People development manager, Dakota Manchester
Nominator Lily Shepherd, group marketing manager, Dakota Hotels
Katie Forrest's work ethic and positive attitude has been integral to the success of three Dakota hotel openings across the country.
She joined Dakota Edinburgh on a university placement with the events team, which led to a job front of house. Challenges presented by hotel openings in Glasgow and Leeds saw her whip up the ladder, through reception manager and rooms division executive.
Most recently, she caught the attention of the board of directors, who identified her as having the best qualities to ensure the smooth opening of Dakota Manchester in 2019. Here, she has managed the recruitment and retention of 120 employees, and the implementation of a learning and development strategy.
She is active in providing mental health support for staff, and with her leadership, Dakota Manchester now has as many mental health first-aiders as physical first-aiders. She is also always striving to develop her own skills, including gaining a Level 3 Award in Education and Training (RQF) and beginning a CIPD Level 7 qualification.
Outside of her day-to-day responsibilities, Forrest champions the hospitality industry as a guest lecturer for Tameside College and Manchester Metropolitan University, where she also acts as a student mentor. And as branch secretary for the north-west region of Institute of Hospitality, she works to ensure that hospitality is seen as a career of value.
What is the most positive people change you see for your sector post-restrictions?
"Lockdown has encouraged people to talk. Mental health and wellness is at the forefront of the business unlike ever before. Our people are supporting one another and the shared experience of the pandemic has encouraged empathy and understanding."
Photography: Hospitality Media/Adrian Franklin