Jo Harley asks some of the 2014 Best Places to Work in Hospitality award winners what the key people challenges of 2015 will be
For many, Christmas will already be happening, with venues full of festive cheer. But even though this is one of the busiest times of year, it's important to remember that, as a new year draws closer, it's also time to plan for the future. It goes almost without saying that whatever business or department you're in, a significant focus will be on your people, to ensure you attract, engage, develop and retain the best talent.
Offer coaching and mentoring
Businesses that want to be seen as an employer of choice in 2015 are investing time and money in development programmes that include opportunities for employees to benefit from coaching or mentoring.
Ceri Gott, HR director of restaurant group Hawksmoor, believes this is about supporting people to find their own solutions and ways of achieving things as opposed to telling people what they should do. "Everyone is different," she says. "And development programmes must be individually focused, supporting people to learn and develop daily. That's where having a culture of coaching and mentoring is so important."
Gott suggests that implementing any type of coaching or mentoring programme within an organisation must start with the culture. "People need to feel comfortable being themselves, be encouraged to think for themselves and be able to work autonomously. This has to match your culture, otherwise it just won't work."
At Hawksmoor, coaching runs through the organisation's DNA, with all managers using coaching skills to get the best out of their teams. The programme, delivered in partnership with Watershed Management School, focuses on knowing yourself to know others. As individuals progress they are given a personal budget to invest in one-to-one coaching.
"We're not trying to train people to be the same, but to achieve the same high standards across our restaurants," says Gott.
"So instead of teaching rules or facts, we focus on our principles and values while inspiring self-development. Once people are clear about the standards, we give them the information and development they need, and then trust them, giving them freedom to get on and do their job well."
Improve financial wellbeing
According to consultancy Aon Hewitt, more companies will focus on the financial wellbeing of their employees in 2015, providing them with the tools and information to make smarter financial decisions.
Sean Wheeler, area director - human resources for Dorchester Collection's three UK properties, believes this makes perfect sense. "We've placed more focus on helping our people improve their financial awareness and optimise their earnings," he says. "By doing so, we help them feel more financially secure at home and, in turn, they are more likely to stay working with us."
At the Dorchester, Coworth Park and 45 Park Lane, employees have access to a range of benefits and advice to help them understand the value of their total package.
Wheeler says: "If you show someone their total package - pension, private medical insurance, uniform - and not just basic salary it all adds up. That can make you far more attractive to a prospective employee. Then when you sit down and explain each of the benefits and how that individual can maximise them, or give them access to financial experts who can review their lifestyle and make suggestions, you see the true value of what you're offering. Employees are grateful for this."
Wheeler recommends promoting the benefits already on offer. This should be much more than just sending out a leaflet. "For example, here every new starter receives a one-to-one meeting with a pensions adviser so they can understand what a pension is, the types of investment possible and then agree together what will work for them," he explains.
Employees also have access to a mortgage clinic, debt counselling and workshops with benefit providers. All have proved popular.
"We want to help our people manage their money and so we signpost them to the tools which enable them to do that. Once we take the financial pressure off outside of work, they can provide much more focus on our guests and their roles," Wheeler adds.
Embrace HR technology
According to research from Bersin by Deloitte, only 14% of businesses use talent software. But with challenging market conditions, digitally savvy workforces and a focus on people data, technology has become a vital HR tool.
For Mike Williams, people development director at Village Urban Resorts and this year's Best Employer Catey winner, talent and communications technology acts as the spine of his people strategy.
He says: "Many organisations have reduced the size of their HR functions, setting HR professionals the challenge to become more dynamic in their approach. In our organisation we see the direct impact talent has on the financial performance of the business, therefore we have adopted technology to ensure at any time we can see who our talent are, track hotel team performance and source feedback - all at a click of a button."
For those businesses looking to implement a HR system, it's important to decide first what value it will bring to the organisation. Williams explains: "For me, I needed to create a high-impact strategy with limited resource, so a complex high-spec system would not have worked. I used a specialist piece of talent technology to create the impact I needed. By doing so, I've been able to deliver a strategy that the executive team and hotel managers can see clear returns on, fostering buy-in to the HR function and creating commitment to future investment."
Whatever you introduce, it's important to keep it simple and unbureaucratic to encourage the level of engagement required for the software to achieve the desired results.
"We adopted a phased approach with our technology, keeping it simple and easier for our people to embrace," says Williams. "First we introduced online performance reviews and engagement surveys. Next we developed the log-in page of Talent Toolbox so it became a dynamic employee communications platform. Phase three, due in 2015, is to further integrate the software into our business by developing an intranet for managers and employees, enabling them to access a range of company documents and information, always keeping them in the loop."
Clearly, it doesn't have to be difficult or complex. So what three things will you implement in 2015 to upgrade your people plan?
Jo Harley is a director at HR consultancy Purple Cubed
Be a Best Place to Work in Hospitality
With entries closing for the 2015 Best Places to Work in Hospitality awards next month, now is the time to make sure that your employee engagement is given the recognition it deserves.
The top 30 operators in our rankings will be presented with a Best Place to Work in Hospitality award - a vital differentiator when it comes to recruitment and retention. What's more, each of the top 30 has a chance of making the Best Employer Catey shortlist.
The entry process is simple and each entrant benefits from a confidential staff survey, which can be used to inform people practices and improve performance.
The deadline for completion of the employee engagement survey is 30 January 2015.