Jurgen Ahlers, HCI Principal
Jurgen has a richly varied background that has groomed him to oversee any and all aspects of an organization’s culture enhancement program. He was born and raised in Hamburg, Germany. With degrees from Syracuse University (International Relations) and Princeton Theological Seminary (with concentration on Theology and Adult Development), he has extensive experience in Human Resource Development, Organizational Design, as well as Executive Development both in the U.S. and abroad.
After graduation from Princeton, Jurgen accepted a position as “Dozent” in his native Hamburg, teaching “The Phenomenology of Religion,” and “The Great Religions of the World” at the University of Hamburg, as well as at several “Gymnasien” (upper 12th and 13th pre-university level students). While in Hamburg, he also served as co-director of a Lutheran conference center on the banks of the Elbe River. Later, back in the States, he also served as Coordinator of Campus Ministries and adjunct professor at Florida State University for several years.
In the mid 1970’s, Jurgen headed up Adult Educational Strategies, serving on the General Executive Board of the Presbyterian denomination (PCUS). During this time he focused a considerable amount of time on aging-related issues. In this capacity, he authored the “working definition” of “spiritual wellbeing of elders,” which was universally adopted by the major religious organizations in the U.S.A., i.e., Jewish, Christian (Roman Catholic, Protestant, Eastern Orthodox) and Islamic. Interestingly, this definition was eventually also adopted by the National Council on Aging (NCOA). As a consequence, despite his relative young age, Jurgen was asked to chair the 1970’s (“Intra-decade”) White House Conference on Aging, held in 1976, under the theme: “Fostering Spiritual Wellness Among the Aging.”
Recently, Jurgen has “re-entered” the immensely expanded field of elder-care, focusing on the creation of genuinely hospitable environments where elder growth opportunity and “deepening elderhood” can flourish.
In the mid 1980s, Jurgen accepted an internal consultancy with the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, serving as “advisor to executives.” In that capacity, Jurgen facilitated the development of the Ritz-Carlton Credo, and the company’s Gold Standards (with most of the vital input coming from the company’s executive leadership). The Credo and Gold Standards have stood the test of time, guiding the now famous service philosophy and service style throughout all Ritz-Carlton Hotels worldwide.
After his initial year, serving as “advisor to executives,” Jurgen was offered the position to become the company’s founding Director of Professional Development. In this capacity, he researched and implemented the following:
- A comprehensive 16 subject Management Certification Curriculum for all Ritz-Carlton managers, which resulted in superior management skills and a more cohesive, consistent service culture.
- A cadre of Master Trainers who taught the curriculum throughout the company.
- A company-wide (behavioral) Interview/Selection Process, whereby each prospective employee (at every level) was carefully screened and professionally interviewed, utilizing customized interview guides (for 134 positions, covering urban and resort properties) and a team-evaluation format. As a result of this unique, comprehensive interviewing approach, the company, with 12 properties at the time, witnessed a dramatic reduction in employee turnover, rewarding the company with a saving of $3.6mm in the first year.
- Advocated for, and in most cases, succeeded, in the placement of a Training Manager in every Ritz-Carlton property.
- A unique and easy-to-administer Performance Review/Goal-Setting System (“Quality Reviews”) whereby all employees (line and management) were reviewed at least twice annually. It was received enthusiastically.
- Facilitated Senior Executive Strategy Retreats (for each hotel), which generated a refreshed spirit among each team, establishing clear priorities and practical ways of reaching them.
- An expanded (from .5 to 2.5 day) New Employee Orientation Program for all Ritz-Carlton hotels. Throughout, and after, these stimulating and informative orientation sessions, our new employees generally experienced a strengthened sense of self-esteem and a more competent grasp and appreciation for the Ritz-Carlton service culture and the company’s leadership.
- An annual Employee Satisfaction Survey, administered at each Ritz-Carlton property.
- Conducted continuous research and development for professional growth opportunities for all Ritz-Carlton ‘Ladies and Gentlemen.”
Finally, it needs to be said, that none of these initiatives would have succeeded if it were not for the solid support and affirmation of the company’s senior executives, particularly, Horst Schulze, Ritz Carlton's president.
In 1990 Jurgen founded his consulting firm: Hospitality Consult International.