Authentic HR leadership: People Development, Recruiting & Communication are Andrea Sudfeld’s new areas of responsibility.
For already more than a decade, Andrea Sudfeld has helped to shape the management landscape at the GCH Hotel Group. Her career led her across the Republic of Germany, from Hannover to Berlin, from the position as an honoured hotel director up to the HR department at the GCH Hotel Group. Thanks to her empathy, networking talent and her success with the GCH Leadership Programme her area of responsibility quickly grew from pure hotel director’s tasks into additional responsibilities regarding HR. Step by step, these responsibilities brought her to where she is today. She seems to have found her place in the capital city now, as well as in her role as Head of the operative HR department, where her talents can unfold to their fullest. What plans does she have in her new role as Director of People Development, Recruiting & Communication? We went ahead and asked her.
First of all, congratulations on your new job title, Director of People Development, Recruitment & Communications!
Thank you very much!
You have been responsible for major HR projects within the GCH Hotel Group for the past 4 years already, the onboarding of hotel directors and their mentoring being your main responsibilities. Where did the company stand back then, where is it now and where do you see it in the future?
Its development was a gradual process. Everything started 5 years ago, when we introduced the Leadership Programme, where I was one of the first mentors. This triggered my interest in working with people and the will to tackle new challenges together.
After I moved to Berlin from Hannover, I mainly focused on the works council and on establishing a cooperation between our hotels in Berlin. Back then, GCH was undergoing a transformation. Outdated structures were replaced by an employee-centred approach. The new concept was Thinking Outside the Box and its effects were enormous.
Right after its implementation, we achieved our best results to date for 3 years in a row. Eventually, even the toughest critics were convinced that we had chosen the right path.
Consequently, we rolled out and adapted the Berlin concept in other cities, where we involved the GMs in order to create a leaders’ handbook that would serve as a knowledge base and inspiration for future leaders. Nowadays this handbook helps every new leader to individually adapt to their teams and hotels.
How would you define “People Development” and where do you see your chances to optimise this process within GCH?
Good question. In my opinion, People Development is an overused expression. Every so often do I hear “I want to support my employees”, but when asked how, people are unable to come up with a clear concept. Employees get assigned absurd titles and job descriptions far off their actual position because their superiors are afraid of losing them. Opposed to this, GCH is mapping a new path. The concept is still at a very early stage but steadily developing. We try to see the person behind the employee. We are imparting new knowledge to them and help them to forge new paths. This approach results in close ties and strengthens the team spirit. I am especially proud when we find the right position for our Leadership candidates, where they can put their newly acquired skills and strengths into practice. It seems like each of our hotels, our dependencies in the regions and our support centre in Berlin is jolting awake. The enthusiasm of everyone involved is contagious and encouraging. It makes work fun.
Recruiting for the hotel business is becoming increasingly difficult. How are you planning to meet these challenges?
It is not only an issue in the hotel business but in almost every sector. Traditional positions and profiles are not sought after anymore. For example, when we are looking for a restaurant manager, we are not looking for the classic profile but for someone who will take on responsibility for the whole restaurant, including calculations, order management, customer satisfaction and logistics. We are looking for a host who is an entertainer, a passionate hobby chef and a wine connoisseur at the same time. Or a coach who can take care of educating the employees. Such job descriptions don’t exist in traditional applicants’ tools. It is no longer about assessment interviews, but about coaching. We have to know our status quo to find out where we are going and what we need to take this path.
When it comes to digital transformation, the hotel business is lagging behind. This is clear to everyone who consciously deals with this topic. How do you facilitate the transition to new tools and processes to long-time employees in order to maintain GCH’s position as a market leader.
Digital transformation is another overused expression. The hotel business is all about the guest. Very often, this is used as an excuse to only use the most basic technologies, which in most cases are outdated. We believe in change and project management and want to purposively use the required tools. Some will always be opposed to progress, however, if you want to stay on top of things, you are bound to be open to new learnings. This always reminds me of my godchild – a few years ago, I was convinced that no one would ever need a streaming service like Netflix. In the meantime, I have started to frequently use it, but now my godchild is laughing at me because Netflix is already outdated and “old school” again.
What is your stance towards Employer Branding?
I am very passionate about this topic. Unfortunately, we are still at a very early stage. Therefore, it is one of the first projects I plan to push. Very often employees and even managers are not able to list their company’s USPs, since all the information is kind of dictated to them. Most companies predefine their values but not every employee or guest would recognise them. We want our employees to define these characteristics on their own to see where we stand as a company. From that, we derive processes that are crucial for the company. We integrate our employees, let them tell their story and communicate their feelings towards our values, visions and mission. We encourage them to also share these on our in-house social media every employee has access to.
Name one of GCH’s values you most identify with.
Definitely with “courage”. As per the Leitmotiv of the Age of Enlightenment by Immanuel Kant:
“Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred if its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without the guidance of another. The motto of enlightenment is therefore: Sapere aude! Have courage to use your own understanding!”
Mrs. Sudfeld, thank you very much for the interview and your inspiring words! We wish you all the best and success in your new position!
Editor: Bea Lehofer