How Hyatt Makes Workforce Management Sizzle

By Jennifer Lawinski  |  Posted 02-04-2011

How Hyatt Makes Workforce Management Sizzle

When it came to managing the staff at its more than 400 worldwide locations, Hyatt Hotels Corp. was doing a lot the old fashioned way. For example, employees used manual processes to request and accrue time off, with decentralized scheduling done at individual locations.

In 2006, the hospitality company began looking for a way to automate its workforce management processes and streamline payroll, time-off requests and adjustments to employee records. "Hyatt wanted to evolve its time-and-attendance process from a decentralized, manually intensive approach," says Doug Patrick, senior vice president of Human Resources, North American Operations. "We sought a solution that was adaptable to meet the complex pay practices in each of our full-service properties in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean."

For Hyatt's CIO, Mike Blake, that meant finding a solution that would meet the company's global business requirements. The solution also needed to be something  that his 43-person IT staff -- already in charge of managing more than 50 systems for the company -- could fold into its portfolio with relative ease.

"We're a very lean IT organization," Blake says. "What that means is we need solutions that do not require a great deal of hand-holding, IT support and what have you. We cannot afford to have any one of our products or applications come with a great deal of overhead. You can't afford to have solutions that are extremely high-touch or require a lot of programming or a lot of alterations."

Hyatt spent about six months evaluating the workforce management solutions on the market. In the end, the organization chose Infor's WFM Workbrain software solution to roll out to its owned, franchised and managed properties, about 110 of which are in North America.

One of the challenges Blake faced was finding a solution that had the ability to roll out centralized policies while also giving individual properties the flexibility they needed to meet their needs. For example, employees in California get meal waivers. In New Jersey, they don't. "The Infor product gave us the flexibility to manage those types of instances," Blake says.

Platform stability was a key requirement. "People want things to work 24-7. There's a natural cadence in our hotels when things close out, when shifts begin, and they just have to work," Blake says.

Hyatt: Building the Workforce Management Business Case

Blake says he didn't have a tough time convincing the corporation that there was an IT solution to its workforce management problems.  "We don't have to sell the need because, most of the time, people have the need and the business case almost presents itself," says Blake. "In this particular case, we're dealing with manual processes, and this is absolutely one where we could get a much more automated solution and centralize the view of labor and get a much more comprehensive solution."

The deployment, completed in 2009, was relatively smooth, and so far, the company has been able to leverage the software to improve the efficacy of its business processes, including employee scheduling. As far as concrete ROI, however, Blake said Hyatt has yet to develop a system to figure out how much money they're saving.  "We haven't figured out how to do the math around that yet," he says. "I wish we had, but we'll get there."

For others looking to undertake similar projects, Blake says the first step is knowing what problem you're looking to solve. "That's true for everything. No system is a magic elixir for everything."

Communicating with employees on how the system works, and how they can get the most out of it, is also important. And, enthusiasm helps. "It's such a cool product that you want people to know how to use it and you want to be able to communicate to them that it's not just one thing you can do with it, there's so much more. "

But, enthusiasm can only get you so far. "It's the old concept of the sizzle versus the steak," says Blake. "The sizzle can sell the steak, but at the end of the day the steak still has to taste good. At the end of the day, [these systems] have to stand on their own and be valuable to the individuals using them."