15 November 2011

Employee exchange programs, interpersonal training and wellness programs are the key to enhancing employee engagement, according to students at The University of Queensland.

UQ School of Tourism students were sharing their innovative ideas with over 30 industry executives at the Holiday Inn Challenge.

Student teams from the Hotel Industry Management course acted as specialist hospitality consultancy firms to examine and deliver recommendations on how to improve employee engagement at the Holiday Inn Brisbane.

This year’s winner, fictitious consultancy firm ‘New Leaf’, was comprised of students Alice Wilson, Simone Kerger and Sophie Rutledge.

Their proposal included expanding the online IHG Leaders Lounge and an employee exchange program, which would promote personal development and reward employees.

Sophie Rutledge previously attended the Holiday Inn Challenge as a high school student in 2008, and it was the competition that motivated Ms Rutledge to pursue a Bachelor of International Hotel and Tourism Management.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study at university. This event and speaking with school of tourism staff influenced and encouraged me to apply for this degree. It sounded very exciting and interesting and a degree I could picture myself pursuing,” Ms Rutledge said.

Ms Rutledge said the course assignment was a valuable opportunity to meet industry professionals and gain real life experience in consultancy.

“My colleagues and I never once thought we would make top three, let alone win the challenge. This was a great confidence boost and a wonderful end to my three years at university," she said.

“I am not very confident at public speaking and was very nervous when we found out we made top three. Having participated in the challenge and speaking in front of important industry representatives, I know I can do it and now know not to doubt myself so much."

The course’s three top performing teams presented their proposals to a panel of judges, including Dominic Egger, Operations Manager of Holiday Inn Brisbane; Raymond Faulkner, General Manager of Holiday Inn Surfers Paradise; and Dr David Solnet, Director of Industry and Government Partnerships at the School of Tourism.

Runners up ‘Xenia’ and ‘Hoteligence’ also impressed judges with ideas for wellness programs, interpersonal training and employee incentive programs.

The recently revamped competition forms an integral part of the School of Tourism’s Hotel Industry Management course, offered to third year students.

Media: Anna Hood, anna.hood@uq.edu.au or 07 3365 6962; Claire Shuter, c.shuter@uq.edu.au or 07 3346 9259