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In our series "People First", human resources leaders share insights on their recruitment and retention strategy.


In our series "People First", human resources leaders share insights on their recruitment and retention strategy.

Category: Worldwide - Careers - Interviews and portraits - Career - Interviews - Industry leaders
Interview made by Sonia Taourghi on 2024-03-29

Craig Cochrane, Chief People Officer, Minor Hotels

Craig Cochrane, Chief People Officer, Minor Hotels
Photo credit © Minor Hotels

How to attract, recruit and retain talent within the luxury hospitality industry? To answer the human resources challenges of a highly competitive job market, hotel groups have implemented new recruitment tools, career development programs, and innovative communication strategies

Craig Cochrane, Chief People Officer for Minor Hotels, answers six questions about recruitment, onboarding process, career development and gives key advices for a successful career in luxury hospitality.

Can you tell us more about your recruitment process?

At Minor Hotels, the recruitment process mixes strong branding with the latest tech to find employees who are not just talented, but also share our love for top-notch hospitality. We’ve built a reputation as a place where ambitious people can thrive and grow. Our secret sauce? A global digital system that connects our career opportunities with platforms like LinkedIn, making it easy for candidates at all career stages to apply. For new graduates, our ‘Explorer’ and ‘Ascent’ programmers help us get young people from schools and universities excited about a career with Minor Hotels. It’s all about giving the next generation a leg up into the hospitality world.

How do you integrate new talent?

Our onboarding process, called ‘Strong Start’, is the ultimate welcome wagon for our new joiners. Since 2016, we’ve made sure everyone within the organisation steps into the Minor world feeling excited about the journey ahead and ready to shine. Essentially, it’s a team effort where our Heads of Department, People & Culture, and Learning & Development teams all pitch in to help new joiners get in sync with everything Minor stands for. And it’s not just about making them feel welcome or providing basic hospitality training; we’ve got tailored programmes for those at the top too. And if you’re joining us at the head office, you might just grab a coffee with our legendary founder, William E. Heinecke!

Which kind of development programmes do you offer to your collaborators?

We’ve got a whole suite of programmes under our Leadership Development Series – a constellation of training resources focused on giving our leaders, from newbies to the seasoned pros, the tools to grow and make a mark at Minor Hotels. Starting off, there’s a foundational course that dives into everything a leader needs to know, like performance management and coaching. It’s a two-day power session filled with activities and discussions, all led by our HR heavyweights.
Then, for those looking to sharpen their skills, we have specialised tracks. ‘Agile Leader’ is perfect for department and section heads, while ‘Commercial Leader’ and ‘Enterprise Leader’ are for those aiming for the top spots, focusing on business savvy and management chops. But my personal favourite would have to be the ‘Wavelength Learning Journey’ module that promotes teamwork and sharing smarts across the board. In short, we’re in the business of building leaders who are ready to take on the world with us.

What internal mobility opportunities do you offer to your collaborators?

At Minor Hotels, we’re proactive about internal mobility, especially in today’s fast-changing hospitality scene. Our ‘Grow With Us’ initiative is at the heart of this, acting as a global platform where our team members can showcase their CVs for future roles. We also have the ‘Task Force Programme,’ which is all about quick and innovative solutions. It lets us put together a dream team of experts to address any pressing issues with their expertise.
Underpinning it all is a belief that career development is not just in the hands of our People & Culture teams; it’s a journey every team member takes responsibility for. To illustrate, let me share a couple of guiding principles that I swear by:
“Pay It Forward”: It’s about the ripple effect of kindness. As we climb, we reach down to pull others up, offering mentorship and support. This creates a cycle of growth that benefits us all, both personally and professionally.
“Find Your DIS-comfort Zone”: True growth sprouts from the seeds of challenge. It’s about embracing the unknown and stretching beyond the familiar. Remember, comfort may feel safe, but it’s in the moments of uncertainty that we truly expand our horizons and discover our potential. So, dare to step out of the shadows of comfort, and you’ll find your greatest achievements waiting in the light of new challenges.

What would be your best advice to have a successful career in luxury hospitality?

First off, service is king – make it stellar and personal. Get to know your guests, their likes and quirks, and go the extra mile to wow them. The same goes for your team. Embrace the diverse tapestry of cultures and communication styles. It’s not just polite; it’s smart business. It creates an atmosphere where everyone’s valued.
Equally important is your personal brand. To build it, ensure you have a robust online presence where you can showcase your achievements, insights, and industry knowledge through platforms like LinkedIn or a personal blog. Make time to attend industry events, conferences, and workshops. Engage with peers, mentors, and leaders. Join relevant associations and stay updated on industry trends. Ensure that your brand aligns with your values and consistently represents your best self.
And, remember, it’s not just what you know, it’s the magic you make. Stay hungry, stay flexible, and never stop levelling up.

What human qualities are you looking for in talents?

We’re on the lookout for a mix of passion, teamwork, and the ability to roll with the punches. In the hunt for new talent, we’re after people who are all-in on what they do and play well in the sandbox with others. Being able to adapt and grow is huge for us because we love go-getters who push the envelope.

And let’s not forget, we’re living in a digital age, so folks who are tech-savvy and have that entrepreneurial spirit have an advantage. Also, if you’re up for jet-setting and trying out new scenes, you’re the kind of mover and shaker we want. It’s all about growing and gaining new experiences. So, if you’ve got that fire and flexibility, Minor Hotels is the place for you!

Which labels did you earn as a quality workplace?

As recently as 2023, Minor Hotels achieved the HR Excellence Award (Gold) for Talent Management, which recognises organisations that excel in their ability to set a compelling vision and plan. We were also certified by Great Place To Work last year. It’s like the Oscars for workplace culture, and it lets the world know we’re a top-notch organisation when it comes to providing a stellar environment where everyone can flourish professionally and personally. It’s a badge of honour that says we’re serious about making our company a place where people love to come to work, where they feel valued, and where they can be part of something special.

What are the key CSR measures you have in place?

To make a positive impact, we follow Minor Group’s holistic ESG framework. We’re on a mission to uplift 3 million people by 2030 with education and health initiatives. Just last year, we touched the lives of over 230,000 people worldwide, as well as welcoming 395 amazing new team members with disabilities. In Vietnam, through our fantastic partnership with the Kianh Foundation, in 2023 we raised over USD 20,000 for children with special needs and employed a member of the Foundation at our restaurant.
Another initiative I am extremely proud of is 'Shanga', an in-house social enterprise in Tanzania that makes handmade products from recycled materials. In 2023, Shanga employed 54 people, with 60% of them with disabilities, who recycled an average of 18 tons of used glass and utilised 35,500 litres of waste oil to power its glass-blowing furnaces, generating a gross revenue of over USD 576,000, a 24% increase from 2022.
Education’s a big deal for us too. We’re boosting schools, providing scholarships, and through our Minor Corporate University, we’re preparing students for real-world opportunities. Over half of our grads ended up joining our team!
Environmentally speaking, we’re slashing our carbon footprint, saving water, managing waste, and saying ‘no’ to single-use plastics across the entire organisation. Last but not least, we’ve got an open-door policy for our team to speak up, and we’re super focused on keeping everyone safe and sound.

2023 Future Leaders Accelerator Programme Promotion

2023 Future Leaders Accelerator Programme Promotion
Photo credit © Minor Hotels

William E. Heinecke, founder of Minor Hotels, surrounded by the group leadership team
Photo credit © Minor Hotels

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About the author

A lover of human interactions, Sonia started her journalism career in various media outlets before moving to London and shifting to the digital industry. Listening to her calling, she's picking up her pen to share the passion and ambitions of luxury hospitality.

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