The Portman Hotel opened in San Francisco in 1987. The hotel was designed by a noted architect
named John Portman. Portman sought to replicate in the USA the service and ambiance provided by
premier Asian hotels, such as the Oriental Hotel in Bangkok and the Regent in Hong Kong. To
differentiate itself among high-end hotels in San Francisco, Portman sought to create a “no rules”
environment for guests.
At the centre of the hotel’s marketing strategy were the hotel’s personal valets (PVs), who would be
available to perform any (legal and moral) task requested by a guest, and who would be responsible
for the normal custodial and maintenance activities associated with the hotel rooms. The PVs had
very broad jobs. These jobs were normally carried out, in other hotels, by numerous specialists.
Delivering exceptional service at Portman meant tremendous interdependence and coordination,
not only among PVs, but also between PVs and other areas of the hotel. Flexibility was also critical,
along a number of dimensions: within individuals (multitasking); across individuals (cross-training
and teamwork); across parts of the hotel, and over time (the ability to upsize and downsize in
response to seasonal, day of the week, and even time of the day fluctuations in guest requests. PVs
were able to decide how to balance their workload; they could decide when to delay cleaning a
bathroom in order to serve drinks to a different guest. By empowering PVs and reducing costly
management layers, Portman also hoped to reduce overhead costs. Given the importance of the PVs
to the hotel’s strategy, as well as the desire of hotel management to avoid unions, the hotel sought
to create a culture of mutual trust, membership, pride, voice, and fairness.
Here are some of the HR policies:
Portman hired PVs who score high on assertiveness