Edge over experience: meet Mondrian Singapore’s unconventional team


Securing the right people to run a hotel is no mean feat, particularly in today’s competitive environment. But according to Mondrian Singapore Duxton General Manager Robert C. Hauck, there’s no “special formula”. And “the right people” aren’t always the most experienced.

“It’s not rocket science,” he told HM.

“In Singapore, like everywhere, it’s difficult to get people because not many people want to work in the industry anymore.”

Nevertheless, the hotel, which has just opened to guests in recent weeks, has recruited a core team of over 70 people, from both within and outside the industry.

Hauck has taken a hands-on approach in his search for talent, from scouring local hotspots and hangouts to scanning Linkedin, and calling up old school friends.

Hauck first recruited a number of experienced hoteliers in areas like human resources and finance to establish a solid backbone for the hotel. And from there, he was on a mission to find the “characters”.

“In Singapore, there are great hotels, but it’s relatively conservative. And then a lot of people complain that there’s not a lot of creativity,” Hauck explained.

“When you go out to restaurants and bars in this neighborhood [Duxton], there is so much creativity. We have many tattoo studios and art galleries, local food joints, Michelin restaurants, and some of the best bars around.

“So, I thought, why not try to bring that in.”

Robert Hauck, Mondrian Sinapore

By casting a wide net, he has established an eclectic mix of people that might not fit the mould of a conventional hotel. From young graduates to seniors, former athletes to fashionistas – no experience required.

“They might be misfits in a sense, but they’ll fit in here,” he said.

His search for talent knows no bounds with one team member discovered on television.   

“The first character I was looking for was Ah Seng – a gentleman that is tattooed from head to toe,” said Hauck.

“He is actually an ex-convict. He was in and out of prison for 30 years but has been fully rehabilitated.

“When I was back home in Germany, I saw him on television and was struck by his story. I was thinking, if I could make this guy the doorman, people will talk about it.”

After three months of trying to track him down, Hauck met with Seng and offered him the position, but much to his disappointment, Seng turned it down. However, through further conversation, Hauck discovered it was Seng’s dream to open his own restaurant one day. He offered him the position of managing the hotel’s staff restaurant, Bistro 126, which he accepted.

Then, Hauck discovered 64-year-old Raymond Leong. A former senior sales manager of an events and cruise company, Leong was laid off during the pandemic and reinvented himself as a Grab driver. He is passionate about training and Hauck hired him to do just that.

He also entertains crowds as a drag queen in his spare time.  

“You are made for the brand, or the brand is made for you,” Hauck said.  

Hauck believes a flat hierarchy and trust in team members to make their own decisions is key to success in hospitality, particularly in lifestyle hotels.

“I don’t decide anything, you decide, that’s why I hired you,” Hauck said of conversations with team members.

“Many companies want to do Lifestyle, but, what is Lifestyle? I don’t think many hoteliers really know what Lifestyle is. It’s not just taking off your tie.

“You can only achieve real lifestyle and hospitality if you work with flat hierarchies. When you have many reporting structure, it just kills the creativity.”

As part of Hauck’s recruitment tactics, his team can be seen handing out ‘We like your style’ cards to begin a conversation.

“My motto is chase talent, don’t wait,” he said.

Read the interview in the June issue of HM – out now.


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