2019 winner: Anita Bower, Iconic Luxury Hotels
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Anita Bower is the HR director for Iconic Luxury Hotels, a collection of properties including the five-red-AA-star hotels Chewton Glen in New Milton, Hampshire and Cliveden House in Taplow, Berkshire; five-AA-star 11 Cadogan Gardens in London's Chelsea; and the four-AA-star Lygon Arms in Broadway, Worcestershire.
With more than 320 bedrooms in the Iconic portfolio and in excess of 800 staff (full- and part-time), Bower has a large and varied area of responsibility, including recruitment, retention, career development and overall responsibility for HR and payroll.
Bower is a passionate advocate of career development and recognises that although recruitment is vital, retention is key to the success of the business. She has been instrumental in a policy of recruiting staff not just on skills alone, but on the strength of their personality, believing that if you have the right personality you can be trained in the skills necessary to meet the requirements of the role.
To train new recruits as well as existing staff, she has introduced a ‘talent development plan' and appointed a talent development manager, who works across all hotels to improve standards of training and knowledge. This individual also focuses on career development and mentoring, with the role including the production of training films and modules.
Bower has been working to ensure that all staff benefits are in line across all properties, so each team feels equally supported and valued.
The introduction of greater flexibility in working hours has been very well received, as has a calendar of activities, including at least one staff team event per month, plus larger seasonal social events.
There is a vast amount that Bower has done that is over and above her job description, but colleagues have mentioned that it is her ‘open door' approach that they truly appreciate, and the fact that she is available 24 hours a day if they need her help.
She is the chairperson for the UK and Ireland Relais & Châteaux HR family and has worked with colleagues to create new employment values and recruitment policies across the organisation. Meanwhile, she has worked tirelessly with local schools, colleges and organisations at every opportunity to raise the profile of hospitality and ensure that a career in the industry is a career of choice.
If nothing else, the length of service records at the Iconic family are the proof of the pudding – there are team members with 50, 30, 25 and a large number with well over 10 years' service, all of whom are celebrated with an annual ‘gold watch lunch'.
WHAT THE JUDGES SAID
"Anita is a seasoned professional who is dedicated to her role and her people."
Jane Sunley, founder, Purple Cubed
"A proven track record of operating challenging provincial properties with high guest expectations to an outstanding level. Blending pastoral care and strategic support, Anita demonstrated a strong, well-balanced and holistic nomination."
David Morison, assistant director of HR, Jumeirah
- Anita Bower Iconic Luxury Hotels
- Lucy McElroy The Marylebone, London
- Marjolein Verhoeven Bankside hotel, London
- 2018 Lindsay Southward, Malmaison & Hotel du Vin Group
- 2017 David Morison, Jumeriah Carlton Tower and Jumeirah Lowndes hotels, London
- 2016 Tristan Knight, Rosewood London
- 2015 Aideen Whelehan, Lancaster London
- 2014 Mike Williams, De Vere Hotels & Village Urban Resorts
- 2013 Julia Murrell, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
- 2012 Sarah Banner, the Cavendish London
- 2011 Ros Young, ABode Hotels
- 2010 Della Fanning, the Marylebone, London
- 2009 Liz McGivern, Red Carnation Hotels
- 2008 Sean Wheeler, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin
- 2007 Helen Kalyan, Novotel London Wes
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