Case study: HR to support an ambitious hospitality management growth plan

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A unified culture and consistent people processes have been key to supporting a newly formed hospitality management brand

The company

Valor Hospitality Europe was formed in 2014 as an extension of US based Valor Hospitality Partners, who operate properties on the East Coast of the US. In the UK Valor operates 19 hotels comprising of five Holiday Inns, four Crowne Plazas, three Double Trees by Hilton, three Hilton Garden Inns, one Best Western Plus, one Hotel Indigo and two AC Hotels by Marriott.

Number of employees: 1,953

Number in HR: 20

Case study focus: Leadership development and effective cross-hotel communications to build strong engagement, retention and sense of culture across different brands

The challenge

Newly formed hospitality management company Valor Europe’s expansion plans are ambitious by anyone’s standards. Its five year plan is to acquire 50 hotels. Two years into this, and things are going well, with two AC Marriots recently opened by Valor, and key Birmingham Mailbox and Salford Quay acquisitions made last year. “Some of the hotels are moving to Crowne Plaza,” adds HR director Moira Laird. “They’re going from a Holiday Inn to a four star luxury property.”

The challenge for Laird was formulating a people strategy that would support this. “I had to produce a strategy that was fit for purpose and went across multiple brands and across multiple levels of people within the business,” she says.

The method

Crucial, says Laird, is that teams across different brands have a strong sense of the “Valor way”, and that people processes are aligned. This allows sharing of talent across brands, she says, aiding both talent management and retention. “We have high retention rates in general, but now general managers in a hotel have the chance to continue their career development by working in larger properties in a different brand, and using all their knowledge of our culture,” she says.

“Our current focus is developing our future leaders, the general managers, so they understand the Valor way of doing things and they’re trained to our standards, and they understand how our business culture works and are very much ready for the opportunity.

“On a short-term basis we’ve given people secondments in different roles and specialisms to support the acquisition. People have been trusted to go off and work in different project teams.”

The company also makes sure to major on the enticing opportunity working across different brands represents at recruitment stage. Candidates engage with the same platform used for internal communications: its Talent Toolbox, supplied by Purple Cube.

This consists of a homepage where around six pieces of company news are published each day, short films for instance celebrating Valor’s first birthday last year or featuring Valor’s MD Brian McCarthy, and job opportunities.

In this way the platform is crucial to instilling a distinctive Valor ethos, and pride in this. It also supports Valor’s talent strategy. It’s here formal review outcomes and targets are logged and monitored, and colleagues arrange ‘coffee chats,’ a new informal review option. “Now every quarter you have a coffee chat with your manager or in one quarter each year you have a more formal performance review,” says Laird, adding that the coffee chat “can consist of anything. It can be a review of where you’re at with goals and objectives, it can be a general chat, it can be a sharing of ideas…”

Valor is keen to ensure fun is very much at the heart of its culture. So the Talent Toolbox platform is also a great place for posting videos of a Best Places to Work in Hospitality award travelling from hotel to hotel for instance. “Everyone who was part of making this a great place to work can touch it, see it, feel it,” says Laird. “We’ve got pictures of the award in bed, pictures of it balancing on balls in the gym. It’s just about having bit of fun. It’s not about winning an award and putting it on the shelf to collect dust.”

The result

Winning this accolade was strong confirmation of the hotel being very much on the right track, says Laird, pointing out that the award is based on anonymous staff surveys.

The HR team’s relatively newly formed people strategies are gaining good traction, she reports. “I had 90% of our employees going through an employment review last year. Last year 863 coffee chats were undertaken; this year we already had 2,000 by half way through the year.

“The hits on our Talent Toolbox have improved as well,” she adds. “We started off with 11,000 when we were just an intranet and now we’re at 318,000.”

With Valor Europe moving from the bottom to the top of Intercontinental Hotel’s league table, Laird is confident its people strategies are lending strong support to wider business objectives. “There is an expected level of churn in our sector and we know that,” she says. “But we never know when someone might come back in future [if their experience was good].

“It’s an ever changing business,” she adds. “There’s an energy to the business now. There’s a drive and a very clear goal.”

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