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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 - Recruitment / Job / Training - Interviews
Interview made by Sonia Taourghi on 2024-04-19

Sindy Tsui, Chief People and Culture Officer, The Peninsula Hotels

Sindy Tsui, Chief People and Culture Officer, The Peninsula Hotels
Photo credit © The Peninsula Group

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.

Sindy Tsui, Chief People and Culture Officer for The Peninsula Hotels, answers six questions about recruitment, onboarding process, career development and gives key advices for a successful career in luxury hospitality.

Journal des Palaces: Can you tell us more about your recruitment process?

Siny Tsui: Our employees are our biggest advocates and our intention is to always communicate who we are from our heart, so that we attract people who are naturally drawn to our brands. We have seen a large increase in referrals, which has now become a significant source of hiring (in some operations, 50% of all hires come from referrals). We appreciate that our colleagues share their experiences and workplace satisfaction with their own family and friends, and it’s also great that new hires have a “workplace buddy” as they have been sponsored by family and friends, leading to happier onboarding experiences.

Regarding targeted leadership hiring, we take a structured approach to engaging with candidates through local, regional and international channels, as well as social media to source the right talent. For the past five years, we have been on a journey to develop internal talent sourcing capabilities that allow us to remain connected with candidates whom we feel would connect with our culture. It is important to convey the right message, and ensure we understand the motivational factors for potential new hires. This is why our internal People and Culture teams place the majority of all senior leadership hires directly.

Specifically, The Peninsula has strong brand resonance with candidates who work in luxury and hospitality. We authentically showcase our employer brand from the perspective of our own talent and what the workplace is truly like. We developed Peninsula Service Principles (PSP) in 2021 which today permeates the entire organisation. Our intention is to instil the HSH* culture throughout all levels, and we took this one step further by developing a hiring certification for anybody involved in recruitment called ‘Hiring for Success’. This has become the cornerstone underpinning PSP and how / who we recruit into the Company. Each Manager is trained to recruit against our PSP values, looking for people with the guest centricity, innate behavioural and soft skills that match our own values. The rest we believe can be trained on the job.
*Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels

How do you integrate new talent?

For us, culture starts from the moment we engage with the candidate, and a key point is how we bring them into the company. For each hire, we curate an onboarding journey that ensures our culture is brought to life through unique experience that considers the job role, and introductions to quickly facilities close connections within the organisation. Within every step, unique PSP elements such as “Have Fun” and “Make It Right” are highlighted and demonstrated to showcase what is possible and how to interact within the workplace.

In some locations, this process begins several days prior to the first day on the job. New hires receive an interactive collection of pre-employment information, including company background, directions to their workplace and fun facts to ‘Celebrate Heritage’ so they feel welcome and feel the culture. Thereafter from Day 1 onwards, we bring to life PSP through interactive orientation programmes that share more on the company’s history, key information, values as well as support on best practices to succeed in the role. Throughout the onboarding journey, we prioritise regular check-ins to ensure new hires are adapting well. After 60 days of employment, they will also receive an onboarding survey to provide us with feedback of their experience. To date, 92% of new hires have shared they ‘feel proud to work for HSH' which a testament to PSP and our investments to ensure we live and breathe our culture.

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

We are committed to nurturing talent and fostering growth across all levels, from frontline colleagues to senior leadership. One example is that almost all our hotel Managing Directors and Hotel Managers are promoted and transferred from within. We believe it is important for colleagues to become masters of their craft and be the best possible in their chosen role.
Looking forward towards personal growth, skill and career development, we have extensive career development programmes such as:

1. Executive Development Programme (EDP) for Senior Managers:
  • Duration: 18 months
  • Objective: Cultivate high-potential leaders for executive roles
  • Approach: Participants deepen their insights, enhance core business knowledge, and build a diverse peer network.
  • Global Participation: Senior managers from various regions collaborate, fostering cross-cultural awareness and collaboration. An example would be that some EDP participants may travel to sister operations for exposure whilst others will be tasked with presenting a strategic a paper.
2. Emerging Manager Programme (EMP) for Assistant Managers to Senior Managers:
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Target Audience: Emerging managers at each operation
  • Methodology: Departmental rotations provide a holistic view of operations, fostering connections and understanding.
3. Corporate Management Trainee (CMT) Programme for Recent Graduates:
  • Duration: 24 months
  • Aim: Fast-track career development for future leaders
  • Components: Rotations in Food & Beverage or Rooms departments, Mentorship, Management development program, and Cultural Exposure: two attachment opportunities allow graduates to apply their learning across different operations.
4. Global Cross Exposure for All Employees
  • Duration: Varies from several weeks to months
  • Aim: Support the growth of frontline employees by providing them opportunities to travel and work in a different operation, allowing them to embed in different cultures and build up their network of connections.
These programmes underscore our commitment to continuous learning, skill enhancement, and leadership development. Our ambition is to develop talent that not only embodies but continues to give back to others but also support the up-and-coming generations.

What opportunities do you offer to your collaborators? Is it an easy process?

As a small global luxury property and hotel company, we have the benefit of offering flexibility as internal mobilities arise organically. We believe being small is special, and we are afforded the luxury of knowing our colleagues innately. Without regional offices, we see a free flow of international mobility as we look for the most suitable talent globally to take up opportunities as they arise. For the opening of our newest hotel in London, we had over 20 permanent transfers and many other returnees who had relocated to the UK on their own accord. In addition, we encourage all employees to discuss their career mobility preferences with their managers.

One growing and important area for us is to remain engaged with former colleagues. We are seeing greater trends of our alumni’s expressing desire to rejoin our global family. Where possible, we support our former colleagues to explore opportunities and utilised their new experiences. In our recent offboarding survey sent to those that decided to seek opportunities outside of the company, over 60% expressed an interest to return in the future.

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

In HSH and a business such as ours that brings together luxury hotels, retail, tourism and property, we value human connectivity and personalisation. It’s important to have passion - a passion to deliver excellence, a passion to connect with people, a passion to care. If you love what you do and are passionate about it, it’s no longer just a job or task that needs to be completed, and our customers can sense and engage with this passion.

To provide guests with the best experience possible, it’s also important to have the ability to work as part of a team, solve any problems that arise, pay meticulous attention to details, and pre-empt and anticipate guest needs.

Lastly, hospitality and tourism colleagues are hard-working and driven towards success. The past several years have been particularly tough for our industry, but thanks to hard-work, ambition and resilience, we were able to navigate through the various challenges by opening two stunning hotels in London and Istanbul, as well as expanding our retail business in Japan and China. We also completed the upgrade and renovation of the Peak Tram in Hong Kong.

What human qualities are you looking for in talents?

We seek exceptional talent that compliments and embodies the spirit of Peninsula. We value a combination of soft skills and human qualities, but most of all we seek EQ and people that enjoy working in an environment that demands quality and being detailed. It is important that colleagues have certain qualities such as adaptability, curiosity, empathy and integrity.

Which labels did you earn as a quality workplace?

I believe the best indicator of a quality workplace comes from within the organisation. Are the employees happy? The best compliment we could receive is our employee satisfaction.

In our most recent 2023 Employee Experience Survey that had a 92% voluntary response rate, 90% of our workforce shared that they intend to stay with the company beyond one year and up to over five years. Our turnover rate has dropped year-on-year after COVID, stabilising around 20% which is lower than our industry average. This shows that if you treat people well, they will stay. Our reward for taking care of people is loyalty and tenured capable colleagues that span years and even decades; this brings us solace as we prefer to not be labelled by awards, rather, let the results speak for themselves.

What are the key CSR measures you have in place?

We have certain commitments and objectives that we publish in our annual sustainability report and adhere to on a daily basis within our operations. “Our People” is one of our three key pillars of our “Sustainable Luxury Vision 2030” strategy, and the other two are “Our Guests” and “Our Communities”, all of which are underpinned by a number of tangible commitments. We have a deep commitment to ensuring a living wage in key markets to pay equitably and afford our colleagues a certain quality of life, and an inclusive wellness programme that takes care of physical and mental health.

Photo credit ©

Singing Bowl Meditation at Fitness Centre, The Peninsula Hong Kong
Photo credit © The Peninsula Group

Inner Artist Session - Art & Culture, The Peninsula Hong Kong
Photo credit © The Peninsula Group

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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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