Confederation Place Hotel
Creating a Diverse, Hospitable Workplace
It is refreshing to hear Gord Dalton talk about hospitality. Tourism and Hospitality are known for high standards and for being welcoming, but Gord elevates this to the next level. As manager of the Confederation Place Hotel, he is happy to host travellers from all over Canada and the world. He is proud of his hometown (Kingston, Ontario) and is happy to share it with others.
This spirit of hospitality influences Gord’s recruitment strategies. He believes that Confederation Place is a better hotel because of his policy to hire people with diverse backgrounds. Gord says, “Having staff from a variety of countries helps create an interesting group of people.” He gets excited about meeting guests and staff from other countries and learning about their ways of life—this enthusiasm rubs off on his staff. He creates a thriving, diverse work community by showing interest in employees’ lives outside their work roles and by creating opportunities for them to socialize and show support for one another. Gord believes that having a multicultural workforce encourages staff to be open-minded and allows them to be more comfortable with international guests.
Gord’s motivation for hiring people with diverse backgrounds has a practical aspect as well. He is aware of Canada’s demographics and knows that employers need to look outside the traditional labour pool for employees.
What program has helped Gord find diverse staff over the last three years? Ready-to-Work: Tourism Careers for Internationally Trained Individuals. This program is managed by the Ontario Tourism Education Corporation (OTEC), is funded by their national partner, Tourism HR Canada, and is supported by the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration. In Kingston, OTEC has partnered with KEYS Community Employment Centre to deliver the program. KEYS is a community-based employment services agency that helps job seekers find work, employers find staff, and newcomers to Canada find help with English language training and settlement.
The Tourism Careers for Internationally Trained Individuals program is four weeks long, followed by a paid work placement in an entry-level job. During the four weeks of classroom training, participants can obtain five certificates: Tourism Essentials, Service Excellence, WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System), Smart Serve and NFSTP (National Food Safety Training Program). During their work placement, they also have the opportunity to work toward an emerit professional certification in one of 27 tourism occupations.
When Iris Kennedy, the Ready-to-Work coordinator at KEYS, approached Gord to ask him to participate in the program, he was happy to do so. His participation involved speed-dating type sessions, where employers spent five minutes with each Ready-to-Work participant to describe the property and jobs available. Gord left his business card with each participant; using this information, those that were interested in a work placement at Confederation Place Hotel could contact him at the end of the program.
Gord also provided tours of his property as a class field trip, during which he took the opportunity to talk to the participants about the hospitality industry and the opportunities it offers.
In return, Gord has access to a diverse labour pool. He has hired two Ready-to-Work graduates—one as a front desk agent and one as a kitchen helper. Gord talks about how the participant’s presence in the kitchen added to the “artists’ community” that exists there and how she shared her knowledge of Asian cooking with the chef, who comes from the Middle East.
To integrate new hires into the organization, Gord believes in familiarizing staff with the diverse roles that allow a hotel to provide proper hospitality to its guests. New employees are rotated through different departments to help them expand their skill sets, and to help them appreciate how each department contributes to the hotel’s success. He starts employees who are not proficient in English in back-of-house jobs so that they build their language skills before having to interact with guests. Gord says that hospitality is all about communication with guests and other staff; therefore language skills are crucial.
Gord’s approach to staffing reflects his long-term vision of creating a workplace and community that welcome and provide support to new Canadians. He wants to see Kingston evolve into a more diverse, thriving economy that hosts tourists and welcomes new residents from a variety of backgrounds. He believes that his participation in Ready-to-Work: Tourism Careers for Internationally Trained Individuals helps him work toward his vision, as well as benefiting both his property and his community.