Day In The Life: Ian Handy, HR Director Millenium Hotels

Tell Us More About Your Background?

I left school at 16 and immediately started working in a hotel close to where I lived in Sunderland, which is in the north-east of England. I worked as a chef for about 10 years and then moved to London to work with a training company. This is where I got my first training qualification, which led me to moving out to to Dubai in 1997 to work for a training company. I now train HR and training managers from the Middle East, that’s how I went from being a chef to a trainer, and now a HR director.

Tell Us More About Millennium Hotels?

Millennium Copthorne Hotels is a very large and expanding company. We operate 17 hotels in the Middle East and Africa. Over the next few years we are expanding extensively into Saudi Arabia and by 2017 we will be operating 50 hotels in the MENA region.

What Made You Get Into HR?

When I moved to Abu Dhabi in the year 2000 I was with a small hotel going through a massive expansion from 300 staff up to 700/800 staff. As a training manager I got involved in HR, meeting/greeting people at the airport and taking people for breakfast. I felt that I was really good with the training side, but slowly and surely I was becoming more involved in HR.

What Current HR Trends Do You See?

I think what we see at the moment is everybody trying to do everything systematically and better. There are lots of new things that are coming into the market and there are lots of trends which are being updated. Psychometric assessment is very popular but, unfortunately, we are all still fishing from the same pool, and the same pool over the last 20 years has seen many changes.

From the subcontinent to all around the world, we are all trying to get the same employee. In the hotel industry we still have big competition with airlines and cruise ships, who have better jobs and better pay. The industry is very competitive and training needs to become more systematic with succession plans in place. Employees need to go through training quickly within our company, instead of changing companies to climb the career ladder.

What Interesting HR Projects Have You Implemented at Millennium Hotels?

I have been at Millennium Hotels for eight months. In that time we have structured the new regional office, and in the last year brought on new directors and vice presidents. What I’ve been doing is looking at what has been happening across all of our hotels in the past few years and I have worked on putting streamlined systematic policies in place and making sure that all our hotels have the same way of doing things. We have been looking back to succession planning as we expand to 50 hotels. We really need to start putting a clear career path in place for everybody and that has been quite an ambitious task, as we are setting up assessment centres for our department heads and looking at development centres for our general managers of the future.

Take Us Through A Typical Day?

Wake-up time is 6 o’clock. The day starts bright and early with a strong cup of coffee and a couple of slices of toast. I have a nine year old son, so usually by 7 o’clock we are on the road to school and I’m in the office by 7.30 reading my emails and catching up on what’s been happening overnight. I then meet with different suppliers, vice presidents, general managers, hold interviews, write training materials, coach training managers outside in the properties and go for visits during audits. Generally, I am very busy until I go home around 7 o’clock in the evening.

How Can Our Readers Find Out More About You And Millennium Hotels?

Millennium Copthorne hotels have their own website at You can read everything about the company. You can also click on careers to see all the vacancies which are currently available within all of our hotels around the world.

*This interview was originally published in our partner magazine, Training Magazine Middle East

Editor-In-Chief of Bizpreneur Middle East