InterContinental Hotels Group delivers business value through benefits strategy

Interiors and Exteriors for Quintessentially for InterContinental hotel at InterContinental London, The O2, London, Britain on 7 December 2015.

As a large global hospitality organisation, the InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) ensures that it has a benefits strategy in place that supports the business goal of delivering value through preferred brands and talented people.

IHG has almost 4,900 hotels worldwide that are either franchised, owned or managed by the organisation, and its UK operations, with 1,800 employees, consists of its corporate offices, hotels and reservation office.

IHG’s strategy is to create value through its Winning model, which has five parts: preferred brands delivered through its people; build and leverage scale; a strong brand portfolio and loyalty programme; effective channel management; superior owner proposition.

IHG believes that a having a strong portfolio of preferred brands, which includes Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, and Hotel Indigo, is fundamental to its success. Rafael Gonzalez, director, compensation and benefits, Europe, says: “The key essence is our people. We are a service organisation, and it’s about the experience the guests have: the first impression they will get is through our people, so it is about making sure we can deliver an excellent service through our people, for our guests.”

The people element is clearly a key part of IHG’s business approach. Gonzalez explains that developing talent and ensuring it has the right people in the right roles is crucial. “We have a set of behaviours that define how we interact with our guests and colleagues, and call them our Winning Ways: do the right thing, show we care, aim higher, celebrate difference and work better together,” he explains. “I think they’re self-defining but we do lead through those five Winning Ways and make sure that we are working better as a team by going back to them, and saying ‘are we doing the right thing for our employees, for our owners and for our guests?’.”

IHG has also developed its BrandHearted culture to help employees consistently deliver value for each of its brands.

Role of benefits

Gonzalez believes that it is important to have a strong philosophy and employee value proposition that helps staff focus on total rewards on offer at IHG in comparison with other employers, even down to the subsidised coffee shop in its head office. “It’s having that overarching view, and when [we] talk about benefits [we] have to showcase it to employees to help them understand. For example, we have a gym onsite at no additional cost to employees, and we have classes that are run through the gym. It’s trying to have the right breadth of them so that you are relevant for your employee base.

“To fulfil our guests’ expectations we have to make sure our benefits are supporting our business to drive that forwards.”

Providing value

As a hotel group, it is unsurprising that one of the most relevant benefits IHG offers is its employee discount room rate. All employees are able to utilise the network of 4,900 hotels, and Gonzalez explains that it is an effective way for employees to gain a good understanding of how the business operates and how it provides value for guests.

“It is a very used benefit,” Gonzalez says. “Being in the hospitality industry, it is something that is linked back to us.”

IHG runs a global employee engagement survey twice a year, which includes questions about satisfaction with benefits. Its latest survey revealed that more than 70% of employees in Europe agree that the benefits are as good or better than those offered by competitors.

IHG piloted a bikes-for-work scheme this year, and will be opening it to corporate employees in January 2016, through Evans Cycles. “There has been a lot of interest in cycling to the office,” says Gonzalez.

Communication strategy

IHG uses a range of methods to communicate its benefits to staff. In November 2015 it held benefits fairs in one of its corporate offices to showcase the entire package to staff and remind them of what is available. “Sometimes what we’ve seen happen is, with long-standing employees, they look at their benefits when they join the company, and then put that aside, they make their decisions on what they will use, then two or three years down the line their reality has changed; for example, childcare vouchers weren’t useful back then, but now all of a sudden they are.”

IHG has to consider communications for its hotel population and its corporate population. “It has to be varied in the way we communicate to those [groups],” explains Gonzalez. “We have a corporate intranet, and we utilise that to store and share documents that relate to our benefits for our employees to then be able to refer back to at any point in time. We have a platform called Thinking Benefits delivered through Personal Group, that helps us to try to bind together in one place our core benefits together with our additional benefits into one platform, to help with communication. That’s supported by booklets delivered to employees on their join date.”

The employer also sends regular e-newsletters to corporate employees, and for hotel-based employees it uses posters and other messages.

In a competitive environment, IHG recognises its future challenges. “The markets are delivering better performance than we have seen in the past years, but we have to make sure that we continue to efficiently deliver our strategy, and, from a benefits perspective, maintain and support that for [talent] attraction and retention,” says Gonzalez.

Rafael Gonzalez- Intercontinental Hotels Group-2016Career history

Rafael Gonzalez is director, compensation and benefits, Europe. He joined InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) in 2011 as manager of compensation and benefits in its Dubai office, and moved to the UK in 2013. Gonzalez joined IHG with a wide breadth of experience, having begun his HR journey in training, and moving through HR and payroll systems, talent development, and then compensation and benefits. He also brings geographical diversity, having worked in the Americas, Belgium, Dubai and now the UK.

InterContinental Hotels Group at a glance

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is made up of around 4,900 hotels worldwide, either owned, managed or franchised by the organisation. It has around 1,800 employees in the UK, working across corporate offices, reservations and hotels. Its employee base in its corporate offices are 58% female, with 38% under 30, and 28% under 40. In reservations the workforce is 72% female, and there is a 50/50 split in hotels. The average length of service for corporate employees is six-and-a-half years, while in reservations it is nine, and three years in hotels.

Business objectives impacting benefits

  • To continue to deliver a benefits strategy that supports its brands.
  • A possible merger between two competitors will create a larger group than IHG, but it sees this as an opportunity to remain competitive.

The benefits offered by InterContinental Hotels Group 

Pensions

  • Trust-based defined contribution scheme for all corporate employees.
  • InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) auto-enrolled staff in September 2013. The scheme received the Pensions Quality Mark in 2014.

Healthcare

  • Private medical insurance, employer-paid through a healthcare trust, administered by Healthcare RM. Employees can pay to include family members.
  • Dental benefit available through Healthcare RM.
  • Eyecare vouchers, employer-paid.

Company cars

  • Cars or cash alternative for senior employees or business-need drivers.

Family friendly

  • Employee discounted room rate.
  • Friends and family discounted room rate.
  • Flexible working at corporate offices and hotels.
  • Home working at managers’ discretion.
  • Childcare vouchers through Computershare.

Holidays

  • 25 days.

Canteen

  • Subsidised coffee shop and cafeteria in corporate offices.
  • Meals to employees in some hotels.

Social clubs/sports

  • Social clubs that provide discounted activities.
  • Discounts or subsidies for local facilities.
  • Onsite gym in Denham office.
  • A bus from Denham office to Uxbridge.

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Voluntary benefits

Recognition schemes

  • Long-service award that recognises one, five, 10, 15 and 20 years of service.
  • Bravo Awards, which are linked to corporate values and recognise employees with a financial incentive or used as an opportunity to say ‘thank you’.