The Accor Group is one of the world’s leading hotel businesses, responsible for brands including Sofitel, Novotel, Ibis and others. It covers all market sectors-budget, mid scale and five stars, and has some 3,700 hotels throughout the world. It began life by offering the first Novotel in France in 1967 after its founders noted the success of the out-of-town hotel service in America. It now operates in 90 countries and is listed on the Bourse, the French Stock Exchange.
The Accor Group is the third largest hotel group in the world and prides itself on covering all areas of this market-the Sofitels for the luxury market, Mercure and Novotel at the middle market and five brands in the economy market: Ibis, Formule 1, Motel 6, Etap and Red Roof Inns. It has grown from its humble beginnings in France both organically and by judicious acquisition. It enjoys a wide geographical spread in its business, working in all continents, while retaining an absolute commitment to its core values of customer service. It has a history of innovation. At the time its first hotel opened, the idea of fully-serviced hotels with en suite facilities on the outskirts of a major town was virtually unheard of; it has gone further and put hotels into areas that are not widely populated by the competition, such as China, and areas within other countries that aren’t near airports or International cities. It also operates a number of other businesses – Accor Services, for example, which provides vouchers or tokens that are offered by employers and governments in place of cash payments.
The majority of such schemes worldwide are operated by Accor; its main focus, however, remains the hotel industry.
Company Culture and Style
Many companies profiled in this book describes their ethos as entrepreneurial. Accor’s HR director, Philip Addison, prefers to think of Accor’s personnel as responsible and empowered. Mangers can make mistakes (or learn, to use the alternative phrase); this isn’t a company in which, for example, a member of staff with a problem gets referred to the HR department; managers are encouraged to be hands-on and take responsibility for their teams. The Company likes innovation and it likes serving customers. In a survey conducted among
staff, 86 per cent of employees thought the company did whatever it took to satisfy customers, 82 per cent thought customer service came first every day and 78 per cent thought employees got their greatest satisfaction from customer contact. Tellingly, 82 per cent were proud to belong to the Group and 78 per cent thought employees got their greatest satisfaction from customer contact. Tellingly, 82 per cent were proud to belong to the Group and 78 per cent of managers agreed with company’s strategy. The co-founders still exercise a lot of influence over the culture of the business, leading to a can-do-attitude. In the early days they’d just go and get on with it, says Addison. This is known as L’esprit Accor. The business has matured but the same attitude of “we can achieve this” permeates it, and not just if you’ve been with the business for ages: If you do your job
well you won’t be held back by hierarchy or anything else, they’re happy for new people to have ideas, says Human Resources Manager, Jackie Allen. This means communications are very open and the management structure is as flat as it can be given a staff of 147,000. There is a formalised open door policy, helped along by the electronic innov@accor, a suggestion box on the company intranet. The other thing that it is important to understand about Accor, and which may not be apparent at first glance, is its awareness of its place in the world. As a business that operates a lot in the Far east for example, it is aware of the problems with child prostitution and is active in campaigning for and funding charities acting to eradicate this and helping its young victims; it also takes its environmental responsibilities seriously and considers this very carefully when
developing new hotel projects.
If you want to work somewhere in which managers can divest their responsibilities for personnel to the centralised HR department, you can basically cross Accor off your list of potential employers. Addison is determined that such policies don’t work, giving management licence to shrink rather embrace its responsibilities. Recruitment outside the Web happens at local level with the HR department supporting and facilitating. That said, the company enacted an Ethics in Management Charter in 1990 and co-founded the
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) network against exclusion in 1995. It was also among the first businesses to establish a European work council before it became a legal requirement. It may be largely a hands-off HR department but it is also one that isn’t afraid to innovate and lead the rest of the market.
Career Opportunity and Development
Training and career development opportunities are vast within Accor. All jobs are advertised on the corporate intranet but not all are advertised outside, as preference is given to internal candidates. Accor has a lively HR website, including AccorJobs (www.accor.com/jobs) and the Jobs Skills Guide that allows you to check the job functions for which you want to apply against your existing skills, giving you the perfect chance to make a case for more training either at your annual (as a minimum) appraisal or at any other time with your line manager. People wanting to investigate further career progression within the Group are invited to Accor Career Days, in which job openings worldwide are discussed and made available. Training happens at all levels, either via Accor Trainers or external bodies such as Cornell University, and the structures have been well thought out. It has a scheme called Progres, where a new employee can move through bronze, silver gold and platinum standards of training and knowledge of the hotel trade, leading to a junior management level (and during which time they will see their salary increase as the various accreditations are added to their file). The company takes training very seriously and has its own Corporate University, the Accor Acadmie, in which it invested 6 million euros during 2001 to make it a state of the art facility. Management skills are offered by Accor Trainers in conjunction with the Acadamie Accor. The Management, as well as specifies on financial management, team leadership and numerous others in a modular course – and any cynics wondering whether this is simply a matter of window dressing should note that sixteen of the UK’s General Mangers are in their jobs as a direct result of following this course. In addition to core skills training, the company offers less formal courses, through distance learning on its intranet (and every hotel has a PC dedicated to the staff for this purpose) and CD-ROMs, including one introduced in 2003 on “Welcoming Disabled Guests” – Accor being one of the supporters of the European Year of the Disabled in 2003.
Clearly Accor has to be competitive to retain its staff and the packages on offer are as good as would be expected from a substantial concern in the hotel market. Salaries are competitive against the local market and bonuses are available to managers, amounting to up to 45 per cent of their salaries. Addison is quick to point out that a lot of managers actually get significant bonus payments, unlike a lot of companies in which the stated bonus has so many strings it is difficult to achieve. Recognition of hard work is important to the business, hence the increments when people move along the Progres scale, and a good pension scheme. In addition employees get an Accor card, a discount card for very cheap rates in the company’s hotels after a year’s employment. Share schemes are offered in most countries, dependant on local legislation, and everyone is encourages to own shares, and 20,000 staff members opt to do so.
Not entirely unpredictably, Accor’s aim is to grow profitably and sustainably, but also responsibly. Its environmental sensibilities, its helping clamp down on the sex tourism industry and its openness to new ideas on disability reflect a company coming to terms with the fact that it’s heading for its forties; it wants to behave like a responsible, as well as a wealthy, corporate citizen and is making many of the right moves to do so.
In terms of jobs, the good news for people liking the sound of the company is that there are going to be plenty of them. In the UK alone the organisation reckons on doubling its presence, so more personnel will be required. The scope to move about internationally and between disciplines, and to move upwards rapidly if you have the drive, should make the company an attractive career option.