Business of Happiness

Business of Happiness

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JOANNE PHUA

SENIOR MANAGER OF TRAINING AND

LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT (FOOD AND BEVERAGE)

MARINA BAY SANDS

How long have you been in the industry? I’ve been in the Food and Beverage (F&B) line for 13 years, 10 of which I’ve spent in the hotel industry.

What inspired you to decide to join the F&B/hotel industry? I think it’s because my grandmother was a chef, and my mom cooks really well. My interest in food got me to start baking and I even worked at a confectionery when I was studying, which grew my interest in F&B.

Can you tell us more about your role and what you do on a daily basis? I arrange a lot of training sessions for our team members to upskill themselves. I organise financial classes, beverage courses, as well as Senior Leadership Development courses that help them learn how to be effective managers. A majority of our F&B team members have been around for a long time so our goal is to help them learn and grow year after year.

When it comes to leadership development, I work with my team members to plot their success in the company. This involves planning their future and laying out the steps to achieve their career goals while working at Marina Bay Sands.

I also provide a listening ear for my team members to keep their morale up. If they have any problems, I’ll do my best to assist them as far as possible.

You work with such a big team. How do you get to know every one of them? Every week, my boss and I will sit and chat with the team managers. And usually, the first thing we’ll ask them will be “Where do you like to eat when you’re not at work?” or “What do you like to do when you’re not at work?”. We don’t dive in straight into talking about work. These types of opening questions help the team members feel comfortable and encourage them to open up and share more about themselves.

I also share my life with the team. So most of the staff here know what my husband looks like, some of the struggles I’ve been through in my F&B career, and some of my highlights. I do this right from the start – I’ll spend some time with new hires, getting to know them better. And I don’t just remember their names, I also make it a point to remember at least one detail about them.

Why do you think it’s important for you to know the names and details of your team members? Why not? We have so many team members that if I didn’t make an effort to get to know them, they might feel neglected or unimportant, and that the workplace is really cold. I think it’s crucial that we make them feel like the hotel cares about them, and that they belong.

What do you enjoy most about what you do? I love working with my team. We have such a good relationship and it feels like we’re a family. I really enjoy being able to see them, work with them, and share experiences together.

What has been your most memorable experience in your career thus far? The most recent one would be when I was given a Best of Best award by the hotel. It’s only given to about 30 outstanding employees – out of 9,700 team members. I was not expecting to win, but it made me feel very blessed because I was being recognised for doing something that I love.

Even though you don’t often have face-to-face interactions with your guests, how do you think you contribute to a guest’s happiness during his/her stay? By keeping our team members happy. We try to keep the managers happy, as well as anyone that we get the chance to meet. It’s like a ripple effect – my team and I keep the managers happy, and the happiness will spread to the rest of their team members, and then on to our guests.

We also give our team members the right skills to provide the best service to our guests. For example, we teach our staff how to read body language and emotions, as well as how to manage their own body language – even something as simple as how they stand – because it affects how comfortable and welcome guests will feel at our hotel.

Apart from that, what other important skills do you make sure all F&B staff members learn to help them provide better service for your guests? Empathy and flexibility. We teach them all the fundamentals, but at the end of the day, it’s about being flexible, being able to empathise with our guests – and that makes all the difference. We also encourage our staff members to go out and learn as much as they can, so they can keep improving themselves and their service levels. In fact, we’re the only hotel that allows our staff to go on Learning Leave.

You’re in charge of teaching and training your team members, but is there anything that you’ve learnt from them or from the process? They’ve taught me to be more grateful. A lot of my team members, and F&B staff in general, sacrifice a lot of their time for the job. My team’s passion for what they do is really inspiring, and it motivates me to help them as much as I can in return.

What advice would you share with someone who is interested in joining the hotel industry? Be truly passionate. Don’t just love the idea of what you do, but love everything that you do. You might not be able to become a millionaire by working in the industry, but you will feel like a millionaire when you make the guests feel like kings and queens. Hospitality is a ‘feel-good’ industry – you make others feel good, and it makes you feel good as well in the process.