Viewpoint: Put your staff first and they will repay you

16 March 2023
Viewpoint: Put your staff first and they will repay you

Listening and considering everyone's point of view is so important if you want to grow and progress together as a company, says Sarah Brewster

For UK hoteliers, the current financial climate poses an incredibly ambiguous prospect in terms of maximising revenue and identifying sustainable growth solutions. However, if the sector is to thrive long-term, then it needs to go full circle and continue a systematic focus on its people – those charged with carrying out the visions and wishes of hotel owners and general managers.

Naturally, this creates a lot of uncertainty for hoteliers as many would assume the best way to resolve this issue would be through investment – but not quite how you'd think. Of course, it's essential that workers are paid for what their services warrant, though, from my experience, if you want to protect your staff and keep them motivated, money is only one part of the equation.

According to a recent Glassdoor survey, more than half of today's workers claimed workplace culture was more important to them than salary. But why is this?

Well, over the past 15 to 20 years, we've seen the restoration of credibility throughout the hospitality industry, which has been achieved via the investment and development of its people. Indeed, we all crave that level of connectivity that keeps us invested and hungry to develop alongside our peers. I've experienced first-hand that feeling of belonging, needing to feel part of something bigger and wanting to feel something more than ‘it's just a job'. This is the ‘gold standard' for any successful business model and a vital cog in the wheel of goals we collectively want to achieve.

It's that sense of ensuring your staff are at the forefront of your priority of needs and showing them value to build up their self-esteem and self-confidence, which they'll return with commitment and loyalty. People need to feel good about themselves, which requires recognition and an acknowledgement of their services.

Recently at Stonehouse Court, we ran some sustainability workshops across the hotel and pulled together people from different departments to help collate ideas. Unsurprisingly, many were a little hesitant and sceptical at first to get involved, but once we broke the ice and made sure everyone felt comfortable, then an outpouring of ideas formulated and multiple departments came to the fore, which was incredible to see. I think it's that collective brain power that makes them feel valued and showcases that they are a core component of the business and the success that comes with that.

It's very much a bottom-up strategy in that each and every member of staff is critical to the company and how it moves forward, with listening and appreciating each individual's ideas always being a priority.

Equally, we need to ensure people feel part of that key decision-making process, particularly during times of such financial turmoil. As we come to that final stage of self-fulfilment and self-actualisation, people begin to feel that they are achieving something within the business and wider community, which can make a massive difference.

Work-life balance, too, has become an increasingly important priority for the business, especially since Covid. Following such a tumultuous period, people have realised the importance of balancing work, life and rest. People work far better knowing their job isn't the be-all and end-all of life.

From a position of leadership, it's important to have humility in your approach to everything and implement a strategy that understands that work-life balance is of the highest priority. If we take the NHS, for example, staff are so stressed, overworked and undervalued that many are in a desperate bid to leave the sector. This simply cannot be allowed to happen within hospitality and we must continually re-evaluate and evolve our business practices.

That's why it's important when in a position of influence to ask yourself ‘just how valuable are your staff?' For me, they are my most valuable asset from a business point of view, so ensuring I value them and offer as much support as possible is unequivocal.

As such, we are working on staff activities to build on that sense of togetherness, such as breaktime walks, team runs, charity events and a host of other team incentives. The importance of mixing hobbies within the workplace should never go under the radar. We love to hear what our staff get up to and like to enjoy – it helps build that connection that facilitates an all-important element of trust.

During Covid, we managed to navigate our way through the pandemic without losing a single member of our staff, as despite the countless uncertainties during that period, my faith in my staff was unwavering. During furlough we continued to pay all staff pensions and tried to keep a sense of community through the general manager's Whatsapp group, giving support and camaraderie during such a difficult time. We returned to a strong position having retained a team of excellent, well-trained staff. It all comes down to the hotel's values and our passion for hospitality. Our sustainability focus has become more and more important over the last few years and making sure we all still have our jobs in the next five years is crucial. Finding a balance is hard, as you've always got to consider the financial needs of both your team and your customers.

Ultimately, it's imperative that we bind together, particularly during such a testing time for the sector as a whole, and if there's one thing I've learned throughout my position at Stonehouse Court, it's that staff are the essence of the business and the success of any business hinges on them – one cannot thrive without the other.

Sarah Brewster is a director at Stonehouse Court, Stroud

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