For over four years, professionals in the hospitality sector have only been talking about one thing: the grand opening of The Peninsula Paris. Titanic work requiring over 900 workers in the hotel that has 200 luxury rooms including 34 suites, six restaurants, an 1,800 square meter spa, a 20 meter pool, and a fleet of vehicles for hotel guests. Parisian luxury hotels at their apex, truly a “city in the city,” made up of 600 employees, carefully recruited by Nicolas Tessier, a Vatel 2005 alumnus, who was hired in February, 2014 in the Human Resources department of the Hotel.
The first European palace of the Hong-Kong based Peninsula brand opened in Paris on August 1st, 2014. In February, you were hired as the Assistant Human Resources Manager. How did you get this job?
For the past four years, the name The Peninsula Paris, has been on everyone’s lips in hotels in Paris. I impatiently waited for it to open, read everything I could about the group and their Parisian project and I understood that I shared the same values that Peninsula Group defends. Values of respect, generosity, humility and well-being of all employees are some of the strengths that made me want to work one day in Human Resources. So without a minute of hesitation, I sent in my application to Sylvie Quintin, the Human Resources Manager, who gave me the opportunity to show my passion for the hospitality industry and my drive to work in Human Resources when she first interviewed me for a job. Then I had the opportunity of meeting Nicolas Beliard, the General Manager. These interviews confirmed how important human values are for Peninsula and I insisted on how motivated and committed I was to participate in this adventure. I sincerely thank them for trusting me and giving me all these opportunities to continue learning in this job.
What are you doing to prepare the grand opening of this exceptional hotel?
Opening a hotel like The Peninsula Paris is an extraordinary adventure. We all start out with a blank page and we want to succeed in every field. To do this, we brainstorm a lot, getting feedback from all the others to make the best decisions. And we never forget the core of the hospitality industry: wanting to make others happy. I hope that all those who participated in the events we undertook, felt this.
Today our priorities in the Human Resources department are to finish recruitment of 520 employees for the hotel’s grand opening and then reaching a total of 600 in a few months, and of course making good working teams and coaching our employees. We meet both professionals and students in job fairs, or when we present our Group at schools. Each time, we can see how all these candidates smile, and really want to be a part of our teams, and that’s the greatest way for them to thank us.
Can you give us a few facts and figures about Peninsula Group hotels?
The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels Limited, which owns the Peninsula Hotels brand, is a family owned group managed by Sir Michael Kadoorie. Very present in Asia with six hotels, but also in the United States with three hotels, the Group is making its European entrance in Paris, with the opening of its tenth hotel, on August 1st, 2014. This hotel, which defines new standards in design, luxury and comfort, is yet another milestone in the brand’s approach to excellence, conferring a new level of distinction to Paris, the City of Light.
I had an incredible experience in the Le Meurice Hotel. Dorchester Collection was with me all along my career and I was able to have held four different jobs.
First of all I started off as the Human Resources Assistant in charge of the payroll for three years. I was then promoted to Payroll Manager for two years, before become the Human Resources Coordinator, in charge of employee trade union relationships, and then Assistant Human Resources Manager. Each time I was promoted, the Le Meurice Hotel trained me for my new functions and helped me understand their stakes. The Dorchester Collection training program is an ongoing one. The farther you go in your career, the more training they give you with more managerial information. I totally loved working at the Le Meurice. And I’m very grateful for all the opportunities Management of this hotel gave me.
Why did you choose Vatel and what memories do you have? How did Vatel courses (theoretical courses, practical applications and internships) respond to your needs and expectations?
I was 16 when I had a summer job in a hotel-restaurant. I started off by serving breakfast, working at the front desk, and cleaning the rooms, and then I became interested in all the different jobs that this sector of activity had to offer. And in my last year of high school, I decided not to continue my higher education in law as planned, but in hotel management. I started to look for a school that would give me both theoretical and practical knowledge. Vatel met my criteria. Learning to confront reality in the workplace, by applying theoretical knowledge, for me, was something that was essential. So that’s when I applied to Vatel without any precise idea of what I wanted to do upon graduating.
I remember my first year of schooling where my internship took place in the Plaza Athenee Room Service department. That confirmed for me that I wanted to work in the future, in a luxury hotel environment. I saw staff with an eye for details, innovation and the desire to do everything possible to make their guests’ stay an unforgettable one. Then in my second year, I did my internship at the Hotel Scribe at the Front Desk. At the end of this internship I knew that I wanted to continue and work in Human Resources. I wanted to continue working in luxury hotels but also to be able to build more long lasting relationships with employees than those we were able to have with our guests. I wanted to participate in managing the careers of my fellow employees. When I did my final internship in the Human Resources department of the Park Hyatt Paris Vendome Hotel, I knew I had made the right choice for my career.
Vatel allowed me to confirm my choices little by little. What makes this school so very strong, are the courses given by professional faculty members and instructors, as well as the internships we do in luxury hotels.
What advice would you like to give to Vatel students who would also like to work in Human Resources?
This is a department where you really must love your job. Whether it’s in training, recruitment, social laws, or whatever, wanting to accompany your fellow employees on a daily basis and help them become personally fulfilled in their job must be your top motivation.
I’m aware that my schooling helped me transform myself quickly. Because I had worked with operational teams in my internships, I was quite aware of what really took place in these jobs, and it was easier for me to know what these employees really needed and expected. If I had some advice to give to those who want to work in Human Resources, I’d say that you have to like working with people, know how to manage teams, federate all sides and manage conflicts. On a daily basis, you have to be able to anticipate problems, be a good listener, be open-mined, intuitive, know how to deal with the unexpected and be a good trouble-shooter, while remaining firm, depending on the situation.