On a glorious summer’s day, under the magnificent shadow of St Paul’s, Stationers’ Hall provided the idyllic location for Arena’s new-look Summer Event. Attendees gathered eagerly for an early start ready for a day of education, engagement and inspiration. In a move away from the traditional Arena event, the programme was designed to address the topical and important issue of ‘Securing Success Through People’, through a series of thought-provoking speakers and panel debate. The specially-selected industry leaders took the audience of hospitality professionals through different perspectives and approaches designed to maximise talent recruitment, development and engagement. Whilst industry insight sessions updated them on market confidence and the impact of the soft drinks levy.
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On a glorious summer’s day, under the magnificent shadow of St Paul’s, Stationers’ Hall provided the idyllic location for Arena’s new-look Summer Event.
Attendees gathered eagerly for an early start ready for a day of education, engagement and inspiration. In a move away from the traditional Arena event, the programme was designed to address the topical and important issue of ‘Securing Success Through People’, through a series of thought-provoking speakers and panel debate.
The specially-selected industry leaders took the audience of hospitality professionals through different perspectives and approaches designed to maximise talent recruitment, development and engagement. Whilst industry insight sessions updated them on market confidence and the impact of the soft drinks levy.
Attendees had the opportunity to discuss the ideas put to them with colleagues during the coffee break and drinks reception in the beautiful courtyard and over a delicious barbecue lunch, courtesy of the hospitality of CH&CO, the Hall’s resident caterer.
“Products in the crowded market really need to shine to stand out.”
These were the words of advice offered by Fiona Speakman, CGA’s Client Director, as she gave an insight into ‘Business confidence in the out-of-home market’.
She described a market that is ‘flat but stable’, with people still going out and growth still occurring from operators with less than 100 sites. This is creating more choice for consumers in an already busy market, which is a cause of concern for 54% of operators.
Business leaders are also concerned by the headwind of costs, as 50% of consumers will frequent the market less if costs get too high.
But, amongst the challenges, there are always opportunities. 39% of millennials are parents and there’s a gap to be filled that marries great food and drink with child-friendly concepts. Greater emphasis is also being placed on the quality of drinks and, not surprisingly, technology and how consumers interact with it is changing the out-of-home experience.
One certainty, however, is that experience is king. The quality and value of your product, service and how you operate must be the best possible. Expectations continue to rise and understanding your customers and your customers’ customer is essential.
“Suppliers and operators must work together to ensure the best experience for consumers.”
“The biggest shake up of the soft drinks industry ever.”
This is how Keith Fenton, the head of foodservice at Britvic, described the soft drinks levy.
A move to tackle obesity, which the World Health Organisation states is the most serious public health challenge of the 21st century, soft drinks have been targeted because they have limited nutritional benefit, their consumption tends to be focused on the younger demographic, and there’s flexibility to remove and reformulate drinks.
Despite much speculation, prior to the introduction of the levy in April, about how it would impact the soft drinks industry, the market remains buoyant. Many manufacturers have reformulated their drinks or changed pack sizes in line with the levy and it’s enjoyed 28% growth (partly driven but the great weather). Energy drinks, for example, haven’t been hit as expected. Early indications also point to the fact that the levy will reduce added sugar in diets.
Choice and taste remain the key drivers in the soft drinks market. Sugar is the new salt and there’s a huge amount of innovation in the health space that operators should use to complement their existing range.
Jonathan Raggett, the managing director of Red Carnation Hotels, began his session on culture’s role in attracting and engaging employees by addressing the Brexit elephant in the room.
Describing it as ‘completely hideous’, he explained that it has caused all sorts of issues and challenges, with an obvious one being the availability of talent. The number and calibre of applicants coming from Europe has declined and some employees have returned to Europe for financial reasons and also, sadly, because they no longer feel welcome.
Brexit aside, he enthused that we live in interesting times. London has never seen more hotel rooms, restaurants or bars. “It’s a fantastic time to be alive!” said Jonathan. But, it’s never been more difficult to attract talent. “If someone has talent they can go where they want, so if you don’t grab them immediately they’re going to go next door.”
Jonathan extoled the virtues of understanding what people want from work. Pay is, in fact, lower down than the list than meeting needs, such as flexibility, progression and feeling valued.
Giving everybody a chance to rise through the ranks is part of Red Carnation Hotels’ culture. With over 90 training courses available, people are given the development opportunities to get where they want to be. A perfect example of this is the general manager at Reubens Hotel, who started his career counting dirty linen. Jonathan also praised the work of Springboard and The Clink, who the business works closely with.
“We look after our people and they, in turn, look after our guests.” Jonathan’s ambition to be high up in the Sunday Times Top 100 Places To Work List was a huge learning curve that made a real difference to the culture and how people feel about their roles. For example, the teams now have one-to-ones every 12 weeks to find out what they want for development; ‘Catch a star’ rewards good work; tea parties empower communication; all employees enjoy good food and nice changing rooms; all general managers (including Jonathan!) have to go back to the floor regularly; and all employees are given two paid days a year to do voluntary work.
Jonathan finished with this food for thought: “People leave managers, not companies.”
Stephanie Hamilton, the head of people & culture at ISS UK & Ireland, opened her presentation on the benefits of a clear employment strategy by explaining that ‘People & Culture’ is the spirit in which ISS does business and gets work done. She was also keen to explain that ‘People & Culture’ doesn’t own ISS’ values, the people who work there do.
Through proactive talent management, Stephanie’s team can optimise the talent across the 44,000-strong workforce in the UK & Ireland. This removes red tape to allow employee engagement and enablement, highlights warning signs and ensures an agile organisation that champions change if something is not right. After only 18 months in the role, Stephanie has seen a different approach to engagement and ISS is now known for its employee value proposition.
As part of ISS’ people and culture strategy, ‘Great Conversations’ have been introduced in place of appraisals. This subtle change creates an immediate positive tool that is powerful and meaningful. Potential and performance are ‘mission critical’, with everyone given the opportunities to succeed within ISS. ‘Career jungles’ have replaced ‘career ladders’ as careers no longer move in one direction, but flex with life stages; ‘go wide, go big, go different’. And, a reward and recognition programme champions good work with thank you cards through to trips to New York.
ISS’ mentoring programme empowers career development, reflection and learning, and diversity. And, reverse mentoring offers a different perspective, increasing multi-generational engagement and supporting diversity.
Employees can also enter the sponsorship programme as a means of getting them where they want to be. More pointed than mentoring, a sponsor offers contacts and networks, stretch assignments and a broad perspective when giving critical feedback.
“The trick is to deliver values. If you want to get in you’ve got to line up with them.”
According to Chris Hill, the managing director of New World Trading Company, which operates 22 pubs and bars across the UK, this is how he simultaneously achieved business growth and culture, scooping awards and recognition along the way.
New World Trading Company’s values are ambition, expertise, exploration, individuality, integrity and happiness. And, this is the framework in which the business says hello and goodbye to its people.
As Chris’ business grew, he was faced with the challenge of ‘how do you get a site in Farnham to give two hoots about the teams in Manchester and Newcastle?’ Chris’ ‘Archimedes’ moment created TRIBES; the innovative employee engagement concept that has successfully united employees, exceeding expectations.
Like school houses, New World Trading Company has six indiscriminate tribes across the UK that compete. Tribes has completely taken grip and two full-time employees now develop it and 960 of the 1200 employees interact via the Tribes app once a week or more.
Chris explained that most of his team is under 25 and Tribes has given them pride in their work and a badge of honour.
“This is the most competitive time for retaining talent, so if I can keep them happy I can keep them for longer.” And, this is what Chris is doing, with initiatives including Tribes, rewards that reflect ‘good stuff’ and not KPIs, the ‘message in a bottle’ scheme that allows employees to send positive messages to each other (6,000 were sent last year), industry-best maternity and paternity packages, good food every day, education subsidies and charity work.
He finished by stating: “A lot of people do this stuff, but we’ve just made it who we are.”
“There are more men called Dave than there are women in the board room.”
With this fact in mind, Coral Rose, the managing director of Country Range Group, was pleased to see such diversity in the Arena audience as she considered gender parity and inclusion.
As a woman in the wholesale industry, she’s spent the last 25 years surrounded by mainly white, middle-aged men, which worsened the more senior she got! Utter madness, given the value of engaging women; a 1% increase in gender diversity creates a 3% increase in revenue.
Looking at the topic from a wholesale perspective, the first challenge is how to get women through the door in the first place. Coral outlined the following six steps to make the sector more attractive: understand what makes wholesale stand out; walk the diversity talk; target the talent pool by looking in the right places and using positive language that resonates; showcase attractive careers for those entering or re-entering careers; address unconscious bias; and invest in the future.
On the question of why target women, the answer was simple. A lot of things that appeal to women appeal to other groups, so go for the biggest group first. Flexible working is a prime example that will open up a host of talent from all groups. Businesses need to learn how to make it work and understand that it doesn’t mean less commitment.
Coral explained that the focus should not be on diversity but inclusion. It’s important that teams feel valued and recognised, receive regular constructive feedback, are listened to and believe that you care about them and their environment.
“It’s about what we do and how we act, and not about training budgets.”
The speaker line-up was concluded by the entrepreneur, Tevin Tobun, CEO of Gate Ventures and IOD’s Young Director of the Year 2017, who had a fascinating, alternative ethos to share.
“To believe in progress you really have to go against the grain and you have to have conviction.”
Tevin’s first business venture was as a young inexperienced graduate who spotted a gap in the market helping schools manage their own budgets. Up against middle-aged, seasoned business men for his first contract, the seemingly impossible happened. The head teacher saw something in Tevin and gave him the contract with a £25,000 deposit to start the project! This single act changed the trajectory of Tevin’s life and the scholarship that he has since set up is based on her giving him a chance.
Whilst working with more schools through Westminster City Council, he encountered 3663 (now Bidfood) and Brakes and started thinking how he could make delivery more efficient in cities, with smaller vehicles. That’s how Gate Ventures was born.
Recalling taking his plan to The Prince’s Trust, he was told it was too grand. The ‘older guy’ used his fear to judge Tevin’s plan. He urged the audience to remember that people are going to come to them with ideas. “It’s not our job to knock it. Give it the respect it deserves.” He went on to explain his belief that junior people are the most talented as they are not tainted by ‘corporate life’.
He also addressed the phenomena that is the ‘millennial’ and the need to understand their world. They manage their whole life on their phone, which many people in the room didn’t grow up with, and with so much instant information they want to understand ‘what are you going to do for me?’. They can see everything, so they need to see if staying with an employer is worth it. “They have no patience, not because they are impatient, but because they live in a different world.”
Tevin also championed the need to disrupt the corporate mindset. To the delight of many of the audience he has thrown out agendas and minutes for meetings that simply pat people on the back for agreeing with each other, in favour of conversations that challenge and get results. He urged leaders to let people learn how to trust their instincts, as it’s the rough diamond that pushes business forward, and to find ways to empower the rough diamond by not shutting it down.
“Recognise the genius in people.”
The final session brought all the speakers together in a panel discussion that considered the role of technology and people.
The UK is the third most tech-savvy county in the world from the consumer perspective, but only the 17th most innovative in Europe from a business sense. There is disparity.
The panel was split on the matter, with some embracing the use of Artificial Intelligence to help with the early recruitment process, especially for its removal of unconscious bias, whilst others were sceptical about the dilution of personality and the impact on the consumer – we do, after all, work in hospitality.
The conclusion was that different generations will want different approaches, so an amalgamation of both technology and people has to be the sensible choice.