Holiday Inn Select Hotel & Suites - Kanata
Kristine Dempster, general manager of the Holiday Inn Select Hotel & Suites in Kanata, says she doesn’t always receive handwritten letters of appreciation praising staff. But one really took the cake. It expressed gratitude for one front-desk worker who, although terribly busy, took the time to give the letter-writer directions. The kicker: it seems that the author wasn’t even a guest. More likely, she says, he was driving around, lost, saw the hotel sign, and dropped in to ask for help.
That the employee took the time to provide top-notch services to someone not even paying for them exemplifies the staff ’s overall mentality, Ms. Dempster says. “Something as simple as giving his attention – it doesn’t sound like much, but it makes all the difference.”
And that the general manager notices when staff members go above and beyond is reflected in employee comments in this year’s Employees’ Choice Awards survey responses. Comments such as, “I feel good in my job because they recognize my progress,” “The management have created a pleasant working environment,” and “The general manager has an open-door policy and really listens to what I’m saying” pepper the results.
Certainly these sorts of accolades don’t come without plenty of HR groundwork.
“The first step is to get the base right,” Ms. Dempster says. “To do that, you have to ensure that the benefits and compensation we offer need to be competitive, so employees feel valued.”
Next, it’s a matter of giving employees the tools they need to succeed. “It’s very important that we ensure they have an opportunity to be successful – that they have very solid training programs, and the opportunity to provide feedback in both a structured and unstructured environment.”
The hotel sends out a report from its Real World Host Program, which sees staff members stake out a position near the main door to meet guests arriving for special functions or during busy times. The report keeps staff informed about what’s happening out front, ensuring all aspects of the hotel operate in harmony. “It really builds a culture of communication,” says James King, director of sales.
The hotel also engages employees through incentive programs designed to increase guest enrolment in the corporate loyalty program, and increase restaurant sales. Social activities play a role as well. “We just came from a 10th anniversary-week planning session, where we want to recognize not only the guests but certainly the staff,” Ms. Dempster says.
Competitive salaries, training programs, and a culture of empowerment – employees are encouraged to make their own decisions to satisfy guests, rather than wait for the GM’s approval – help the Inn retain staff members. The kitchen workers, for instance, have formed a formidable team.
“We’ve created an environment in culinary training and coaching,” Ms. Dempster says. “Individuals truly inspired to explore that profession really need to be entrenched in an environment where they can receive that counselling about how they can improve themselves over time, to be more competitive and seize other opportunities in the future.”
Business success seems to be closely connected with the employees for this establishment. “There might not be much difference from hotel to hotel in terms of the objectives,” Ms. Dempster adds. “The difference is in how that’s achieved. We achieve that through developing an employee culture that engages those employees.”