Assistant director of people and culture, the Dorchester and 45 Park Lane, London
Nominator Emma Jayne, area director for people and culture, the Dorchester Collection
In a mere 10 years, Rachel Banks has risen from HR administrator at the Landmark London to her current role, in which she oversees a people and culture team that is responsible for 750 employees across the five-red-AA-star Dorchester and 45 Park Lane hotels.
It was a big move at the age of 26, but as one of the interviewers commented, talking to Banks was like "looking at the future". That turned out to be an accurate summary of her talent for always anticipating challenges and opportunities.
This agility kept her in good stead over the past year. Among other initiatives, she developed a 10-week leadership programme to guide fellow assistant division heads through the new issues thrown up by the pandemic, such as the importance of mental health, agile thinking, creativity and developing a coaching leadership style.
Prior to the pandemic, she was already making positive changes, having introduced a quarterly scheme of Team Talent Check Ups as a boost to the annual employee review process. As a result, staff turnover year-on-year has dropped by 20%.
Further proof of her employee engagement skills can be found in her own team, where last year she raised the "highly engaged" score from 93% to 97%.
Since she stepped into the role, the company has won several accolades, with both hotels being ranked in The Caterer's Best Places to Work in Hospitality in 2021.
What is the most positive people change you see for your sector post-restrictions?
"The value of kindness and the care demonstrated to employees. Employers are now taking more of a "whole person" approach to their employees and are more dedicated to understanding the individual rather than the role they undertake in the organisation."
Photography: Hospitality Media/Adrian Franklin