The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts concludes inaugural batch of leadership development programme

For the upcoming batch, which is set to be bigger in size, the company has new training plans and programmes in place

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The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts concluded its first batch of The Leela Leadership Development Programme 2023 (LLDP) on 12 August, 2023. The tailored Management Training programme was launched to attract the best talent in the hospitality industry,  in partnership with Indian School of Hospitality (ISH) in alliance with Les Roches. 

The initiative was unveiled in February 2022,  following an intensive three-month process of evaluations and interviews. Based on the interview process, The Leela selected 25 individuals to participate in this comprehensive 15-month programme. 

“The primary aim of the programme is to establish a leadership pipeline capable of overseeing our hotels. This entails executing the Leela standard operating procedures (SOP) in a meaningful way, as the Leela tradition has always emphasised warm and gracious service, rooted in the principle of “Atithi Devo Bhava” (the guest is like God). Hence, it was pivotal that these individuals evolve into true Leela service-excellence ambassadors upon assuming roles within our hotels,” says Anurag Bhatnagar, CEO, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts. 

The initiative aligns with the hotel chain’s business objectives, enabling its service-excellence ambassadors to consistently deliver the Leela experience. With LLDP, the enterprise is trying to build and cultivate leaders from within. The approach is considered more advantageous, as all the students are familiar with The Leela hotels,  an indepth understanding of its corporate culture and a shared commitment to its core values. Ultimately, this aligns with our business objectives, enabling our service-excellence ambassadors to consistently deliver The Leela experience.

“The primary aim of the programme is to establish a leadership pipeline capable of overseeing our hotels. This entails executing the Leela standard operating procedures (SOP) in a meaningful way, as the Leela tradition has always emphasised warm and gracious service, rooted in the principle of “Atithi Devo Bhava” (the guest is like God). Hence, it was pivotal that these individuals evolve into true Leela service-excellence ambassadors upon assuming roles within our hotels.” 

Anurag Bhatnagar, CEO, The Leela Palaces, Hotels and Resorts

So, what did The Leela do differently? Well, they “embraced inclusivity instead of exclusively hiring newcomers”. The focus, according to Bhatnagar, was on individuals who possessed a minimum of one to one and a half years of work experience. The cut-off point was set at one year. “This approach introduced a diverse range of candidates into the selection pool, individuals with employment backgrounds spanning various hotel companies and brands, not limited to just Leela,” enunciates Bhatnagar. That isn’t all. The programme was accessible to anyone who had completed a year of service, whether at The Leela or elsewhere in the industry.

This unique approach helped the company manage its dropouts or high attrition rates. To ensure the smooth transition of newcomers into the intense operational aspects of the field, the company also collaborates with a top-tier institution renowned for imparting hospitality education, along with Les Roches, adding another layer of excellence. 

“This batch of participants enjoyed two significant advantages. First, they received practical training within The Leela’s operations, recognised as one of the world’s premier brands. Second, they benefited from comprehensive training — both on-campus and during boot camps— facilitated by one of the finest colleges in the field, along with a global institution, Les Roches. This unique combination imbued the programme with distinctiveness and substantial value for all involved parties,” asserts Bhatnagar.

The programme helps the students with their holistic development, encompassing a combination of technical, behavioural and strategic aspects. The first batch saw many individuals with their foundations strengthened, while working across various operational areas such as food and beverage, front office, culinary, or sales, providing them with essential practical experience in hotel operations.

The company helped them enhance their qualities that traditional institutions may sometimes miss. Citing an example, Bhatnagar shares, “We offer dedicated courses in design thinking, digital marketing, revenue management and leadership demeanour and behaviour. This programme not only focuses on technical expertise but also integrates educational components comparable to those found in renowned business school curricula.”

All the participants are deployed in rotation. This involves spending six months in their area of specialisation or prior experience, followed by six months in different departments to gain a well-rounded perspective. This approach includes both boot camps and functional department placements. For instance, even those from a food and beverage background and  destined to become assistant managers in that field, would have received cross-training in areas such as front desk, housekeeping, finance, human resources, revenue and sales.

Upon completing the programme, this batch of participants underwent an immersive 15-month training and development experience, thoroughly preparing them for their roles.

Additionally, the company ensures that all the participants work closely with their mentors and guides. “This mentorship ensures that the programme is steered by strong leadership and not solely entrusted to the HR department. The engagement of our general managers is yet another key aspect of the programme. They are actively involved in various aspects such as recruitment, providing mentorship and overseeing the implementation of all the necessary training at the property level,” reveals Bhatnagar.

The LLDP 2023 batch consists of 25 students who graduated this year. For the upcoming batch, in recruitment phase (2024), the company has increased the intake to 32. Additionally, in the second batch, set to graduate as the class of 2024, culinary and revenue management components will be introduced. 

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