Living La Tour brings new culture to life

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They talk about light bulb moments a lot but one of my many awakenings was when I was part of Hayley Conference Centres and was lucky enough to go to a Customer Service Conference in America.

We were there for three days and listened to the great and the good of the business world -names such as Tom Peters, Jim Collins and Jack Welch – talk about business and customer service. It was a fantastic experience. The very last session was an optional one and about 100 delegates out of 1,000 or so went to listen to Theo Gilbertson talk about Ritz Carlton Hotels.

It made sense to go as we were from a hotel type background but none of the other delegates were. Anyway, to cut a very long story very short she talked about the recruitment and communication system Ritz Carlton have in place and – bang – my light was well and truly switched on!

The first thing we did when we got back to England was look at our staff turnover which we thought was ok… oh no.. when we added in the 60% of our workforce that were part time or casuals, we came up with a not so wonderful staff turnover of… 72%. Ouch, that hurt and it hurt a lot for about the next 18 months as we were supposed to be running this fantastic, award winning, customer care focused company, but how could we have the best
customer service if we couldn’t keep our employees??

First thing we did was change our recruitment, we started to look for personality first and then skill. We devised 11 “talents” such as work ethic, team work and empathy, before anyone could join us they had to answer 58 questions based around these talents and get a pass. If they did not pass this it meant that their personality would not fit the culture we
wanted to create and they could not join us. If they did pass, they went to a “fit” interview and if they had the skills or we thought we could train them and they were the best person for the job, they could join us. This was all hard in many ways but so worth it and was the key reason that in two years we reduced employee turnover to 30%.

We then created better communication through our mission, vision and values and brought these to life at the beginning of every shift through a daily line-up that everyone attended. The line-up went through the day’s business in the property, important information to note, sales figures, birthdays and so on, and one of our newly-created 20 habits (these were our work practices) so that they were lived by everyone. So, that’s it in a nutshell – there was a lot more to it but the main thing we had to do was move very quickly. Somehow, we did all the planning and launched our new way of working and recruiting in just six weeks. We made the process habitual – it was crucial that it was not “just another” customer service focus. In fact we stopped focusing on customer service and started focusing on employee focus!

Move on about ten years or so and I am now the MD of a new hotel group … the first is Hotel La Tour in Birmingham and you may think that is easy as you have done it once so just put all the same information into Hotel La Tour and job done? Well I didn’t believe this was true as I felt the personality of Hotel La Tour would not be the same as Hayley
Conference Centres and also I had been a key part of what went into the Hayley Way and I was very operational within that business. I won’t be quite as operational in the day-to-day this time around and so I believed those who would be should create the new … Living La Tour.

We waited until we had ten employees and then spent a day discussing what we wanted out of Living La Tour,  how the hotel should feel and what our approach to recruitment should be. I then left the team to it and they created what we will now launch as we open the hotel. I have not instantly agreed with everything and I have challenged most of what they have done. Out of kindness I think they agreed with one of my points, but in the main what we are launching is what the team have created. Between you and me it is fantastic. It is along similar guidelines as the original, we still recruit first for talent and we still have a card with all the information about our company which is part of our uniform and we will still have a briefing before each shift start, however the contents and what the new team are bringing to the hotel business is something quite different.

It is thought out, meaningful, easy to understand and unique to Hotel La Tour and -again, please please don’t tell them this – but I also believe they have done a great job and have gone way beyond where I would have in terms of their business disciplines and in the way they want each and every one of their colleagues to work. Their determination that all our employees are cared for and looked after just as well as our customers is outstanding, and the bottom line to this is that the customer cannot avoid being looked after well while at a Hotel La Tour.

The new Living La Tour has three core talents that are broken down to 22 working habits. These are all points that the team wanted to be a part of their colleagues and their working environment to ensure that they could all perform to the highest standards and ensure exceptional customer care. I truly believe that the reason this works is for these reasons:

  • it is supported and lived by all employees from the very top down(I will go to
    a briefing at the start of my working day the same as everyone else)
  • it is developed from the views of the people who are the stars of the company
  • it ensures great communication through the team and involvement of all
  • it puts a structure around what is essentially our product… the care of people while they are in our building.

It’s an exciting time for Hotel La Tour – we look forward to welcoming you very soon.

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