Dan Creed of esa discusses the ASAP HR Steering Group’s plans as well as his own shortlisting for Personnel Today’s HR Director of the Year 2016.

You’re leading ASAP’s new HR Think Tank Strategic Group to raise awareness of the great career opportunities in the rapidly growing serviced apartment sector.  Talk us through the key goals of the group and where you see it going.

Traditionally, the hospitality industry has often been seen as something of a stop-gap, less of a career than somewhere to work and then move on. But we’re starting to see people now coming in to the industry at the start of their career, looking for a long-term progression in an exciting environment.

Serviced apartments are ideally placed to tap into this potential. We offer something new, certainly something novel compared with traditional hotels; so we also need to approach the kinds of professionals who may not previously have thought of a hospitality career, but who are looking for something within a glamorous, technologically-advanced, and definitely growing, sector, as well as those already set on hospitality.

The wider challenge, then, is to identify and then retain quality professionals for our sector.

As a Steering Group, we’ve set ourselves four specific goals over the next two years.

Firstly, we want to ensure a serviced apartment operator or individual within the sector wins a Catey Award. In 2017/18 the nominations will be open for the first time to non-hotel categories, and we want our industry to be part of that first award.

Next, we’re looking to launch a 2-tier programme to help leaders and managers within the sector to train and develop – an ASAP Academy if you will. There’s relatively little investment in training at present across the sector, so we want to lead on this training for leadership and help the sectors business grow. The upper tier is focused on Board or Director level and those who are already business leaders, this covers the fundamentals such as leadership skills and high-level development. The second tier is executive level – new directors, heads of departments – and will include change management, people skills and moving from manager to leader.

Thirdly, we want to publish and share statistics, become a leader in sharing best practice data and industry facts. So we’re looking to cover such elements as salary, sickness within the industry, workforce turnover, employee engagement and retention, to start to create white papers and producing evidence to be shared.

And finally, we’re forming partnerships to help promote and grow the sector, one being the apprenticeship programme with Springboard, who will be publicising the opportunities within our sector. We’re looking to partner with universities UK-wide who have a special focus on hospitality to establish a resource within them to represent the sector. We’re offering mentoring and regular speaking appointments, raising profile and creating awareness among the future graduates of what a career within our industry offers. We have a special feature in the 2017 ‘Check in to Hospitality’ Careers Guide (published by the Caterer) which is distributed to 700,000 students, outlining what they can expect of a career within the sector, and it’s great that serviced apartments are showcased within this Guide for the first time.  And we’ve also produced a dedicated booklet highlighting the wide range of career opportunities in our sector which will be widely distributed by universities.

So far we’ve identified and contacted a number of the universities we want to work with, and have started already with the first four, including Surrey and Bournemouth, where plans include regular speaking slots – including representatives from the universities speaking at ASAP events and conferences – and mentoring and lecturing. James Foice, CEO of ASAP, will himself be speaking at the University of Bournemouth’s own conference in February 2017, which is quite a coup.

We’re also planning to have sector careers and graduate positions advertised on the new  ASAP Jobs Board – http://jobs.theasap.org.uk/ – another resource we’re working on as a steering group, and users can post their own profiles there. As well as recruiters and applicants meeting on the site, we’re also looking to have information on training and development and articles appropriate to the sector.

So all-in-all, this is an exciting time for the serviced apartment industry. We need to tap into the huge potential career market among bright young graduates whose outlook will fit so well with our forward-looking, technologically-aware, people-based industry as we really start to make a way into public consciousness as an alternative to traditional hotels.

You have also made the shortlist for HR Director of the Year 2016 with the Personnel Today awards; this is such a fantastic achievement. Talk us through what this may mean for the sector and the wider role you play.

To make it as a finalist has been amazing as these awards seek to recognise HR in the whole professional body and not just hospitality industry. To be a finalist or in the top 6 amongst several thousand HR Directors in the UK is one thing, but it really hits home when the sector you work in is also championing your cause. I classify myself as an commercial HR leader and  I love what I do, sharing  my knowledge and passion for people development  is ignited through the important role I play in helping develop the sector further by working with the ASAP and for its members, along of course with my day job as the HR Director at esa Serviced Apartments.


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