Executive Assistant Manager & Cluster Director of Talent and Culture at Mercure Kooddoo & Pullman Maamutaa Maldives
Vaibhav Garg is currently holding the position of Executive Assistant Manager (EAM) at Mercure Maldives Kooddoo Resort while handling a parallel role of Cluster Director – Talent & Culture at AccorHotels, Maldives and is responsible for Mercure Kooddoo and Pullman Maamutaa Pre Opening Resort Projects in the GA Atoll | Republic of Maldives. Vaibhav moved to Maldives in the year 2010 and have worked with various international resort companies at various atolls and island resorts. In his hospitality career of over 15 years, he has worked with all major segments of hotel operations i.e. Luxury, Upper Upscale, Upscale and Budget brands of hotels in India and overseas including Maldives and has been instrumental in driving the key functions like Operational Excellence, Hospitality Service Excellence, Strategy Development, Business Excellence, Human Resources and Learning & Development with several best practices in each of his role at the Tata Group and Taj Group of Hotels where he had a stint of over a decade working with 3 Tata Companies. Vaibhav has been a regular speaker at Cornell University, Ithaca Campus since 2012. Active in the area of hospitality service research and academics; he has been invited by several renowned international universities, business schools and hotel associations from Maldives, Asia, Europe, China and the USA to present his research papers published in American, Indian, Maldivian and other international management journals and hospitality magazines. Recently, Vaibhav was invited by Fordham University, New York in June 2017 followed by an invitation from Cornell University, New York this October 2017 to present his recent hospitality research on the subject Diversity and Inclusion. Vaibhav is also on the panel at Inspire Summit’17, Miami – an event by International Luxury Hotel Association, the USA in December 2017 where he will be showcasing his work at Mercure Maldives Kooddoo (pre-opening operations) case study.
How did you get started with your career?
I started my first job as a Customer Care Trainee with a telecom company in India way back in 2002 and I still consider my first job as a strong foundation of my career not only because of the organizational culture of that company but mainly because of my manager who instilled right attitude, skills and work ethics in me with her as a true role model. The learning from my first job still inspires me to give my best and to be honest. For the first 5 years of my career, I worked with several telecom companies in customer interface and business excellence departments and I got my first exposure in hospitality in the year 2007 with Taj Rambagh Palace, Jaipur. I worked for The Taj Group of Hotels and its various brands (Taj Luxury, Vivanta, Gateway & Ginger) and its corporate office for over 7 years and then moved back to Maldives in the year 2010. In the Maldives, I worked with various hotel companies such as Vivanta by Taj, Eriyadu Resort, Atmosphere Kanifushi and Mercure Kooddoo & Pullman Maamutaa (pre-opening projects of AccorHotels).
What are some of your notable successes?
Many signature initiatives that I introduced and conceptualised in my past roles in the area of Customer Satisfaction Measurement & Management, Industry – Academy Interfaces, Human Resources and Learning & Development, Operational Excellence, Quality & Business Excellence have been recognised as benchmarking best practices in my past companies as a part of my direct assignment and that truly gives me immense motivation to keep up the quest for excellence and innovation in whatever I do and contribute to the success of my mission with the companies I work for.
Talking about the recent accomplishment, I am extremely proud with the opening of Mercure Maldives Kooddoo (Accor’s first resort in the Maldives) as a key strategic member of the pre-opening team at Mercure Maldives Kooddoo, I always felt a sense of pride in knowing that I actually contributed to building the systems and procedures that are used to run the hotel which will be useful for me and for all of us involved in this project as we head forward to our new project at Pullman Maamutaa.
Besides this on a personal note, my academic exposure to hospitality research programs in the area of hotel operations and human resources with Cornell University New York has been the most satisfying experience for me. My association with the university and contributions to the Hospitality Research Initiatives since 2012 has given me tremendous knowledge and confidence to continue embarking on the journey of excellence and constant learning. In the last five years, I have travelled all over the world and have been exposed to one of the best international business and management schools and universities in Europe, Asia and the USA.
What are some of the challenges that you have faced?
If I talk about the pre-opening experience of Mercure Maldives Kooddoo, the making of a resort in a remote location is a challenge and even more so in running it. On the contrary, from a human resources perspective, attracting local and international talent and their willingness to explore a career opportunity in emerging or sometimes hardship location is a crucial task for human resources professionals while dealing with their differences and acceptance on flexibility, adaptability and open-mindedness to cope with a different culture. Human Resources operate from behind the scenes as a key strategic business partner to overall operations while contributing to the success of any pre-opening project. Working in a hotel during its pre-opening phase is challenging yet it allows immense learning, multi-tasking and flexibility. While for some it is easier to work in a fully operational hotel but where is the fun if everything is easy.
What is your advice for young adults interested in entering the Tourism Industry?
To be humble, honest, passionate and integrity. The hospitality and tourism industry is evolving and there are sufficient jobs for everyone, as fresh candidates seek job opportunities anxiously, we employers also look for the right talent and all that we need in a deserving candidate is a positive attitude and discipline rest all we can train and teach. In the course of my professional journey, I have faced certain situations including personality conflicts and workplace dynamics however over the years I have realised that the change is a way of life and nothing stays forever the same. We need to learn from our mistakes and at workplace personal influences, favouritism, bias or over familiarities must not come in our way to affect operations and the work mission. Dealing with people and guests has always been my passion and this allows me to connect with them easier to understand their needs and aspirations. One of the major disappointments that I face often is on the grounds of breach of the ethical code of conduct by the team member and it saddens me as we can always train someone on skills but integrity, discipline, honesty and commitment is something that employees bring along with them. When dealing with a diverse task force we really need to instil the right organizational values in our team which is not challenging but is the most fundamental prerequisite of my job as a leader of the team.