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Hotel turnover part II!!

Welcome hoteliers!

In the last article I gave a small synopsis about the hotel turnover in China, Korea, and the USA.

Today I want to just show you a little of my experience dealing with it. I’m still a young manager but I am a unique one with unique solutions; I say that because I did not have a mentor or someone’s example to go after, so I want to share my solutions and hope that it helps others! Let’s start with… China of course!


China!

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Within my first three months, we lost four front desk agents and had hired two interns and two new front desk agents. To the other managers, this was clockwork, but it bothered me. I wanted to do something about it. And it was very simple, just as one former employee stated… “I’ll go work an office job, get normal hours, and a higher pay,” I realized that in the staff’s mind, there’s no benefit for working in a hotel.

I decided to talk with all of the agents, to see where they may be unhappy and where the opportunities for growth may lie; surely there’s more than work, go home, and eat food. And then it dawned on me, China has a problem instilling hope on their workers. I mean, why come to work in a hotel? If the answer was just to survive…. wrong answer! What about the true hospitality spirit?

I was re-instilling a sense of belonging, hope, and enjoyment in seeing people happy because of the experiences we created! Whether we saw a family that booked a queen room that we upgraded to a double room with a view, or sent an amenity to a newly wed couple, I showed the enjoyment that can come from that. If you can find that enjoyment, it’s not bad work at all, plus the travel benefits which very few took advantage of, so I started to push them to go. “Visit your families, take a trip, 2-3 days is good, get some fresh air, use your 70% discount etc.” and the turnover for the rest of my tenure was practically non-existent.

When I went to Chengdu it was the same thing; I emphasized instilling hope, a sense of belonging and showing them what true hospitality was like. In fact most employees don’t know why they work in hotels in the first place!

 


Korea!

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In Korea, I managed an apartment building, not a hotel. They hired me because I could offer hotel level services to guests, which we did. We operated partially with AirBnB (great cash-flow) and short-term apartment rentals.

Whilst having a small staff I did have numerous hotel contacts and it was the same from what I observed and discussed with other managers. The local staff will accept being miserable, but will keep their job because another one is hard to find. But I found encouragement to be the best practice. When the staff is unhappy, they begin to think only of pay, work, and to go home. Encourage them, and they are more engaged, come with a smile, and cooperate more. I challenged my friends to get to know their staff better, challenge them to be unique, talk to them about future prospects, instill some hope!


Good olUSA!

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Admittedly it’s my first time actually managing in my own country, and to add onto it, my hotel is super unionized. To the point that I actually can’t check in a guest myself, I’ll be taking away work from the front desk agents. If I check in one guest, the most senior agent is getting paid a full days salary. In fact, I’m gonna write an article for you all soon enough about the… UNION!

However the issue isn’t that, one problem is high management turnover. Most of the agents are older, having been working for 5-30 years. And every year there’s a new 20-something year old manager with new ideas and wants to change your work, life, and flow! I saw this instantly, but how I manage is by first realizing that: I’m not going to change anything.

It’s more of assisting with efficiency, solving issues, and improving/assisting with change from corporate. For example, if agents are always clicking and are a bit on the slow side, I show them some hot keys which are easy to memorize that can help them speed up; not forced just suggested, and I do put it in a nice way which they are very welcoming of.

As managers we have to solve very creatively when guests complain and that’s why the managers are younger and younger. We’re creative, unique, and have thick skin. And finally hotel corporations are always trying to improve their product, systems, and process. Most times drastic change is hard for employees, especially when they’ve done the same for 15 years. Our job is to learn it first, simplify it and train it!


Final words? My advice has always been to train and encourage not blame and force. Take care of the staff and they will take care of the guests! I hope my methods will help to inspire even more unique methods that I too am always eager to learn!

Thanks for stopping by and see you in the next article!

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Best Regards,
Daniel Cooper

Hotel turnover! Part I

Welcome hoteliers!

Turnover… a touchy issue for employers all over the world. And in hotels, well it’s rampant!

I mean, there’s so many brands, so many options, lots of vacant positions, hotels are always hiring because people are always getting promoted, resigning, changing departments, it’s quite hectic really.

However the reasons for the turnover are quite different in countries say, China, Korea, and the United Stated.

Being that I worked in all three countries, and whilst generalizations to an extent I want to discuss this in 2 parts. Mainly to shed some light about Asian hotel hiring situations that you prospective hoteliers might encounter and as some food for thought as well. 🙂


United States!

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Our country is big, and there are many regional differences, but let’s talk about the turnover rate in NYC!

In NY the main turnover is with management; particularly middle management. Front line staff are unionized in most hotels, meaning their position is very stable! They pay the hotel unions a weekly “union dues” and in exchange the union offers protection, representation, helps find a job if you get laid off under certain circumstances, seeking a new job etc. the union offers much, so the front line staff usually stay; plus they make more than the managers!

The managers on the other hand are climbing to the top and usually change hotels within the same brand, such as a person in a Courtyard Marriott might jump to a Ritz Carlton and then to a JW Marriott since it’s all in the Marriott family group of hotels. So managers are seeking higher salaries, advancement opportunity, and growth.

Most managers will only remain for a year or so, then transfer to another property. This means that staff is constantly meeting, getting to know, then saying goodbye to constantly changing management. That definitely creates a strain on morale and loyalty, my impression of the most staff in the hotel, is: “oh boy, another manager… (sarcasm)”

That’s for the US anyway!

Next!


China!

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For China I’m going to use Shanghai and Chengdu since I’ve worked substantially in these 2 cities.

The management does move around but usually after 2-3 years in a position however the front staff especially front desk agents and in F&B, the F&B hosts are the usual source of high turnover.

Actually, China has an issue with front line staff staying and gaining enough experience to become managers, hence it’s one of many reasons overseas managers are present, although that is changing.

Unlike in the USA, the pay is extremely low for front line staff, they’re usually living together in staff housing provided by the hotel, and the staff cafeteria isn’t very good. So the work conditions are okay however the living conditions is quite disappointing; if you’re anything like me, you don’t fancy sharing living space. Because of all of this, it’s easy to see why agents change jobs for a completely different hotel brand just for an extra $100 a month!

Also the hotel demands a high level of English language competency for front of house staff, which is to be expected, coupled with overnight shifts and these conditions… it makes for quite a frustration build up. One former agent put it like this:

“If I can speak good English and I have these skills, instead of working for this low wage, I can go work in an office job doing trading or sales with foreign companies and make $500 more a month!”

 


South Korea!

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Have to make that distinction there~ anyways, in S. Korea, jobs are scarce as the competition is extremely fierce in major cities like Seoul; even fiercer than NYC and I’m quite serious. Hiring practices are insane, front line staff must “look” the part. So much so that Koreans often have surgery not just for school or because they want to enhance themselves to boost their confidence; it’s also to be able to get a job.

In S. Korea, looks can get a job over experience in some cases. One friend even told me of a minimum height requirement for men and woman in front offices! But back to the main point!

Because jobs are scarce, the turnover is much lower, and the salaries are much higher then say China but a little lower than NY, the turnover rate is quite low. While good in a way, it makes the hotel system quite bland which is Korea’s problem. I actually really love Korean culture and definitely want to go back, but there’s no real opportunity to get into the hotels mainly because there’s no openings. The other factor affecting hiring and turnover, which is similar to to China, is hiring overseas born Koreans or Chinese is becoming more and more popular and they will often take the internship positions as well, since they speak English fluently in most cases!

What does this mean to you, the future or current hotelier who is aspiring to become a General Manager?

If you’re going to work in NY, become familiar with unions, as I’m doing now, still getting used to it! If you’re going to work in China, get used to constantly training constantly changing staff, it’s fun at first, but after constant resignations and new hires, it gets old, and if you’re in Korea, cherish that job because it’s quite hard to get in!

That’s all for this first article, next one I’ll show you my experience dealing with these factors and how I handled it! Thanks for stopping by and see you in the next article!

 

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Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

How did I work in a Chinese hotel??

Welcome hoteliers!

When I graduated college I worked for half a year in a temporary front office position at the Staybridge Inn & Suites in Times Square, NYC. Sounds nice right? Well, it wasn’t all that bad, except I wanted a life-style change. Now I know what you’re thinking… what recent graduate is talking about life-style change when we’re just beginning well, I had been to China a few times to study abroad and I just felt I wanted a more international life-style and New York isn’t where I’m meant to be at that time.

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So I wanted to work as a front desk agent in China, which you’ll find out why that was lunacy and near impossible, and I had very little luck finding anything; actually let’s tell the truth, I applied to over 300+ internationally branded hotels in many cities for a front desk agent and never got a reply.

Now I’m a firm believer in this belief that I have; actually I’m going to make it a “Cooper quote, from here on out, officially a thing in this blog. #cooperquote

“The internet doesn’t hire people, people hire people” – Daniel Cooper #cooperquote

What I mean is that from then on, I stopped applying online for hotel jobs; I needed to find the person who would hire me, or, could influence my application and reach out to them directly. In most hotels the General Manager is the highest position which led me to my next revelation… (Don’t get upset with me HR people)

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“If I apply online I’m at the bottom of the barrel, if I can send a nice email to the GM or my department manager and have them forward it, I’ll be at the top of the barrel and likely to get a response” – Daniel Cooper #cooperknowledge

***I promise not to sugarcoat anything in this blog just, FYI***

When I got my first interview using my new method, new to me anyway, because again, the internet never contained this information, maybe because it’s a crazy method, but I had no idea how to do it, so I made my own way; anyway I was contacted by the HR at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Shanghai for a position of a Duty Manager and the interviews were conducted on Skype.

 

 

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When you’re having 4-5 hotel interviews a day on Skype, this is exactly how you look!

The Process

Most of the time, the hotel will either call you (they can call internationally obviously) but more commonly will Skype you for two reasons. One, you’re not in China, and two, they want to see what you look like; looks are a thing in Asia and influence your hiring prospects, anyone who says otherwise is sugarcoating in fact, you need to include your picture in your CV which is basically your resume.

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It’ll look a little something like this.

The first interview is with the HR manager or director, hiring an expatriate is a big deal abroad, so the big wigs have to interview you of course, second interview was with the director of the department, and final interview is with the General Manager or Hotel Manager.

After you pass the interviews and get an offer, congrats, you have to produce a ton of documents such as your college degree, former employment letters providing proof you worked where you said you did since they’re not going to call your past properties, a copy of your passport, criminal background check (don’t be a crook) and in 1-2 months your letters will be in the mail to go get yourself a work visa and head to China!

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That’s the how anyway, now, why did it work out for me?

To be honest with you guys and everyone has a different experience, also, I’m African American, which will be a whole other story, but it does give you additional obstacles but other opportunities as well, I got the job because I had something they needed and they had something I wanted.

In simpler terms, they were using me and I was using them.

win win

I did take a pay cut, which you shouldn’t have to, maybe the gross salary isn’t as high, but there are many perks, which I’ll discuss in another article. I was paid around $1,200 a month, base salary in Shanghai which can be just as expensive as NYC and had $800 as housing allowance which means I pay first and they reimburse me. To scale it even more, the position that I had, equivalent in NYC would be making around $2500 a month after tax, but the standard of living was similar, until you learn to live like a local.

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Noodles are life!

They hired me because I spoke Chinese, accepted a lower salary, was a native English speaker, and was from NYC so I knew how to handle crazy oversold situations; also I could wear 3 hats at once, and teach free English to the staff, so for them total win.

For me, although I knew I was getting low-balled and I had other offers, the decision was like this:

Hotel Indigo Shanghai: Management Trainee position

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Hotel Indigo, red circle is Grand Hyatt, blue circle, Park Hyatt!

Intercontinental Shanghai hotel: Management Trainee

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Le Méridien Hotel Qingdao: (different city, beautiful city!) Management Trainee

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Holiday Inn Weihai (also a different city): Management Trainee

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Grand Hyatt Shanghai: Duty Manager!

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Grand Hyatt Shanghai was from the 53rd floor to 87th floor of the Jin Mao tower

So I could be an intern, or jump into management “oh boy my first management position!”

oh boy


I accepted the Grand Hyatt offer; also I knew that I wasn’t in the greatest position to haggle or get into management in NYC, so I knew if I took this position, I could move up and gain more China experience which will further my career there and at home.

So I got my papers in the mail, booked the cheapest economy ticket, a one-way ticket 🙂 and I was in China to start my new job and new life!


My advice is when it comes to China, just as back home; persistence in job hunting is a must. However you also need thick skin, there is some prejudice about how you look, which country or city you’re from, which school you attended etc. If possible, learn some Chinese, it will boost your prospects greatly, and finally, unless you receive an “expatriate” salary package, which I will discuss later, brace yourself to live a more frugal life with a pay cut. It was okay for me because of the title, position offered, and the experience I would gain, make sure you’re okay with it before you accept!

Thanks for stopping by and see you next time!

Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

 

 

What is wuxingjiexperience??

Welcome hoteliers!

My name is Daniel and let me guess your first question. What is the “wuxingji” in wuxingjiexperience?

Wuxingji (五星级) means 5 stars, so, 5 star experience… catchy huh?

And yeah as you can guess, I speak Chinese, and yeah I’m African American.

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Macau, China

Now that we got that out of the way, what is this blog all about? Well… and bear with me here, I work in hotels + I love the industry and a lot of people ask me what it was like working in hotels in China. Also, there’s the “what’s it like being black in China?” What’s it like being black working in hotels? What’s it like being a black foreigner working in hotels in China and so much more. So I want to share some awesome, crazy, adventurous, insider, borderline whistle-blowing stories of my experiences over there.

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Whistle-blowing yo!

It’s also my hope that this blog can also give some insight to people wanting to get some information about how to work in hotels in Asia since there’s a lack of information online. Lets get started!

I’m going to make this fast and brief~

I started working in hotels when I was finishing high school and on my way to college. I applied to every job listed online since I was 17 and had such a hard time getting in.

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I’m from New York by the way, however the competition is vicious, but I was eventually able to get a job at the front desk at a Holiday Inn in New Jersey. Afterwards I worked at a Days Inn & Suites hotel in Delaware while going to college full time and studied in China each fall semester; I built the Chinese program at my university but that’s an article for another time. After college I worked for a Staybridge Inn & Suites in Times Square NYC (finally got into NYC hotels despite being from there sheesh!) But it didn’t last long;

I secured myself a position as a Duty Manager in Shanghai, China at the Grand Hyatt hotel. From there I went to work for a pre-opening Fairmont hotel in Chengdu, China (panda city) had a brief stint in South Korea, and now I’m back in NY again. Brief right? I tried to make it quick. 🙂

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Grand Hyatt Shanghai!

I’ve been fortunate to get many interesting opportunities within the hotel industry and in China; the best thing is, my journey is just beginning, but I wanted to share just the incredible experiences I’ve had working, partying & dating overseas and why I’m intending on going back. So grab a beer, make a sandwich and make sure to binge read because I’m sure my stories with entertain and thank you for stopping by!

P.S. my articles will always end with “best regards” and a little advice from me to you~ #hotelier4life.

Best Regards,
Daniel Cooper

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