In December last year Maldives Tourism reported that resort workers went on strike late last year to voice their concerns over exclusion from the employment law. Unconfirmed reports also suggested that there was resentment between hotel management and staff due to local employees unavailable to work on Fridays due to religious reasons. It is rumored that recently a hotel GM suffered a serious assault at the hands of former employees who held a grudge.  The hotel and resort sector in the Maldives contributes about 30% to the economy and accommodations can range anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars per night. One and Only, Taj, Banyan Tree, Conrad and the Four Seasons are present in this market.

It is so important for management companies to fully prepare their teams for challenges in diverse cultures and remote locations. I have heard of such cases in the past which are not only traumatic but can have a very negative impact on tourism in the region. Here are some basic tips that might prove to be beneficial in preparing individuals for international assignments:

-Proper training is crucial and is one of the most commonly contributing factors for failure in an international setting. In most cases the employee is superficially prepared with most of the learning taking place though books and videos etc. This is definitely helpful but in no way prepares an individual for a foreign assignment. Companies should invest in learning at the affective level with programs focused on issues such as cultural values, social and business etiquette, current affairs, history, religion, political structure and language.

-It is probably a good idea to send potential international managers on temporary assignments lasting a few months in order to get a taste of the lifestyle and culture. Even better is to have these managers work with seasoned and experienced hands.

-Our attitudes are directly influenced by our upbringing, education and training and as human beings we react differently to behaviors that are different than our own culture. Participative management in one environment might be seen as incompetent management in another. Managers must devote appropriate time to understand how things are done in different cultures and refrain from implementing changes abruptly. Studying cultural difference is the key to success in international assignments.

-Host employee compensation, incentives and rewards should be carefully considered in foreign countries. Money is always a motivator; however companies need to follow local compensation practices in most countries. Organizations that value and promote respect, job security, family, acceptance, opportunity for advancement and a satisfying style are able to attract and retain the best talent.

-Overseas assignments can be very stressful and frustrating with simple everyday matters where one feels very helpless and drained. It might be a good idea to encourage couples/families and promote dual careers which have proven to be helpful in the adjustment process.

-Education changes everything. Host hotels should incorporate training programs to educate and develop their staff.

-Last but not the least,  management and staff must be fully protected and personal safety made number one priority in turbulent situations. Hotel security must have a presence at all times.

Teg Brar