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Retrenchment not an option Waweru says

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 25 – With most businesses experiencing daily difficulty in sustaining their enterprises due to the increasingly harsh economic environment, Hotel Marketing Executive Peter Waweru is a strong believer that retrenchment is not an option.

Speaking to Capital Business after the chain of hotels won itself some seven awards in at the annual Kenya Utalii Competitions, Mr Waweru tries to explain why other options, especially training, may work better for companies as opposed to sending employees home.

Tell us a bit about Kenya Utalii competitions:
These are competitions organised by the Utalii College, a centre of excellence in the tourism industry to assess how hotels are fairing in sustaining standards within the industry.

Why does your chain find it necessary to participate in these competitions? First and foremost they are usually organised to coincide with management programmes held by the college, which are of relevance to us as a hotel.

On the other hand, human resource is the backbone of our brand and in order for us to keep on improving the skills of our people it is imperative that we participate in such competitions.

What categories did you enter and which ones did you win? This year Sarova entered a big team for the competition ranging from the front office, rooms division and the service segment.

We managed to scoop awards in the cooks and bar category, receptionist, housekeeping and the overall winner.

What would you attribute your good performance in the competitions to?
I would like to attribute our success to huge investment in training thanks to our learning centre for excellence.

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Most of our training needs are taken care of at The Sandy Vohra Centre of Excellence, a facility within our headquarters the Panafric Sarova. The main focus of the facility is to bring our employees at par with the latest trends in the industry.

We have a learning and development programme in place that targets all cadres of employees working within the chain.

The facility also has a library that is pretty versatile with books worth more than 3 million shillings

How did the centre of excellence come to be?
Initially the idea to come up with a centre of excellence was of our late Managing Director Sandy Vohra, so after his untimely death the facility was named in his honour.

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The centre caters for both management development programmes and existing members of staff. Programmes range from one hour to a week of training. The longer sessions last at least 2 years.

How would you say that the centre of excellence has contributed to the industry as a whole?
To begin with it has allowed us to set a standard within our own chain by ensuring that our standards of service don’t go down.

The centre of excellence is also good for purposes of benchmarking in the industry and ensures that skills are transferred through the industry either by competition or benchmarking. More so we have been able to raise the bar in the industry as result of this.

I believe training has also helped us keep up with global trends in the hotel industry, and technology is a big part of it.

Why would you say training is an important component in the sustenance of a business entity?

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Development of skill and retention is a huge investment for any company. So it’s with this in mind that I think companies have to come up with innovative ways of retaining their employees despite the harsh economic conditions locally and globally.

A harsh operating environment should never be the excuse to retrench.

What innovative ways has Sarova come up with to survive the hard times?
In the first place we have ensured that we don’t lose business by lowering standards which would be the result of sending home staff in a bid to cut costs.

It’s further important to note that for a business like ours that sells excellence in service, sending people home is tantamount to bringing down our standards of service, which would erode whatever gains we were hoping to attain from a retrenchment exercise.

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