Park Hotel, Malta: Recruitment
The hotels and restaurants sector is one of the most important sectors in the Maltese economy. Built in the 1990s, the four-star Park Hotel has 152 rooms on six floors, as well as studios and family suites, a restaurant, coffee shop, lounge bar, indoor swimming pool, fitness room, sauna and massage parlour. Situated close to Sliema’s waterfront, the Park Hotel is located 10 kilometres from the airport and six kilometres from the capital city of Valletta on the east coast.
The hotel currently employs 70 staff members, consisting of 40 men and 30 women. Half of the employees are waiters and receptionists: 23 unskilled employees work as dishwashers and chambermaids, four skilled workers handle maintenance and eight are professional and managerial employees. About 39% of the workforce is over 45 years old. Although chambermaids are sometimes in short supply, staff turnover is minimal as the company’s general policy is to retain its employees on a permanent basis; this approach has mostly been successful. Older workers are highly esteemed by the company, probably even more so than younger employees. The age of employees is not considered by management in recruitment processes, and the company hires employees on the basis of their experience and motivation alone.
Since the hotel is relatively small and is run along the lines of a family business, no trade unions are represented. However, an unofficial form of dialogue is maintained between management and the employees, and individual meetings are held if necessary and as decided upon by the workers or by the company’s management.
Good practice today
The main positive initiative implemented by the Park Hotel concerns the recruitment of older persons. Unlike the vast majority of Maltese employers, the hotel bases its recruitment policy only on the experience and motivation of candidates. The age of applicants is therefore not a consideration at recruitment stage. For example, in 2005, the company hired a 53 year-old unemployed person. Moreover, in the coming months, the hotel is due to hire a chambermaid who is only one year below the retirement age. The person in question was recruited through the Training and Employment Exposure Scheme (TEES), a government-run scheme aimed at encouraging the re-employment of unemployed workers over 40 years of age. The scheme is run by the Employment and Training Corporation (ETC) and involves the retraining of workers, part of which is carried out on the job. Under the provisions of the scheme, the worker received a payment equivalent to 20 weekly hours at the minimum legal wage during on-the-job training carried out over a period of four months; this payment was provided by the government through ETC. However, the company immediately integrated the contract to cover supplementary working hours. At the end of the four-month training period, the candidate had gained a vast level of experience and integrated immediately into the job; thus, the worker was hired on a permanent basis.
Given the need to recruit personnel, the main reason for the company’s participation in this scheme was due to the fact that it could test candidates for particular jobs without being obliged to hire them at the end of the training period. A further incentive for the company concerned economic reasons, as the scheme paid the first weekly MTL 60 (about €140 as at 1 May 2007) of the worker’s wage for the first six months of recruitment.
The implementation process involved the participation of both company and worker representatives, in addition to that of representatives from Outlook Coop, the scheme’s management company. The employee representatives were regularly consulted to determine the impact of the initiative in terms of workers’ tasks, motivation and well-being.
Like age, gender is not considered as an important factor in the TEES scheme. Moreover, the Park Hotel does not discriminate between female and male employees, although certain tasks are obviously more likely to be performed by women, and others by men. Indeed, almost all applicants for chambermaid jobs are women, while candidates for the night receptionist posts are largely only men.
The company does not follow a particular age-oriented approach to its initiatives; both young and older candidates may be hired. In either case, however, the workers are given the opportunity to develop their careers. For example, the older worker recruited through the TEES scheme was initially appointed to manage the food and beverage department in the restaurant. In November 2006, in light of his good performance in his tasks, the employee was promoted to kitchen manager with responsibility for several staff members. Likewise, a woman who was hired as a young chambermaid about 20 years ago is now the head of her department.
Overall therefore, the initiative has been deemed successful both by the hotel and by the new employees. Nevertheless, the company feels that the TEES scheme could be improved through a more thorough vetting of trainees in terms of their real intention of finding a job. Indeed, after this positive experience, the Park Hotel had an unsuccessful experience with a TEES participant due to the fact that the worker proved to be completely unmotivated.
In relation to the older worker recruited, the outcome has been excellent both for the individual and the company. During his previous period of unemployment, the worker’s job applications to other hotels were often turned down on the grounds of his age, and sometimes he was not even called for interview as a result of age discrimination. However, the employee in question now intends to continue working beyond retirement age (in his case, 62 years), if possible under a part-time regime, thereby moving gradually towards retirement. The company is also very satisfied and emphasises that, in evaluating candidates, it is ‘the person’ that counts, not their age.
One critical incident arose when the recruited worker was promoted to kitchen manager. The chef, who had worked for the Park Hotel for many years, was resentful of being supervised by the new recruit. This situation was, however, soon resolved through judicious dialogue.
Participation in the TEES scheme was welcomed both by the company – not least because it does not involve any costs in the initial period as a result of the government contribution – and by the workers. However, the local situation in Malta is not very favourable at present for the hotel. Since about the end of 2005, tourism in Malta has declined, mainly due to the absence of low-cost flights from other countries. In recent times, nevertheless, low-cost flights to Malta have gradually become available; as a result, business is expected to improve during 2007.
With regard to the possibility of transferring this type of initiative to other environments, company representatives underline their belief that it is essential to recruit workers without taking their age into account. They also suggest that the governments of other European countries should follow the Maltese example of the TEES initiative, which they view as a highly favourable scheme for both employers and older unemployed persons seeking employment.
In terms of recruitment, the Park Hotel hopes to participate in the TEES programme, or in similar schemes, in the future, and company representatives wish to be contacted by ETC for this purpose.
In relation to new initiatives in other fields, the Park Hotel expects to begin a scheme of flexible working practices for all employees, in order to enhance worker motivation and qualification levels. Under this scheme, employees will be able, on a purely voluntary basis, to exchange their roles – for example, as waitress or chambermaid – within the hotel, even for a limited time.
- Charles Selvaggi, General Manager, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Saviour Camilleri, Food and Beverage department, Employee representative and participant in Tees scheme, email: email@example.com