Taj becomes staff-friendly, offers free 10-day stay to all


From free stays at its over 100 upscale properties to taking some heat off kitchen staff by rescheduling their back-breaking shifts, the 135-year-old Taj has lined up a slew of employee-friendly measures, several of them first such initiatives in India’s highly competitive hotel industry.
The 10-day-a-year stay offer on Taj properties from Mumbai to Maldives is applicable to all employees, regardless of the profile and rank, and their families with a complimentary breakfast and a 50 per cent discount on other meals. And for those who are unable to pick up the tab even after the 50 per cent discount — which is likely in several cases as a typical meal for four at the Taj costs around Rs 14,000 with taxes — they can help themselves at the staff cafeteria where food is on the house.
“We can’t pay everyone top salaries. These are some of the basic facilities that we should provide to our employees,” said Rakesh Sarna, MD, Indian Hotels Company (IHCL), which runs the Taj chain. These initiatives will be rolled out to its over 25,000 staffers from October.The other revolutionary measure that the Taj is initiating relates to the work schedule of its kitchen and food and beverage staff. Since the hotels work 24X7, staffers put in gruelling hours. The prolonged work hours, combined with a short break, are known as “split-shifts” or “break-shifts” in hotel industry parlance.
This is how a split-shift works: A captain checks into the hotel’s restaurant at 11 am, s/he continues to work till 3 pm after which s/he takes a break for a few hours and then resumes the shift till the restaurant is closed for the day.
Under the new system called a “straight shift”, the captain can start early morning with the hotel’s banquet section, move to the restaurant in the afternoon and then call it a day by 4 pm. This gives the staff an entire evening to themselves, promoting a better work-life balance. The scrapping of the split-shift could prompt other players in the industry to take a relook at their HR practices.
In the pipeline is another measure that will help employees save time and money. All the Taj staffers can get subsidised vegetables and groceries at supermarkets within Taj properties. “We are among the largest buyers of fruits, vegetables and meat. We procure them at the most competitive rates. We want to pass on this benefit to our employees as well,” said Sarna.Besides, the Rs 4,706-crore IHCL has also set up a cafeteria at its new corporate headquarters in Mumbai, after relocating its staff from several of its divisions like HR, finance and marketing who were spread across the island city. No prizes for guessing from where the food comes: One of Taj’s five-star kitchens. And it is available for free.
Among Taj’s rivals, ITC offers special rates to their staff. Marriott also offers a complimentary stay and a dinner to employees on birthdays, apart from special rates.The Taj chain, part of the Tata Group, is also becoming generous with its leaves by giving employees additional two days off every month. This will allow them to pursue their personal interests or take better rest and feel revitalised.
Taj, the largest employer in the hospitality industry, is offering these perquisites to control attrition and burnout rates. This, said an industry observer, is part of its talent management strategy. People, Sarna believes, are the core of hospitality industry and taking care of employees will prompt them to serve guests better

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