourcing plan. 

“I think there is a large, untapped pool of talent,” she said. “Returning mums or people with disabilities that need certain accommodations at work in order for them to come in or ex-offenders.”

Lim mentioned the Yellow Ribbon Project, a program by Singapore’s Minister of Home Affairs that provides skills and career opportunities to ex-offenders.

“All of this alternative talent hasn't been actively looked at,” Lim said. “Of course, if people apply, we will consider them, but I think we really need to put a very solid plan together especially in ensuring that we are accommodating them back into the workspace based on whatever needs they have. Especially in a brand like ours that is very unique and has a pretty high standard.”

Talent attraction and retention

When asked what factors contribute to a successful talent attraction strategy, Lim emphasised knowing the employee value proposition.

“It’s critical that whoever is in charge of attraction – and that's not just HR, but also our business leaders who hire – they understand and can articulate what our employee value proposition is,” she said. “They need to know it well but also articulate it well because it is very unique.”

This includes everything from what a company says about itself online and what stories are in the media about it through to the recruiting and onboarding experience and finally, whether an employee would recommend someone else to work at the company, Lim said.

“Looking at each of these touchpoints – understanding, reviewing and making improvements on every one of these touchpoints – is important because this eventually leads to what I call a quality hire,” she said.

In terms of a talent retention strategy, Lim believes it takes more than just an annual employee engagement survey.

“It's really leaders putting our ear on the ground to ensure that our employees’ voice is heard and that concerns and issues are acted upon quickly,” she said. “Because there's nothing worse than mentioning something to a leader and nothing’s being done about it.

“I like, as much as I can, to get out of my office, walk around, hear from people directly. And every time a business leader brings about an issue to us, I think it's important that we treat it with urgency as much as how we treat all our guests’ complaints or issues or concerns with urgency.”

A rewarding career

Having worked in the HR industry for more than 20 years, Lim described what she finds most rewarding about it.

“Knowing that HR is not talking about itself but that we can really influence and impact our business results, but also just helping people find their passion, find meaning in their work,” she said.

“Sometimes seeing people change from a different industry into this one and falling in love with it – me being one of them – is really rewarding to see.”

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