Donara Harutyunyan – HR Consultant at HOTELIER LLC

Donara has been working in the industry since 2015 and has some very interesting insights to share with us. Today we are curious about HR tendencies in Armenian hotels that she observed during the past few years.

As a professional in the sphere of Human Resources will you please describe the benefits of working in hotel industry?
Hotel industry is very different from others. I believe a good hotel’s main and most important goal is to make its guests feel home away from their own home. And the hotel staff can also be considered as guests of the hotel, so they can also feel at home at a vacation, at a party, at a special event and at work at the same time. And sometimes the work-life life balance is kept even without leaving one’s workplace.
Trust me, it’s very easy to fall in love with the hotel business and “falling in love” is exactly the word for it.
Of course, all those advantages have also their side effects, because it can sometimes become tricky to draw a clear line between work and personal life. Here is where the HR manager should come to help the staff with that tricky task.

What are the top departments people apply for in hotels in Armenia?
It’s mostly front office, sales, and curiously enough any position that has the word “manager” in the title. Frankly speaking, I have noticed that there is a huge misconception in our society concerning the word manager. People associate it with higher then mid-range salary and less responsibilities, while the reality is different.

Which department of the hotel is the most difficult hire people for even if the offered salary is good?
I’d say the hardest are Food and Beverage and Housekeeping. Good confectioners, cooks, waiters, maidens and cleansers, and particularly managers who have experience in F&B and HKS. I believe the matter is that we do not have specialized schools who would prepare these specialists. I do think this is a big issue we need to start tackling now.

What characteristics do you pay attention as a Human Resource professional during the interview?
For me the most important trait is punctuality, which firstly means not being late for an interview, and secondly means not coming to the interview half an hour earlier than the arranged time. Lately punctually has acquired another, third, meaning which is to at least show up for the interview.
The rest obviously depends on the position I am interviewing for and the HR strategy the company is implementing. For example, if I am interviewing a sales specialist, I value communication skills above all, and for an accountant I won’t value those skills as much. And if the company HR strategy is people oriented, then I would hire promising young people, who do not have much experience, but are very talented, and putting some resources on teaching and training them will get us the results we want for the business.
But if the HR strategy is profit oriented, then more aggressive recruiting is required, which basically means finding the best professionals in the field to get desired results in a short period of time. And it is important to highlight, that the HR strategy is directly linked to the overall business strategy of the company.

How you keep balance between the management of the hotel and the staff?
Now I will be talking about a very unpleasant topic for most employers. Certainly, one of the main purposes of an HR manager is to make and maintain the balance between the management and the staff by acting as the communication channel between them and trying to make them both feel good, or at least not to disappoint both parties. I would say this is the most difficult aspect of our job, considering the attitudes of most of the employers nowadays.
And the balance is maintained by listening to your employee, the keyword here is “LISTENING”. If you as an employer hire an HR specialist to discover and solve the issues in the company, and at the end of the day you reject whatever has been discovered and the possible solutions suggested, means you didn’t really need that specialist, but then you have much deeper problems as a business owner which you don’t even realize yet. It is important that this culture is changed in our society.

What tactics should be implemented to solve problems?
If we are considering the HoReCa industry at large, I already talked about the problem we have with the lack of professionals, and I’d say the ultimate solution would be to have some kind of an institution, school, whatever you want to call it, which will make professionals, and not just teach them, but put them to practice in the field. This also means that the teachers shouldn’t be just people who have read a lot of books about HoReCa but are practicing specialists in that field who can share their experience with the new generation of HoReCa professionals.
If we take the hotel business separately then we also see issues with the salaries as well. The salaries in hotels are not competitive with those in the HoReCa sphere in general. A simple example, if a waiter in hotel can earn maximum say 170,000 AMD (net) salary, in other restaurants they can earn 300,000-450,000 AMD (net) salary, and plus do less work. And it is very rare that a candidate chooses the first scenario, even though there are more career perspectives working in a hotel.
In sum, I would add that even though there are too many problems in these field, which we can talk about for ever, I think that because we have very talented and promising youth here, the problems will get solved one by one. I very much hope so.