Abdelkader Chaabani of Hilton Worldwide: “The Saudization process is encouraging companies to review and adapt their recruitment strategies.”
As part of our weekly “Employer Spotlight”, the Bayt.com team met with one of the pioneers of the HR industry in the Middle East and North Africa, Mr. Abdelkader Chaabani, who is also the HR Manager of Hilton Garden Inn Olaya, Riyadh. Read the rest of the interview to know more about the recruitment philosophy of Hilton Worldwide, Mr. Chaabani’s views on the HR trends in the region, and insights into the job market in Saudi Arabia specifically, and the Middle East in general.
Who’s Abdelkader Chaabani?
Abdelkader Chaabani is an HR professional with over 14 years of experience in the hospitality industry. Before joining Hilton Garden Inn Olaya Riyadh, he served as the Assistant Director of Human Resources at the Djibouti Palace Kempinski. Mr. Chaabani has also taught a number of quality management courses in hospitality and has given lectures in HR management.
Mr. Chaabani holds a Master’s degree in Tourism Economics and a Bachelor’s degree in HR Management. He is currently pursuing his certification at Hilton University and Ecornell in HR Business Partnering.
1. How do you like living and working in Saudi Arabia?
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continues to provide an attractive community. With one of the strongest economies in the Middle East, KSA is robust with career opportunities and a welcoming environment. Riyadh, in particular, draws increasing numbers of expats and Saudis interested in learning and understanding diverse work experiences and skills. Likewise, KSA is a place where international and local businesses can operate collectively and mutually benefit from the resources of the country. Hilton Worldwide, specifically, is enjoying the growth of KSA. As a longstanding operator in the Kingdom, we understand the country and its potential as a tourism destination. Ideally located, neighboring Qatar, UAE and Bahrain, we offer locals and visitors an array of leisure and cultural activities, corporate accommodations, and religious travel options that make it uniquely attractive to all.
2. What is your average day at work like?
My average workday starts with a morning briefing with the hotel team to discuss and review our daily and long-term goals, activities and priorities, as well as accomplishments and challenges. Collectively, we exam and assess issues that impact team members, services, products, revenue, community engagement and more. Most importantly, we examine guest satisfaction and team member satisfaction and work to develop plans that deliver the best experience for our guests and the best work environment for our team members.
3. What is the most important thing Hilton looks for in new hires?
Hilton Worldwide looks for enthusiastic and service-oriented team members. As leaders in the hospitality industry, we play a major role in setting standards for service and quality, therefore, we look for team members who are committed to hospitality and prepared to deliver their best, every day. Creating exceptional guest experience is the main role for each individual in the company.
In selecting new team members we are driven by our company values: Hospitality, Integrity, Leadership, Team work, Ownership and Now (H.I.L.T.O.N.).
4. What is the biggest challenge you face in hiring talent in your region?
MEA is an attractive region for expats and has a large number of candidates ready to relocate and work for Hilton.
In KSA, our challenges may include visa restrictions and finding candidates with travel and/or hotel experience or skills that are transferable to the hospitality industry. In addition, hospitality is still developing – especially amongst the youth – as a viable career option. Accordingly, we are actively educating potential candidates on the benefits of working in this industry.
With the current trends in nationalization we have to adapt our communication strategy and job offers to the local market and create a partnership with national organizations to attract job seekers to the exciting positions we have available within KSA currently, and in the few years to come.
5. How would you describe Hilton’s work culture?
Hilton Worldwide is a great company to work for. It creates a work environment where each team member has the chance to learn, develop skills, and grow a career.
Leadership and talent development are very important to the company as we want our team members to have the chance to grow based on their performance and willingness to learn something new. The company provides a variety of opportunities for career development courses via Hilton University where team members can enhance their skills in their present position or learn new skills for promotions and new roles. Because of our focus on developing talent from within, we have a large pool of high performing team members at all levels of the company. Lastly, we believe that good work deserves recognition; this is why we actively and regularly recognize and encourage all team members to go the extra mile in order to achieve the highest level of guest satisfaction.
6. What is the best advice you received in your career, can you share it with us?
When I joined Hilton in Riyadh I had a discussion with my then General Manager, Haakon Garder-Larsen, about the growth of the hospitality sector in KSA and the pioneering spirit of the people working in this industry. He simply told me: “Just do a good job, shine and grow with the company”. I have never forgotten that piece of advice, and it has served me well.
7. What do you read to keep abreast of industry developments?
I make use of various resources to stay updated about hospitality results and trends, including the internet and specialized websites, which are very useful. I also love books and magazines; as I see it comforting to have a “hard copy” in my hand.
8. How do you think the Middle East has evolved when it comes to HR policies and practices?
Middle Eastern companies are adopting global HR best practices and embedding relevant processes and procedures that compliment local HR policies and help fill many gaps in this area. Such new trends have made substantial positive changes in some practices due to local cultural specifications.
The Saudization process in KSA is motivating companies to review and adapt their recruitment, induction/orientation process, and training objectives to align company business to local employee’s backgrounds and career growth.
9. Anything else you’d like to share with the community of Bayt.com job seekers?
Hilton Worldwide is growing in KSA, and over the next year we are looking to recruit almost 10,000 team members. Our KSA management team is focusing on the Saudization process and on boarding local team members.
I am calling young Saudi job seekers on Bayt.com to consider working in the hospitality industry and joining Hilton Worldwide. As I said, Hilton Worldwide offers a career – not just a job. Our learning and development programs are world-renowned and will enhance your skills and prepare you for management positions.