Uday Nayak

A Culinary Maestro Redefining HR in the Hospitality Realm

Uday Nayak

HR Director,

Le Meridien

Change is evident, and for Uday Nayak, it’s not just a concept but a catalyst for personal and professional evolution. Transitioning from bustling kitchens to the intricate field of HR wasn’t just a career shift for Uday; it was a profound realisation of his passion for unlocking individuals’ potential. Guided by Marriott International’s ‘Putting People First’ ethos, Uday seamlessly blends culinary expertise with HR management, where culinary arts influence HR strategies. As the HR Director at Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa, Uday brings over 15 years of invaluable experience, adeptly orchestrating pre- and postopening HR functions. Beyond recruitment and talent management, he fosters a culture of excellence, drawing on his culinary background’s resilience and adaptability. Recognised with the prestigious Marriott APEC Pre-Opening HR Leadership Award in 2022, Uday is a catalyst for cultural transformation. Certified as SHRM-CP and John Maxwell Leadership Certified Team Member, he drives organisational success. Also serving as the Culture Representative for the Marriott Business Council Maldives, Uday upholds brand standards. Uday’s passion for positive culture and topnotch training benefits associates, guests, and the wider community. His visionary leadership leaves an indelible mark, inspiring others to excel. TradeFlock interviewed Uday to delve into his captivating professional journey.

What key lessons from your time as HR Director at JW Marriott Maldives and Sheraton Dushanbe have shaped your HR leadership approach?

Reflecting on my HR leadership roles at JW Marriott Maldives and Sheraton Dushanbe, I’ve gleaned invaluable insights. The timeless wisdom of Confucius, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” resonates deeply. At Sheraton Dushanbe, I learned to bridge cultural divides, nurturing authentic connections among associates. Meanwhile, JW Marriott Maldives instilled in me patience and unwavering focus, particularly amid unexpected delays. These experiences underscored the importance of genuine connections, patience, and continuous growth, echoing the profound teachings of Confucius.

What challenges did you face in pre-opening and post-opening HR functions, and how did you address them effectively?

Navigating pre-opening and post-opening HR functions in the Maldives presents unique challenges demanding meticulous planning and adaptability. Recruiting and training over 200 associates within a tight three-month window for the Westin Maldives required swift action. Transparent communication proved vital during the JW Marriott Maldives’ opening, addressing unforeseen delays. Logistics posed another challenge, needing meticulous planning. Managing recruitment processes, documentation, and visas demanded precision. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, maintaining operations at JW Marriott Maldives required a delicate balance, supported by transparent communication and Marriott International’s assistance.

How do you align Le Meridien's HR strategies with Marriott International's goals and values?

My strengths as HR Director lie in emotional balance, empathy, and a commitment to continuous learning. I prioritise building trust with each associate to ignite their potential. Aligning Le Meridien’s HR strategies with Marriott International’s values involves fostering empowered leadership, providing competitive benefits, and creating opportunities for talent growth. As the guardian of our culture, I lead by example, embodying Marriott’s values daily to inspire our team.

What are your HR leadership aspirations and contributions to the future of hospitality?

With almost three decades in hospitality, including 18 years at Marriott International, my HR leadership aspirations are driven by continuous learning and personal growth. Aligned with Marriott’s values, I aim to mentor emerging professionals, fostering their success within the company. I envision contributing to the industry’s evolution by nurturing a culture of excellence, innovation, and inclusivity, ensuring Marriott International’s continued leadership in hospitality innovation.

What achievements do you cherish the most during your time as HR Director at Le Meridien Maldives?

During my tenure as HR Director at Le Meridien Maldives, overseeing the successful openings of three Marriott International properties—The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort, JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa , and Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa —was particularly rewarding. Achieving the highest percentage of female associates (25% of the total workforce) among all Marriott Hotels in the Maldives and obtaining a 94% score in the 2023 Associates Engagement Survey showcased our team’s dedication. Recruiting associates from over 20 nationalities emphasised our commitment to diversity and guest satisfaction, empowering individuals within our organisation.

What strengths do you utilise as Director of HR?

I would say my core strength is my emotional balance and empathy. These strengths have helped me a lot in my current role. I believe each and every associate that works for us is unique, and each one has his or her own story. My role then becomes: how do I navigate through the mind of this associate by building trust to ensure that I light the fire in them to make them believe that they can excel and realise their full potential? I also try to consistently look for learning opportunities and how I can put them to work as soon as I learn them.

Which aspects of your HR leadership approach do you believe led to winning the Marriott APEC Pre-Opening HR Leadership Award?

Thank you for acknowledging the Marriott APEC Pre-Opening HR Leadership Award. I attribute this recognition to my unwavering positive mindset, can-do attitude, solutionoriented approach, and genuine care for my team. Overseeing the opening of three prestigious resorts for Marriott International in the Maldives—The Westin Maldives Mirandhoo Resort, The JW Marriott Maldives Resort & Spa, and Le Meridien Maldives Resort & Spa—has been both a personal and professional milestone. Witnessing these properties flourish and become globally acclaimed establishments fills me with immense pride and reinforces the effectiveness of my HR leadership approach.