Afeef Hussain, the Regional Director of Training, Development and Quality at LUX* Resorts and Hotels has been working in the hospitality industry for over 15 years. Experienced in the areas of HR strategy, customer experience, quality management, talent, performance management and learning and development, he speaks about the relevance of superior services in this exclusive with Hotelier Maldives.

Hotelier Maldives: How did you discover your calling to work to develop people?

Afeef Hussain: I started work in the industry 15 years ago, at Bandos Island Resort where I was mainly involved in operations and administration at the Malé Office. There I was met with genuine smiles and warm appreciation of visiting guests and staff. This made me realise that there is nothing better than serving people selflessly.

I also came to realise that most people are not naturally equipped to serving others in the best possible way. So I decided my goal is to help others reach their potential, and I believe this is possible through carefully planned guidance, training and development.

HM: You have extensive experience in the hospitality industry in all areas of Human Resources Management, Talent Development and Quality Assurance. What are some of your most significant achievements in the industry?

AH: If it was easy, I would not have considered it a success. I learned a lot about failure and success. Some of my achievements include becoming the first John Maxwell-certified trainer in the Maldives and one of the few master trainers in the country affiliated with Ron Kaufmann’s Up Your Service.

I also went on to become the Executive Director of the John Maxwell team. I have spoken in HR summits and other events in diverse geographies including US and UK and have had the opportunity to present a case study at the Harvard Business School.

I recognise and am appreciative of my involvement with the World HRD Congress. About five years ago, the founder of the World HRD Congress and World CSR Day, Dr R.L. Bahatia approached me about working to build the Maldivian HR community.

I am the first Maldivian to receive the honour of being named amongst the first listing of the ‘100 Most Influential HR Personalities in the World’ at the World HRD Conference 2016. What I always take into consideration are the experiences I have and the legacy I aim to leave behind.

HM: Can you tell us more about your recognition as one of the ‘100 Most Influential Global HR Professionals’ at the 3rd Global Training Conference by the World HRD Congress?

AH: As I mentioned before, I have been working on various projects as a part of World HRD Congress. I have spoken in HR Summits and other events in Singapore, Indonesia, Dubai, India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives and helped them with their research. They conduct a lot of industrial research on people development and HR challenges both regionally and globally.

In February 2016, in their 3rd Global Training Conference in Mumbai, I was awarded in recognition of my work in contributing to the World HRD Congress team.

The objective at that point was to bring the concept of HR development to the Maldives, and I believe I was recognised for that as well.

HM: You were also awarded “Global Training and Development Leadership Award” by one of the founders of the World HRD Congress 2016. Can you tell us more about the award?

AH: The “Global Training and Development Leadership Award” is given to people who continuously invest in training and developing people selflessly. During my tenure at the World HRD Congress, I had a lot of requests to conduct training despite the lack of budgetary resources. The award I received was for voluntary training and developments I conducted in India and the Maldives at the time.

HM: The LUX* Resorts and Hotels team continuously invests in training and human resource development. What are some of the programmes that are conducted in-house?

AH: We conduct a number of in-house training, which are mostly facilitated by our trainers, as we believe our own trainers are the ones best suited to guide our team. We have a programme called “Staging LUX* Shining”, a six-month leadership development programme where we identify a group of high potential employees and prepare them for future promotions through a three-step training programme. Suppose a butler becomes a head butler without any training, there is a gap which will be evident in the service they provide.

The programme, which was designed and developed by me, teaches them the responsibilities of their future posts and the tools would they need to effectively carry out their responsibilities. To assist with this, a number of people from the Head Office, as well as a team of 100 people, mostly Maldivians, attend a learning module every other week.

The company also has a partnership with Ron Kauffmann and Up Your Service who has been a key collaborator in familiarizing us with the service culture. I have a team of three with me. Plus we have 60 departmental trainers who I meet every month to provide constant training and coaching sessions.

HM: Can you name some areas that are covered in your training sessions?

AH: We cover many different areas such as Growth Mindset, Emotional Intelligence, Presentation Skills, Time Management, Leadership Programs and series from John Maxwell Books, Up Your Service Superior Service Culture Series and many more. A lot of the time, I customize the training based on the needs.

HM: What are some of the learning styles you use at LUX Resorts and Hotels?

AH: I employ two components in my method. One, being sessions conducted under the title of “Training”, in which we mainly conduct the On the Job training sessions, specific skills related, i.e. Waiter or GRO service skills and other technical skills.

The second part is “Service Education” under which we educate and teach our team members on the soft skills and mindsets needed to provide a world-class service culture.

HM: Do you pay special focus to the resort brand while designing training programmes?

AH: Yes, in every single program, the DNA of LUX* Resorts and Hotels, which are our Vision, Purposes and Values, are included to ensure consistency in our brand and the service culture message.

HM: What do you enjoy most about training people? What are the challenges and how do you overcome them?

AH: For me there is nothing better than seeing people’s ability to learn, to grow and eventually develop to their full potential. The best part is when I deliver a training and an individual enhances his or her learning abilities. And seeing others acknowledge the individual’s achievements in the success of their performance.

One of the challenges in the Maldives is that there are a significant number of Maldivians with educational competency and talent, but they still haven’t reached their full potential due to lack of training and experience.

HM: What are your thoughts on the future of HR?

AH: I think the future is going to be all about HR as a business partner. Without the HR function, the Board of Directors will not be able to make relevant business decisions. Because HR is a crucial part of the team that will execute the company’s overall vision.