Brian Hladnik, Managing Director of Lancaster Landmark Hotel Company sits down with Kimberley Dondo to reveal how two properties within their portfolio landed on The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list 2018.
The Landmark London and Royal Lancaster London were both named in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work For list in 2018. This is no easy feat in the current economic climate, especially in the hospitality industry. The exclusive list celebrates the top 100 companies in the ‘mid’ category (250 - 3,000 employees) with the highest Best Companies Index scores. Brian Hladnik shares insights into increasing employee loyalty and retention.
To retain staff, your benefits have to work well throughout the year. How can you motivate employees throughout the year?
We ensure that we communicate the benefits regularly through our ‘team teas’ (all staff meetings), on noticeboards, emails and posters. We source benefits that affect the lives of our people, to ensure they are relevant and can be used by as many people as possible. Therefore some include more practical things that have to be done, for example discounted haircuts, shoe repairs and morning coffee.
We hold a number of ad-hoc events throughout the year that we try to keep seasonal and attractive; these have included summer picnics, Fun Runs (keep fit events), end of year awards parties, Easter themed events and Valentines events just to name a few.
You don’t necessarily need an all singing and dancing state-of-the-art benefits platform to have something effective.
How does your benefits package apply to a diverse workforce?
Each event is rolled across all demographics of the work force and includes individual events such as celebrating International Woman’s Day, National waiters day, and appreciation events.
We run menus and meal timings in our staff restaurants linked to religious requirements and events to ensure that the offering is appropriate and timely.
We ensure that we have a diverse offering that we refresh often, to ensure that different benefits will engage different members of the team at different times.
We ensure our suppliers come and communicate directly with our teams at benefit events and stalls within our staff restaurants so team members can ask questions and completely understand the benefits offered throughout the hotels.
How do you determine what benefits will be effective for your workforce?
It is important that communication is affective and is encouraged from the start of our teams employment. Within the recruitment process we talk about benefits and measuring engagement.
After the team member has been working with us for three months and has passed their probation, we invite them to a ‘Golden Ticket’ event where they are asked for feedback on their probationary period including the benefits – they are encouraged to come up with suggestions to improve our offering.
We ask specific questions in our engagement surveys around pay and benefits to ensure they are effective and are in line with what our employees want, as we believe that it is our team members that are in the best place to suggest what benefits they have.
We also ask questions during exit interviews to establish if this was a factor taking in the decision to leave our organisation and we ask for suggestions to address any opportunities for improvement.
Do you ask your employees what benefits they may want?
We hold focus groups throughout the year specifically focusing on benefits for our team members.
We continuously ask our people what they would like, what they do in their own time and what they spend their money on, so that we are able to look at increasing our benefits in line with reducing their living costs. By doing this we can ensure that our benefits are what our people really want and will use.
With the generous benefits package that you supply, what effect has it had on your staff?
A good benefits package is key to engaging the team and ensuring you’re able to attract talent within the market place whilst also aiding retention.
It’s also encouraging to see our team using the benefits to include; the heavily discounted ‘Friends and family rates’ in our Food and Beverage outlets across our London Hotels. This shows the benefit is alive and being well used; this in turn will drive retention and engagement of our people.
We have staff restaurants in all our hotels, where meals are free all day with unlimited drinks – this is a significant saving for our team. We also hold themed lunches that are run either by the departments or the management teams, which are always fun and enjoyed by all.
We provide uniform and full laundry service, so items are dropped at the end of a shift and can be collected washed and ironed for the start of the next – this enables our team to spend their time away from work with their friends and family without the worry of laundry for work.
Some of our benefits are also educational, when anyone starts at The Landmark London and successfully completes there probationary period, they will receive a ‘golden ticket’ to be our guest for 24 hours, experiencing the hotel from a guests point of view.
This teaches our hospitality standards to our new starters, but also gives them and a guest the most amazing five star experience as a celebration of passing their probation and becoming a member of the family.
We also believe that our team looks after our business and us so we should also look after them. We offer income protection for all our team members, so if they are unable to work due to a long-term illness we ensure that they are looked after financially, we believe this is essential to aid their recovery and return to work.
How do you maintain your high retention rate?
Having a good benefits package is of course a factor but we put a lot of emphasis on the on-boarding process and ensuring people have the correct start to their career with us.
On-going development and regular reviews are also key, as these help manage expectations on both sides and provide the right platform for people to grow and develop.
We ensure that all our managers understand our purpose and values and ensure that they live them, and make decisions using them as a foundation.
We create a family environment, where our teams can have ‘courageous conversations’ and ‘challenge each other’ to move the business forward.
We believe it is important to deliver memorable moments to each other and our guests and we have a task force whose role is to surprise and delight our team members with random acts of kindness such as; morning coffee, ice creams, Easter eggs.
We also ensure our learning and development offering is engaging and ever changing to ensure that our teams can develop in life in and outside the hotels. We encourage openness and honesty within the review process, so we can assist and help our team members develop their careers so we are a part of their life journey.
What advice would you give to organisations that are trying to improve their employee retention rate?
A strong and welcoming on-board process is extremely important, as it helps set the tone for the time ahead; no one likes turning up on their first day when no one is expecting them or nothing has been planned.
Also understanding career aspirations and planning meaningful development events is important, as a lack of training opportunities is often seen as one of the main reasons why people leave an organisation.
Get to know your people, develop strong relationships with them. Be interested in more than just their work performance – truly care about them and their wellbeing.
Take time out to get to know your people, always use their name.
What are some cost effective methods you have used to increase employee loyalty and retention?
It can often be the small things that make the difference, such as ad-hoc themed events to drive engagement; an example being a Valentine themed pop-up photo booth that was accessible to all to record messages and pictures for their loved ones.
Getting your management to buy into creating a strong learning environment also aids loyalty and retention, as it ensures meaningful conversations are happening regularly.
At The Landmark London, all managers are full trained and qualified trainers – this has ensured they are developed further and have a stretching role, they are therefore fully accountable and responsible for their teams development.
Ownership is important and our management teams run their departments like it is their own business, making decisions in line with our purpose and values – they have a great sense of pride.