HR Frontlines: DelMonte Hotel Group's Kate Kuttruff

(What does day-to-day life look like for the professionals in our industry? HOTEL MANAGEMENT met with the DelMonte Group's VP of HR to find out.)

Kate Kuttruff’s day begins much as it ends—checking email, looking for potential emergencies and responding to questions and concerns. The VP of human resources at DelMonte Hotel Group said she imagines her mornings look similar to those of many other professionals, often wrought with worries over what transpired the night before and concerned with the news and objectives of the day to come.

“I would view my day to be half strategic, half tactical,” she said. “One half of my day is spent reviewing what needs to be done and what strategies we need to implement, and the rest is spent executing. We have a lot of projects going on at a given time, and implementation is a big part of that.”

Kuttruff’s schedule is largely fluid, broken up by myriad phone calls, something that she considers a positive and an opportunity to communicate with her team. Employees in the payroll and benefits departments report to her, as does a human resources generalist, so periodic calls will filter their way to Kuttruff on a variety of subjects from legalities and regulations to systems training and organizational development.

“There is always a project in process that we are working on, typically that involves culture or process improvement, such as a new system implementation or rolling out a new or enhanced benefits program,” Kuttruff said. “We are continually evaluating how we can improve not only our efficiency, but also how we can stay ahead as a preferred employer and company.”

Kate Kuttruff, VP of human resources
for the DelMonte Hotel Group

Kuttruff entered the hospitality industry in 1990 when she took a position managing the benefits at DelMonte. At the time, the company only operated two hotels and she was studying accounting. When she first joined the company, Kuttruff also was tasked with performing additional duties beyond the scope of a typical human resources position, duties she continues to perform today.

As the years progressed and DelMonte grew from two properties to 17 with more than 1,500 guestrooms, Kuttruff was appointed VP of human resources.

“There aren’t many HR directors that oversee payroll, but I still do,” Kuttruff said. “I also act as legal counsel before retaining an attorney for employment or benefit regulations.”

Describing herself as an action-oriented person who is motivated by solving problems, she is most proud of her development of DelMonte’s human resources department when it was in its infancy. When she began it was a department of one, while now it is staffed by four employees, and Kuttruff is coming up on her 27th anniversary at the company in April.

“We have longevity in our team; many of them have been here for over 20 years,” she said.

Kuttruff also helps oversee training and risk management as well. In her own words, the ideal human resources director needs to maintain a level head and have the personality of a moderator. Other necessary qualities include a firm but friendly demeanor, personal competency (and the competency of those you surround yourself with) and he or she must possess a vision and foresight that is aligned with the business. Lastly, Kuttruff said an HR representative must be accessible to all employees.

“That’s why I answer my phone,” she said.

Much of DelMonte's hotel portfolio can be found in New York and Pennsylvania, including the Rochester Marriott Airport hotel in Rochester, N.Y.

One of the main purposes of the human resources department is to seek out new employees for every facet of the business, and, Kuttruff said, from a hiring standpoint, the same attributes that made an applicant stand out 20 years ago continue to impress today.

“I don’t think that person has changed, in my view,” she said. “The most important characteristics are professionalism and communications. If they ask good questions, speak up and engage with me and the customer with positivity and energy, they are a good fit.”

When asked what excites her most about this year, Kuttruff said she feels energized by the current political climate and what the future holds for human resources and the business workplace in general. Most of all, Kuttruff is interested in the new ways she can improve company culture.

“Research, setting goals, creating plans and executing them are part of our everyday lives in human resources, but the rewarding side of HR is simply helping others and sharing knowledge with the next generation,” she said. “The changing landscape of business from a HR administrative and employee relations perspective keeps us on our toes, but there isn’t too much that surprises us after nearly 27 years!”