Mark Hehir, the Chief Executive Officer at The Small Maldives Island Company and General Manager of Amilla Fushi & Finolhu Resorts sat down with his Talent Development & Quality Assurance Manager, Ailish O’Rourke for a brief chat of her new role with the company. With over 20 years’ experience in the hospitality industry, let’s hear what Ailish would like to share with the passionate islanders of TSMIC.
MH: So, what previous experience are you bringing on board to TSMIC for your role?
AOR: Well, I have worked in 5-star properties in London for 5 years, Dubai for 6 years and Seychelles for 6.5 years and over those years, I have had a mix of operational, training and quality roles. All of these positions and experiences of working for international companies with international teams providing amazing experiences for international guests will be able to add additional 5-star outlooks on different areas of the overall concepts we’re promoting at our Resorts here in the Maldives.
MH: What got you interested in moving from Front Office to a Training Manager position?
AOR: I was fortunate in London to have a dual role of Front Office Training Manager and Reception Manager for 16 months with my company, which allowed me to get a feel for training in a full time role, moving on from being a departmental training, and using my first-hand experience to prepare new joiners in the department for what they might expect from our guests as well as ensuring our PMS, SOPs and procedures were all known. I really enjoyed that chance to pass on my knowledge to others and then had the chance in Dubai after 3 years with my company there to become Training Manager for our 2 properties full time.
MH: What is the main role of training do you think?
AOR: Training is all about support. We support all departments in their training and development needs. This can be anything from on the job training on technical skills where we can give one-to-one or group sessions to full development programmes for departmental and individual enhancement. We are the ones who help leaders of departments in all aspects of their ongoing journey of development whether it’s through the running of the training ourselves, growing the training talent at department level or helping coordinating the external training needs for different areas. We’re all about helping and supporting each and every department and therefore the resort as a whole.
MH: What can training add to the guest experience?
AOR: In my experience, training can add so much to the guest experience. It can maintain and enhance the service standards in front line and backstage areas, it can add value to the experience through more confident interactions and can help create emotional connections with our guests, who will hopefully become repeat guests as well as our word of mouth marketers when they go home. Everyone can have an impact in this, if the islanders are motivated through development, increased skill development and enriched personal experiences in the work place that will shine through in their service delivery.
MH: Where does Quality fit in?
AOR: It applies to everything we do, from how we set the villa/house/residence for an arrival guest, to how the F&B service is consistent to how we present ourselves whilst on duty. Quality standards are the foundation for creating the experiences we all have, and that can be back stage too. My philosophy is “if you want to have quality, you have to do training; if you want to know what to train, check the quality”. We need to be passionate about quality and standards for them to mean something to us otherwise we all end up doing our own thing, our own way, and in the end, it is usually the guest (internal and external) who loses out.
MH: What impact can quality really have?
AOR: When quality standards are in place, we all have guidelines to follow, the basic direction that will tell us how a service or interaction should progress. Then add to that, the personality and character of the individual providing the service or involved in the interaction and you are really able to create memorable experiences. I am not for a moment suggesting that we all apply robotic approaches to what we do, in fact the reverse, we know the standards that the company expects us to implement and we then take it to the next level. That’s when we make a lasting impression on our guests and we stand ahead of the crowd / competition.
MH: How can training and quality together move us forward as a company / department / individual?
AOR: Training and quality go hand in hand. Quality is the gauge we use to check gaps in our service delivery and standards. We track using quantitative measures and have data to analyse and refer back to showing us the direction we need to be heading in. It also shows us what we’re doing well and should maintain at a high standard. Training then can use this data as a very useful tool for forward planning training sessions for individuals and teams where gaps have been identified. When we’re all playing from the same rule book, there is better understanding and cohesiveness in and across departments for smoother operations and better interdepartmental relations.
MH: What should we expect from you in this new combined role?
AOR: I hope moving forward that the departments will be so familiar with seeing me out and about in their areas for visits for training and quality that they count me as one of them. The Training and Quality role can be a challenging one, however I have learned over the years to ensure that the approach is the right one, in that I listen twice as much as I talk, I visit to congratulate as well as correct and I am actively involved with all of the departments in their journey for excellence.
MH: What key words / characteristics would you assign to the new role?
AOR: Active listening, collaboration, constructive feedback, continuous improvement, dual respect and always a fun, friendly approach with a positive outlook.
MH: Give us some idea of what we can expect to see in the coming months, any hints of what’s up and coming?
AOR: I’ll just say that I will be working hard on ensuring the company mission, vision, values, Brand Traits, and Golden Behaviours are forefront and in line with everything we roll out. Programmes for development at both properties will be enhanced and departmental visits will become a normal practice of my daily routine so see you soon, out and about, in Amilla Fushi and Finolhu.