Magali Laurent is the senior vice president of human resources at Sofitel Luxury Hotels, based in Paris. She was in Dubai this month to select candidates from the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management for the company's school of excellence programme. She describes how Sofitel is developing the next generation of hospitality professionals.
Tell me about the programme.
It is very exclusive, with only 15 hotel schools selected as partners and just two students selected from each school. The programme lasts 12 to 18 months. During the first six months, students work with human resources to decide on which departments they train in.For the next 12 to 18 months, the student specialises in one department. Sometimes we offer the opportunity to get more international exposure in another Sofitel hotel. We offer the students a very attractive package. They can do the programme in any of our hotels - visa restrictions and vacancies permitting. When I was interviewing people from the Emirates Academy, locations they favoured included London, Sydney and Paris. We ask trainees, when they start, to identify one or two specialisations they might be interested in and give them exposure to that job. But they can change their minds. We really listen to them and give them advice. We change and we adapt.
Why did you choose the Emirates Academy as a partner school?
Because of its reputation and because we have a great relationship with the people from the Emirates Academy.
How was the selection process in the UAE?
It was very difficult. There was lots of debate between the judges.
What happens when the students graduate from the course?
Successful completion of the programme guarantees the trainee a position within a Sofitel hotel in the chosen area of specialisation at supervisor level or above.
Are trainees obliged to stay with Sofitel after finishing the course?
Not at all. We want to give them the freedom to choose us. Of course it's a challenge. We want to attract talent and retain it. But they don't have any exclusivity or contractual arrangements.
What are you looking for when deciding who to hire?
Sofitel wants to recruit someone for their personality, their 'savoir être'. The knowledge and the know-how will be developed by Sofitel, thanks to the training that all ambassadors have to follow. Of course, we are looking for sensitivity to the luxury environment. We don't want arrogant people. And we want you to be yourself.