Talking Heads – 2019 HR in Hospitality Conference

By Steve Williams


The Future of HR: Agility, Acumen and Automation

Jon Dawson – Director of HR, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London and One Hyde Park Residences

If we look at the hospitality industry now and then consider where it could potentially be in the next three to five years, it looks like things could be very different.

Agility is going to be key. Especially so when it comes to strategic planning. Planning will still need to happen for the longer-term, but these plans must be adaptable because they may change at the drop of a hat. Particularly within the next few years while we understand and address what Brexit truly means for our businesses.

We should be asking ‘What If’ more. As we would typically do for example while preparing for a challenging employee relations case or a strategic HR challenge, we should spend more time looking at the ‘What If’ scenarios on a wider scale. The HR leader of the future must contingency plan as standard, having a good understanding of what needs to be done should the worst case happen. At Mandarin Oriental, for example, our current HR strategy also has a B and C strategy depending on a multitude of ‘What Ifs’.

To be able to do this effectively, the HR leader of the future must understand the operation – more so than ever. CEOs, VPs, senior leaders; they no longer expect HR just to be experts in their field, but demand they are great business partners and know what the business operation, and its various challenges, looks like. Financial acumen, coaching and influencing skills will be of greater desire in the future. If you’re not up to speed, now is the time to go back to the basics. Work with operational leaders to understand the key mechanics of the operation and put a plan in place so you can develop, learn and with that, become a better HR leader.

Finally, the HR leader of the future needs to be really up-to-date with the various technologies that are in place now, and those which are coming. Explore your employee lifecycle and identify what that may look like with the advancement of technology. Think outside of your organisation, looking at what other industries are doing. Widen your networks beyond the hospitality sector by trying different networking opportunities or attending a variety of events. Some of my best ideas have come from opportunities to meet people from retail, tech and public sector.

While you will receive future focused insights at the HR in Hospitality conference, we cannot predict the future. We can help create it, however. To do so, the HR leader of the future will need to evolve to be the strategic support the business, and our sector, needs.


Jon Dawson is Director of HR at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London and One Hyde Park Residences. Prior to this, he worked for the luxury lifestyle brand, Edition, where he was instrumental in the opening of the hotel in 2013, along with the creation of the Edition employer brand. (