Highlights From the Hibernation to Re-emergence Webinar in Partnership with HR in Hospitality

Hear how leading operators are preparing their workforce for the ‘new normal’

As we move toward the hospitality sector reopening date of 4th July, Fourth held a panel webinar with Fourth customers Bankside Hotel, The Standard Hotel and Cheval Collection to explore the impact these unprecedented times are having on their workforce and how they are pivoting the way they operate as a result. We covered their use of technology to safely, effectively and efficiently operate in the current climate, and delved into their staff engagement strategies as they move towards this new era of operating.

Missed the webinar and want to hear how these hospitality operators are diversifying? You can watch the webinar here, but here’s a summary for ease.

Cheval Collection, Mari Warby, Engagement & Talent Manager

Cheval Collection’s serviced apartments have remained open throughout the pandemic as the apartments serve as permanent homes for many of their customers. To be able to continue to serve these customers, safety has been the key priority. Here are some of the things they have done to adjust in these extraordinary times:

  • Working patterns: Brought in working shifts, with 7 days on and 7 days off. Their team members have been staying in the apartments, have had a paid taxi the first and last day of the shift to get them safely between home and work, and in some cases have had their families moving into the apartment with them. Being able to stay close to their loved ones has really helped morale and their mental wellbeing.
  • Training: This has been a key focus as Cheval have reimagined the guest and employee journey to ensure everybodys’ safety. They continue to provide refresher training to ensure their teams feel confident communicating with guests, reassuring them by sharing details of the safety measures that are in place and managing expectations at every stage of their journey.
  • Cleaning: They have invested additional budget and time into cleaning procedures and have removed things that are hard to clean from the apartments, such as books, directories, laundry bags and padded hangers. Cheval have revised the welcome packs and have included hygiene hampers containing masks, gloves, tissues and sanitiser gel and wipes.
  • Team engagement: Communications with team members that used to take place face-to-face have been replaced with virtual meetings via Zoom calls and information sharing is taking place on Cheval’s internal intranet, which has seen an increase in usage and engagement. Communications include a weekly video message from their CEO George who gives an honest update on Cheval and the industry. To boost team morale they have hosted bingo evenings and virtual drinks.
  • Wellbeing: Ensuring the wellbeing of team members has always been a key priority for Cheval, but now more so than ever. They have teamed up with ‘Mental Health First Aid UK’ who are looking at their absence and labour turnover data, are holding workshops and have launched an anonymous survey, all to inform their ‘Start Well’ programme which will give tangible ideas to focus on team wellbeing on an ongoing basis.

Bankside Hotel, Marjolein Verhoven, Director of People & Development

Like the majority of the sector Bankside Hotel has been closed throughout the lockdown, and they are yet to have confirmation from their owners as to when they will reopen. With no interaction face to face since March, ongoing communications have been key to keeping everyone connected.

  • Employee Communications and Engagement: To keep their team engaged Bankside have introduced a weekly activity schedule and newsletter for all staff, including those on furlough, which runs Monday to Sunday. Features include ‘Monday’s Masterclass’ where a different ‘Banksider’ (colleague) presents a skill or interest, including things such as cooking, cocktail making, bread making and painting. There’s also ‘Family Fun Friday’, which has included a challenge to create a piece of artwork from things the team had to hand at home.The highlight of the week has been Sunday, which has adapted each week, encouraging people to discuss their guilty food pleasure or post a picture, such as a view from their window or favourite place. The approach has brought the whole team closer together, and in using Fourth’s Engage Platform to deliver this, Bankside have seen a rise in engagement on the platform during lockdown, which is now at 97%, up from 40% pre-Covid. 
  • Preparing for reopening: Whilst Bankside are yet to have a confirmed reopening date, they will involve their team members in their return to work plans in order to keep them actively engaged in the process and to ensure there are a breadth of creative solutions. Human interaction has always been key to the Bankside offering, but in the new climate they will be considering how existing technology, such as mobile check in apps and in room dining and room service requests via an iPad can be used to limit interaction between guests and staff to ensure everybodys’ safety. Like Cheval, they will also review the reusable items placed in the rooms, removing some items or providing them at reception on request to ensure everything is sanitised between use.
  • Ensuring Team and Guest Safety. When Bankside begins to welcome members of the team back, they will be using Fourth’s Health Screening App to ensure people are healthy and fit to come to work ahead of their scheduled shift. Other measures they will put in place include temperature scanning of team members and enhanced sanitisation procedures.
  • Wellbeing: As team members have been furloughed for many months Bankside is very aware that everybody will have experienced the lockdown in different ways. Whilst some have enjoyed time with family, others will have struggled and some may be afraid to come back to work. The leadership team is mindful of this, and continues to reflect on ways they can ensure their team feels happy and safe when they come back to work. This will be fundamental to shaping their strategy of bringing team members back and reopening the hotel. 

Standard Hotel, Steve Williams, HR Director

The Standard Hotel opened its doors for the first time last year, and has been closed since the start of lockdown. Steve reflects that whilst unfortunate that they had to close the hotel within the year, the original opening plans and critical pathways have been fundamental to their plans to effectively reopen post lockdown.

  • Reopening plans: The Standard have opted for a phased reopening of the different F&B outlets and elements of the hotel, which will start with the reopening of their bar ’The Double Standard’ from 11th July, and the rest of the hotel on 7th August. They have opted to wait a week after the wider sector reopening in order to reflect on and learn from what other companies have experienced. Benefiting from outdoor space with a beer garden and terrace, The Standard plan to utilise this existing space and expand some into pedestrian areas adjacent to the hotel. The culture team are focusing on quirky points of difference to attract people to the hotel away from the squares around Kings Cross, including installations and projections to make it feel like a summer destination and champagne vending machines. They also have contingency plans if there is adverse weather, where they will pivot and use the various internal spaces for extra seating. They will be considering queue management and measures to manage the flow of guests into the hotel and between the bar spaces.
  • Adapting Offering: The Standard are reviewing their menu offering to consider the cost and labour of producing various items, and are using this information to simplify the menu and limit the number of team members required on site in the kitchens at any given time. They are also adapting to focus on table service to ensure guests are not going to the bar to order.
  • Training: The amount of training required to ensure team members can serve in the various areas of the hotel has been limited as the original opening team was already cross-trained through the different areas of the hotel. Teams have been trained via their digital platform throughout Furlough to ensure everyone is ready to come back to work, including compliance and health and safety training, with a re-onboarding program planned. 
  • Forecasting: Following the opening of The Standard last year, productivity was reviewed, looking at peak times and flows, and they modelled staffing according to these business levels. Whilst there is so much uncertainty, the team are drawing on these learnings to create both best and worst case revenue scenarios and staffing models. Whilst everybody is hopeful there is not a second wave or spike in infections, this possibility is being considered in future models. The key will be to be fast and agile, respond to trends in the data and have operational plans ready to be actioned as required. This will result in shorter turnarounds when it comes to scheduling, which could mean employees are being scheduled during the week they would be required to work.

Although there has been so much uncertainty, one thing that is clear is that everyone in the sector has pulled together, collaborated and shared ideas to navigate these challenging times. We hope these examples of creativity and imaginative solutions provide some further ideas for consideration. We look forward to our sector reopening and share our best wishes for your safe and successful return to business.

To watch the full webinar to hear all the insights directly from our panelists, click the button below.

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