Wyndham Worldwide’s workforce development strategies are in sync with those of its three business units, Wyndham Hotel Group, Group RCI and Wyndham Vacation Ownership. Talent management is a long-term proposition at Wyndham, and it’s built heavily around learning and development with open, honest feedback.
Leadership also is critical: Wyndham prides itself on leaders who can “walk the talk.” Kathleen Chiechi Flores, executive vice president of human resources with Wyndham Hotel Group, described the talent management practices of that business unit, which has 5,000 employees.
TM: Describe your company’s approach to talent management.
Flores: Wyndham Hotel Group is exactly in line with our parent company, Wyndham Worldwide. We believe our unique strength competitively is our leadership team that is able to deliver outstanding performance across the world and specifically via our global marketplaces. We know the selection, development and engagement of our global team is key to our long-term success, therefore, it’s a top priority of the organization.
So we look at talent management as a long-term proposition. It’s utilizing a variety of build-by-borrow approaches, including, for example, on-the-job practice. We have formal career development programs. We have coaching and counseling. We have, of course, performance appraisals, and probably the most important, open, honest, regular feedback.
TM: What processes or programs have you established to improve workforce performance?
Flores: Well, that’s the key piece that you mention there: programs that improve the performance of the entire workforce. Since our inception in 2006, the organization has identified and communicated both our values and our core competencies. Our values are: Act with integrity, respect everyone everywhere, provide individual opportunity and accountability, improve our customers’ lives and support our communities. Our core competencies are things such as leadership disposition, building trust, entrepreneurship, business acumen and customer orientation.
We’ve leveraged these values and core competencies and created a comprehensive set of in-class programs, as well as online and virtual programs. Basically, by leveraging both the in-class and the online, we created a program where there is something for everyone in each level of our organization to continue to develop and thus improve performance.
Learning and development is such an integral part of what we do, we’ve actually branded these learning and development programs under what we call the Wyndham Worldwide University platform.
TM: Given that emphasis on learning and development, how does Wyndham Hotel Group work to change or create leadership and management behaviors that lead to optimal workforce performance?
Flores: It’s pretty simple here at Wyndham Hotel Group. The differentiator for us is our leaders’ ability to walk the talk — that is, lead by example. It’s not earth-shattering, but it continues to be effective in driving results. When our leaders model the requested behaviors — when we clearly articulate the priorities of the company — we empower and enable our workforce to successfully execute against our objectives. That is being clear in our thoughts, in our speech, in our behaviors — again, it’s leading by example.
TM: How is performance management linked to the strategic objectives of Wyndham?
Flores: Every year we go through the strategic goals and business imperatives process. These are created by our executive committee. As an organization, we align those company imperatives with the goals and objectives of our workforce.
We’re able to align our associate resources. We’re able to focus performance on the strategic objectives of the organization. Ultimately, the measure of our performance against the critical objectives links to our compensation systems. All of that together is the key driver of workforce and performance management against critical business objectives.
TM: Please describe the compensation and incentive practices you employ to help manage talent in your organization.
Flores: Wyndham’s compensation philosophy is driven by three basic principles. We look at market: We always want to ensure that our programs are competitive and attractive. We look at performance: Employee pay is linked to business objectives, as well as individual performance objectives. And of course, we look at shareholder values.
Our employees’ performance goals are aligned with the interests of our shareholders because we believe that driving performance through our variable programs, while providing a competitive base salary, is critical for the success of our organization. In the end, our total cash and direct compensation are designed to include base salary, plus some sort of variable pay.
Sometimes it’s a commission; sometimes it’s a different type of incentive. The actual mix of base salary plus incentive compensation is based on the role you play in the organization, in addition to geographical differences to incent the behavior that will allow our organization to achieve its strategic objectives.
TM: How do you measure workforce performance at Wyndham Hotel Group?
Flores: We have several metrics we review on a quarterly basis that help us measure our workforce performance here at Wyndham Hotel Group and Wyndham Worldwide. We use individual performance writings that come out of our performance reviews. We use ratios such as employee to EBIT (earnings before interest and tax). We look at promotions from within, and we look at trends so we can continue to manage in a positive fashion, how our workforce has been performing against the overall company strategic objectives.
TM: What processes or programs have you established to attract, recruit and retain top talent?
Flores: What has been most exciting since I’ve been here is the program established around retaining our top talent. We solicit direct feedback from our associates through our associate opinion survey. And most importantly, we use the data to enhance or change existing programs and policies. Our associates have a voice. This directly impacts engagement, which directly [and] positively impacts retention.
TM: What challenges impact talent management at Wyndham?
Flores: I’m sure the challenges here at Wyndham are shared in multiple industries, but our main challenge today is having the depth of talent to respond to our rapidly changing marketplace and, of course, our stressed economy. A different skill set is required today, a skill set that includes things such as creative thought leadership or the ability to execute globally and manage virtually.
Of course, all of these different skill set challenges are underscored by our demands to do more with fewer resources on minimal budgets. Basically, we’re looking at a shift to a lean-and-mean leadership quality, responsiveness, things of that nature, rather than perhaps the skills that enabled us to be successful in the past.
TM: How does Wyndham develop organizational culture and employee attitudes to optimize workforce performance?
Flores: It comes down to our leadership walking the talk. We demonstrate what successful teamwork and collaboration look like. We live those qualities that are embedded in our values — again, acting with integrity, respecting everyone, everywhere, etc. What we’re driving for is leading by example. We find that it does spread across an organization when we know that our open doors and our open minds translate down to all associate levels.
TM: How do you handle succession planning at Wyndham?
Flores: We actually have a formalized succession planning process. We call it the annual talent review, and we use the process to develop a full and flowing pipeline of internal candidates. Our talent review focuses on our VP and above, mission-critical positions. We take a systematic review of talent depth, readiness and then review past, current and future potential employees at that level.
This process enables us to identify those associates who have potential. And most importantly, the discussions we participate in ensure we create development plans that we will have in place for those associates in accordance with the requirements of their next job. It comes down to that employee development.
TM: How do you use workforce performance data to drive future initiatives?
Flores: Performance reviews, the executive committee goal-setting process that takes place annually and ongoing, and of course, our talent reviews, which are our forward-looking succession planning. When we combine these three things, this yields a basic gap analysis for us.
We take that information and leverage that against our future initiatives. This way, we’re able to leverage our internal talent, whether it be a reorganization or a career development plan. It ensures the talent we need is being appropriated against our organizational objectives. This assists with external hiring, if that’s the way the data demonstrates we need to go — data meaning the various reviews that we put together, as well as what’s most important for us, which is the development of talent within the company.
TM: What’s next for Wyndham in terms of talent management and workforce development?
Flores: In so many ways we feel like we’re just getting started. We’ve got several initiatives on the way. We’re going to continue to invest in the in-classroom and online development opportunities for our organization. As I mentioned, learning and development is important to us across all associate levels. We’re looking at integrating our data and information across various lines of the business and enhancing the systems that go along with that. As we move forward, we want to continue to keep in mind what is important and link that to our go-forward business strategic objectives. We believe we’ve been successful so far.