A respectful and empowering work culture is essential to success, particularly in the hospitality sector. Oscar Postma, General Manager of Conrad, offers valuable insights into fostering such a culture in Singapore's growing hospitality industry. This article explores his proven strategies and firsthand experiences in building trust, effective communication, and promoting accountability.
An Interview with Oscar Postma: General Manager of Conrad Singapore
Oscar Postma's journey through the hospitality industry is as diverse as the cities that have shaped him. Born in Madrid, raised in Brussels and educated in Paris, Oscar has cultivated a wealth of experience throughout his career. With stints in Brussels, London, Dublin, Washington DC, and Singapore, Oscar has thrived in a multitude of roles, from food & beverage to front office, sales, marketing, and beyond. Now, as Cluster Operations General Manager for both Conrad Singapore Orchard & Conrad Centennial Singapore, Oscar Postma looks back on his nearly 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry.
Exploring the labor shortage in Singapore's hospitality sector
Singapore may be known for its best-in-class hospitality service, but in recent years, a shortage of staff in the industry has made it challenging for businesses to keep up. While the country boasts a melting pot of cultures and a high standard of living, the strict regulations and societal mindset toward service industry jobs has made attracting – and especially retaining passionate individuals – difficult. With over three decades of experience in the hospitality industry, Oscar shares what he believes is paramount for creating a workplace culture that makes employees feel valued, respected, and heard.
Leading a team to success is no easy feat – but according to Oscar, transparency, presence, and empowerment are key.
Transparency in the workplace
Building a positive workplace culture begins with a foundation of transparency. Leaders who prioritize open communication and share information openly experience less confusion, gossip, and speculation. This becomes particularly crucial during times of crisis, where regular team meetings and updates help keep the ship afloat, even if the answers aren't readily available.
As a leader, it is equally important to clearly communicate your expectations for the team. For instance, emphasizing the importance of being exceptional hosts to everyone who enters your establishment, whether they are a guest, a delivery driver, or even a passerby seeking the restroom. By setting these expectations, you foster a culture of inclusivity, respect, and attentiveness that leaves a lasting positive impression on all those who encounter your business.
Lead by example – presence is essential
Promoting a culture of attentiveness and proactive engagement starts with your presence as a leader. It sends a powerful message to your team that you genuinely care and are willing to go the extra mile.
But being present is about more than just physical proximity; it's about being fully engaged and emotionally present with your employees. As a leader, your presence sets the tone for the entire organization – so make sure to spend time to connect with your team, ask them how they're doing, and show that you care about the little things, as much as the big things. And if you see something that needs attention, like a coffee cup left in the hotel lobby, make that little detour, pick it up and bring it to the back. By taking action, you demonstrate a commitment to maintaining a clean and welcoming environment.
Individual empowerment for full potential
Empowerment is the final key to successful leadership. Leaders needs to truly believe that their team members want to perform to the best of their ability and give them the tools and encouragement they need to excel.By inspiring a growth-mindset, where mistakes are seen as the path to learning, you're giving your employees the confidence they need to grow, innovate and ultimately, prosper.
After all, a leader’s role is purely strategic. The real work happens on the floor.
My role is purely a strategic, giving them the tools, the skills, the know-how, and the vision of where we want to go. And I can only do that if they trust me and if they respect me.
Attracting and retaining talented employees and creating a culture of talent
Now more than ever, a company’s ability to attract and retain top talent is paramount to its success. The COVID-19 pandemic underscored the repercussions faced by businesses that resist change and fail to adapt. To stay ahead of the game, companies must prioritize agility and proactively implement strategies to entice and retain skilled individuals.
One way to attract future talents is to rethink benefits. This includes providing flexibility with days off, maternity and paternity leave, and remote working options. Offering competitive salaries is equally important, and one of the top drivers of employee attraction and retention in the hospitality industry.
Employees also need visibility on where their careers will lead them. Through mentorship programs, leadership training and career development paths, companies can showcase successful career paths, and give their employees a future to work toward.
Lastly, improving the status of hospitality workers in society is, especially in Singapore, a critical area of importance. Hospitality workers are often seen as low skilled and low-paid workers, but this perception needs to change. Hospitality workers play a vital role in society, and their contributions should be recognized and valued.
While it's true that investing in employees carries initial costs, the potential benefits are substantial: improved financial performance, higher productivity and reduced turnover expenses. Even small changes – like flexible schedules, small perks, and additional training – can boost employee satisfaction and loyalty.
The bottom line is simple: prioritizing well-being and growth leads to long-term success and business sustainability.
The future of the hospitality industry: prioritizing diversity, empowerment and fair compensation
Looking to the future, for our industry to thrive economically, socially and sustainably, we need to proactively address pressing issues – like fostering diversity and inclusion, attracting top talent and prioritizing employee well-being.
First and foremost, prioritizing inclusion and diversity cultivates a rich and vibrant workforce that is representative of the diverse communities we serve. By embracing individuals from different backgrounds, experiences, perspectives and abilities, organizations can become more attractive for top talent, and tap into a wealth of creativity, innovation, and problem-solving abilities. This not only enhances the quality of guest experiences but also fosters a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere that resonates with customers and builds brand loyalty.
Furthermore, placing a strong emphasis on employee well-being acknowledges the integral role that individuals play in the success of the hospitality industry. Starting with a fair compensation and clear career paths, companies can also take proactive steps to promote work-life balance, mental and physical health, and personal growth to increase job satisfaction and reduce employee turnover.
By addressing these issues head-on, the hospitality sector can create a workplace culture that values and supports its employees, fosters innovation, and drives sustainable success. It’s a strategic investment that not only benefits individuals but also elevates the industry as a whole, creating a positive and memorable experience for both employees and guests.
Oscar Postma, General Manager of Conrad Singapore, reflects on the shortage of hospitality staff and shares his experience in creating a workplace culture based on trust, communication and accountability.