Editor's Blog

Recruitment a Principal factor

As the fight for the right talent looks set to become even more competitive thanks to Brexit, new initiatives that attract and retain staff are more vital than ever.

As an industry that is thought to be made up of 70 per cent foreign nationals, many are lamenting the position we face when - or hopefully if - immigration is stopped. Some have said even now the industry faces a workforce shortage thanks to low immigration levels. Add Brexit to the mix and we compete for an even scarcer resource.

So it was with great interest that I learned about the recruitment strategy of the Principal Hotel Company, arguably the UK's biggest independent conference group - a dedicated training academy.

I sat down with CEO Tony Troy and COO Laurie Nicol ahead of the official launch of its De Vere brand, a collection of historic country estates, where they went into more detail about their staff strategy and their Milton Keynes centre.

Troy said: "We developed the training academy before the Brexit vote. What's always been in our mind when it comes to recruiting is you have to do more to retain and develop people.

"We've got some great staff and they come from many different nationalities. Quite a few are British as well. It would be very important for us that we do our bit to retain the great people that have decided to work for us."

And speaking of Brexit itself, Troy added: "My view is you can't predict what the government is going to do on Brexit negotiations. My hope is it is clarified as soon as possible, as it's not easy for people to be comfortable without knowing what's going to happen."

After receiving the appropriate training, Nicol said the company works hard to retain a sense of pride and satisfaction within its workforce.

She said: "We want to encourage people to come and work for us. In some properties, just changing the uniforms is enough to change perception."

That brought my mind back to my arrival at De Vere Wotton House earlier that morning, where I was helped out of my taxi by a cheery porter looking smart in his traditional British tails. I'm sure he even tipped his top hat as he welcomed me, clearly enjoying my look of wonder as I soaked up the surrounds at the entrance.

Nicol said the group was also actively targeting the local job market, trying to woo potential employees in the close vicinity of each of its properties. One method has been to simply encourage locals to visit the hotels to establish familiarity and affection with the brand.

She explained: "De Vere Latimer Estate didn't use to be part of the community… now we're opening the doors to the local community for tea and coffee and things like that, and we're making them part of our brand story as well. We want them to be part of De Vere and Principal."

Nicol says the increasing local footfall has led to more interest in careers with the company, particularly among students.

The launch of De Vere will see it join the company's other conference hotel brand, Principal; a collection of urban-based Grand Dames hotels including the forthcoming Principal London which launches in autumn. The company's investment in its staff forms part of a huge £250 million spend across its portfolio, including large refurbishments on the meeting facilities in several venues.

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