Macdonald Hotels gives staff the five-star treatment with Oracle HCM and Taleo

Profile picture for user Madeline Bennett By Madeline Bennett January 17, 2019
Hotel chain moved HR to the cloud after realising its visitor experience far outweighed that of its workforce

Kevin Storrie, head of IT at Macdonald Hotels
Kevin Storrie, head of IT at Macdonald Hotels

Working in HR in the hospitality industry has to be one of the trickier sectors to choose. Running a chain of hotels means your staff base is going to be fluid and complex to manage by nature, affected by seasonal workers, short-term contracts and multiple, independent locations.

Macdonald Hotels decided that moving to the cloud could help it deal with some of these challenges, and help the business attract and retain the best talent.

Visitors to Macdonald’s 45 hotels across the UK, from city-based properties in Manchester and Birmingham to countryside retreats, were already able to benefit from the latest technologies to improve their experience, including equipping staff with iPads to provide great guest service. Kevin Storrie, head of IT at Macdonald Hotels, said:

A lot of focus in the company is on the customer journey from the moment they book a hotel room to check in at reception and being served by our people. So that's a big focus, but for a long time the focus on our people had not been there.

This realisation was the catalyst for the hotel chain to move to Oracle HCM Cloud and Taleo, to start investing back in its employees.

Prior to moving to the cloud application, each of the brand’s 40-plus hotels had its own HR administrator, whose job was to manage that unit independently. With 3,500 people working for the business, across a mix of head office roles, food and beverage (F&B), spa, housekeeping and general managers, it became near-impossible to do a headcount report.

You'd get to the end of the day and the first one was wrong, so you’d treat it with a bit of caution. What we needed was a really great system to be the backbone and to be able to enable great service to our company.

Storrie said the firm’s HR story sounds clichéd, as it’s typical of an old, outdated model. He likened the previous system to a tepee - a bit unstable, and just one room fulfilling a limited function.

This company was using paper processes, no self-service. They had a system based in our head office, with managers pushing paper around and filling out forms. It's not a modern world. People want to be able to access their own data. Managers want to manage their team effectively. And that's no way to do that.

We had no talent or succession planning in that system. And that's not really a way you want to manage your business and your people.

By moving to Oracle HCM Cloud, Macdonald Hotels has moved out of its little tepee and into a swish apartment block, said Storrie, warming to his building theme.

You've all got your own pods, you've got your own environments. Our environment is that apartment, and what you can do in your apartment, obviously you can put pictures up, you can change the furniture, you can move it around.

But what you find quickly is that there are restrictions there - you can’t add an extension to your apartment or push a wall out, so you've got to make use of the space provided. And that's what I really love, to see how different companies have tweaked their space effectively and put their business processes inside that system to make it work for them. Obviously what we all share in this block is giving lots of suggestions to Oracle.

Boost to staff morale

Storrie enthused about the ability with the new system to talk to other customers, who are likely to be facing similar challenges, and collectively they can give that feedback to Oracle. But most importantly, the HCM rollout is achieving Macdonald’s objective of keeping its staff happy.

In terms of the change for the employees, it was a big change because they weren't used to this, especially for the managers as well as employees, they went from filling out forms and now they can do it all online, which is great as people are used to that now. Now you do online banking, you've got Facebook, you've got all these different apps and it would be almost a shame if we didn't have that technology.

For our line managers, especially for the general manager of a hotel who is responsible for their people, they can now review all of their team. If there is an issue with it, they can make changes. Obviously it goes in the appropriate approval rules, but they can quickly make actions and manage their teams, which is really, really great.

Recruitment has been vastly improved with the arrival of Taleo. Turnover in the hospitality industry is higher than in other industries, and is affected by seasonal trends, as Loren Wadsworth, People Systems Analyst at Macdonald Hotels, outlined.

We need to be able to flex our workforce to meet our customers’ needs. Therefore a fast and efficient recruitment process is key.

Macdonald Hotels has 200-plus vacancies at any one time, but previously there was no career site or applicant-tracking system to deal with the recruitment process. Instead, it was email-driven and relied on a Wordpress form, which hiring managers would use to get signoff to recruit successful candidates. This would then be emailed to HR, who would manually generate a contract of employment for the candidate.

The firm chose to use Taleo to manage the talent and recruitment side of its business. It devised a five-step recruitment process, from creating the vacancy, getting manager approval, and posting it to the website and sharing on social media, to screening CVs and then creating an offer for the successful candidate. Wadsworth said:

What's so great about our recruitment system is the linear process we've devised. It went through a number of iterations, but the key for us really was to keep it simple. This is a fantastic change and standardisation to the recruitment process for the business, because as you can imagine, with 45 different hotels, the process and data collection of forms would have been very difficult to manage.

Integration is key

One note of caution: as Taleo is a separate system to Oracle HCM, operating on a separate database, Wadsworth pointed out that you need seeded integration or another method of integration to get data between the two.

But that integration piece was worth the effort. Macdonald Hotels has seen a increase in the number of positive applications it is getting, thanks to moving to a responsive design that better suits mobile devices and reducing the number of fields and pages as part of the recruitment process. And Wadsworth acknowledged there is still more work to be done.

As we look to the future with Oracle Recruiting Cloud, we’ll be really keen to see the speed of an application for a candidate. From a hiring manager perspective, Taleo has really increased the visibility of candidates for everyone involved in recruitment. You can see when a candidate has applied for any other roles within the company. This has also built up a talent pool for us so when we do get another F&B assistant vacancy, for example, we can fill from our talent pool very quickly.

It has also added a lot of governance around right to work identification documents and auto-contract generation. Speed has always been a really important part of the process. It takes a couple of minutes to raise a vacancy, an approver can approve it via their email, they don't even need to log into Taleo. On our careers website 10 minutes later, candidates can start applying.

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