KML Top-30-Under-30 Summit: Next Gen Trailblazers 2024

TORONTO — More than 160 attendees gathered last week at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel for KML’s second-annual Top-30-Under-30 Summit. This year’s event, Celebrating Next Gen Trailblazers, celebrated the winners of KML’s prestigious Top-30-Under-30 awards and featured panel discussions that offered attendees the chance to glean insights from present and future industry leaders.

The afternoon portion of the Top-30-Under-30 Summit kicked off with a panel on recruitment and retention. During this discussion, attendees learned how experts from some of the industry’s leading companies have adapted and changed the ways they recruit and retain talent, resulting in organizational and associate success. Moderated by Frank Menezes, professor at George Brown College, speakers included Kristi Thyssen, regional director of Human Resources, Canada, Marriott International; Phil Wylie, Chief People Officer, Oliver & Bonacini Hospitality; Hanan Haddad, area Human Resources director, Hilton Toronto; and Tiffany Smye, senior director, Talent, Learning & Development, MLSE.

First, the panellists discussed shifts in Canadians’ preferences and expectations regarding job roles.

“At a basic level, nobody wants a bad job anymore,” said Wylie. “There was a time when a hospitality job was a bad job – long hours, low pay and no respect. Today, people want pay transparency, which is particularly relevant in restaurants where there’s gratuities that get shared and it’s not always clear who that money is going to. People also want more flexibility for a greater work-life balance. For senior-level employees, it’s important to give them some autonomy.”

Haddad added that job candidates are also looking for flexible benefits and the ability to go to work as their true authentic selves. “Dress codes have changed and requirements for what you look like when you come into work, even for some of our luxury brands, have changed. That homogenous, strict way of looking no longer exists. Employees want to come in looking and feeling like themselves.”

With regard to skills that employers are looking for when recruiting talent, Thyssen said customer service is still the most important skill but the foundation of what that means has taken a different path. “We’ve learned that the customer isn’t always right, so we need to think about how we can better equip and inform our employees so that they feel comfortable and can also have a voice.”

The panellists also talked about the importance of developing a strong social-media strategy to attract candidates on a global scale; how to engage employees through branding and culture to make them want to stay within a company; and the power of celebration and transparency within an organization.

Then, Josh Anwar, director of Front Office at the St. Regis Toronto, delivered the second Rapid Fire talk and shared some of the differences he noticed regarding employee expectations while working in the U.K. and Canada. He talked about the importance of work-life balance, trust and transparency and encouraging leaders to make sure that employees feel heard in the workplace.

Next, KML presented its 2024 Green Leadership Awards, which recognize environmental excellence and innovation within Canada’s hospitality industry. Award recipients included Hyatt Place Ottawa West; Bloom Restaurant, an interactive live classroom located within Conestoga College’s School of Hospitality & Culinary Arts in Waterloo, Ont.; and Montreal-based Germain Hotels. Alison Hunter, GM, Hyatt Place Ottawa West; Laura Matheson, project manager, Conestoga College; and Marie Pier Germain, VP, Sales & Marketing, Germain Hotels accepted the awards.

Following the awards presentation, the last panel of the day entitled Making the Case for Sustainability was moderated by Amy Bostock, managing editor, KML, and featured Hunter, Matheson and Germain. Together, the panellists talked about their approaches to sustainability and the importance of starting small to create big changes.

“It can be daunting for operators looking to start their sustainability journey at a hotel or restaurant, but we can all do small things every single day in our operations to make change,” said Hunter. “If our industry as a whole starts making small changes, it’ll become a tidal wave,” adding that one priority area for the hotel post-pandemic was eliminating the individual milks and creamers at coffee stations.

Similarly, Matheson said one of Bloom Restaurant’s entry points into sustainability was removing table cloths and linens to reduce water and energy used during laundering.

Other small initiatives mentioned during the discussion included knife techniques to maximize the use of produce, re-purposing food scraps, using coffee grinds as natural fertilizer for gardens and more.

The panellists also highlighted the significance of collaboration to establish sustainable initiatives. Ideas from team members and associates should always be encouraged, which helps drive employee engagement and sense of purpose.

“We don’t operate from a top-down approach,” said Matheson. “We empower everybody to be a part of the journey and ensure that we model shared responsibility and shared ownership for sustainability.”

To wrap up the event, Adrianna Remlinger, head butcher and food stylist at The Inn at Bay Fortune in P.E.I. delivered the final Rapid Fire session. She spoke about her personal experience of becoming her partner’s full-time caregiver after he sustained a spinal-cord injury and became a paraplegic. Support was needed in relation to Remlinger’s own daily activities, eating, resting and managing distress. She said while dedicating time and effort to a career can be important for personal growth, financial stability and professional success, it’s equally important to maintain a healthy work-life balance and spend time with family and friends because anyone’s life can change in an instant.

For coverage of the Top-30-Under-30 Summit’s morning sessions, click here.


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