When Stephanie Pawley told me that her first job was as an animator for children, I could not match this with her very soft-spoken and well-poised conduct. She led me through her work history until she was appointed HR Manager at Marina Hotel, St Julians. After her animating experience, she completed a short course on child-minding. “I was much younger then and could easily handle energetic and sometimes rowdy kids. I worked part-time in a hotel for two years as an animator and then took up full-time employment for eight years as a payroll clerk. The then-HR Manager was a guardian angel who helped me mature in my job. From then, I nursed and developed an image of an HR Manager who would help and assist her younger colleagues in growing and developing in the organisation.
“Then one day, Corinthia entered the scene. I have always admired Corinthia’s image and energetic team. It was advertising a post for an HR Executive. By then, I had already left the hospitality scene, but I could not resist Corinthia’s call. That was seven years ago when I joined Corinthia as an HR Executive. I think that was one of the best decisions in my life. At first, I worked at Corinthia Palace. That’s a beautiful place, the birthplace of the Corinthia adventurous story. Last year on 1 June, Marina Hotel reopened after the COVID pandemic, and I came here as HR Manager.”
She seemed at home in the place. “I am; I love my job and its challenges.” And what would be a typical day’s timetable? Stephanie nodded. “There’s no such thing as typical. Each day is different. One thing is constant: you cannot etch any timetable in stone. Very often, I have to react and respond to problems and issues which crop up and would sway me away from my original course.
“The work of an HR Manager is vast and varied. Recruitment is an essential duty. It’s not just a matter of sitting down and choosing. The vital thing is selecting the right person for the job. Sometimes you may get applicants who recite a well-studied script about the job to show how much they are familiar with the requirements of the work, but through experience, I would notice whether it’s all a show. I look well into the genuineness of persons and how they react and comport themselves. In fact, when I delve into details, the false facade withers but the real approach flowers.
“Another important aspect of my job is to see to the well-being of colleagues at work. It may involve my direct intervention, but more often, I examine whether the different departments actively follow this aspect.”
And how would she know that? “I do not bury myself in my office. I roam around the hotel and the departments regularly and talk, see, perceive, and listen. I visit the plant room, the kitchen, and the common areas…and notice. The benefit of this is enormous.
“I also discuss performance ratings and training needs with the various Heads of Departments. A poor performer should not be discarded unceremoniously. We would need to know the reason behind this. Is there a need for specific training? Or it may be that the individual has a talent for other types of jobs. Some persons have an innate tendency to perform well in particular posts but fail miserably in others. So, getting to know more about a person is beneficial not only for that person but also for the organisation. After all, all organisations, however large and complex, have as the individual as their cornerstone.
“We also sometimes have to address deficiencies which we notice. For example, in the last training session, we included training on ‘emotional connection’. We noticed that communication between the staff and guests was faltering in some areas, especially during breakfast. So we trained them on how to connect, but we did that in a hands-on approach, making it easier and more alive to follow.”
What would be an unpleasant aspect of the job? “Undoubtedly, when we resort to disciplinary action. Luckily, this is not at all common. We take that step only as a last resort. Our first approach is humane, getting the know the real reason behind what happened. It is gratifying when what starts as a first step towards disciplinary action works out as formative guidance and a change of course for a colleague to the right path.
“Email correspondence is a continuous exercise, and I am always ready to discuss matters. I practice an open-door policy and, at times, prefer to talk directly with people since personal contact is more efficient and beneficial.
Has the COVID pandemic affected staff relations? “We are often in need of new staff. Locals are only mainly interested in managerial or the less stressful jobs. Many prefer to join government employment or the i-gaming industry. This has acutely increased our reliance on non-locals, sometimes creating language barriers. Starting to work in a completely new job, ambience, country, language, and culture does create particular difficulties, and HR together with all Heads of Departments and higher management have to oversee this aspect efficiently and in a timely fashion.”
Did she, as HR Manager, train staff? “That would be in the hands of the relative Heads of Departments, but I do participate in induction courses or departmental meetings.”
Stephanie and I discussed motivation, which is another vital element. Much depends on the particular individual, but Corinthia offers various rewards and motivation methods. The fact that Corinthia is a dynamic and continuously developing organisation provides a vast array of jobs requiring a broad spectrum of diverse talents. It, therefore, offers staff a better chance to find their haven and nurture a motivation to forge ahead.
Then Stephanie referred to an interesting initiative: a ‘Recognition Week’ organised by the three Peninsula Hotels, namely Corinthia St. George’s Bay, Marina Hotel and Radisson Blu, St Julian’s. From Monday to Friday, these hotels organised a different theme for their staff. Thus, on Monday, the theme was ‘Welcome to Work’, so they had a special breakfast, and the Chefs prepared different types of food, Italian and Nepalese, etc. for the staff only. Then on Tuesday, there was an Award Ceremony for persons nominated by the various Heads of Departments. Small food and some wine followed. Wednesday, there was a Cooking Masterclass. And so on. Each time the event would last about an hour and a half, and in this way, staff intermingled, learnt and felt relaxed and cared for.
So, all in all, there is never enough time to do all, Correct? “It is always evolving and interesting. And, I must say, most rewarding. So when I return home after a full day’s work, I feel delighted and content. And I am then well greeted by a wagging tail and the sweet puppy eyes of my five-year-old Labrador ‘Olly’. He is my first dog. You know, I was initially terrified of dogs. Then at the age of 19, I slowly grew out of the phobia, and five years ago I got my dog. I feel I have a constant source of love.
“I love cooking and am always ready to experiment with new recipes. During my off days I always try to do something different, such as smoothies, soups, Asian food, vegan (even though I’m not vegan myself) and other tasty options. Not desserts, however. I’m afraid I’m not good at baking though I know how to eat them for sure.
“Then in the morning, I wake up with the energy to face another day’s work and a genuine drive to help and guide my colleagues for their betterment and the greater success of Corinthia.”