When I first started working in the hotel business, we all understood that happy guests were the goal. Yet it primarily fell to upscale brands and independent boutiques with their high staff-to-guest ratios to really have the ‘luxury’ of being able to invest in nurturing these relationships.
Now, with aparthotel growth outpacing other hospitality sectors – despite the proliferation of hotel marques – brands across the spectrum are waking up to the benefits of cultivating the distinctive people-focused culture synonymous with extended-stay properties.
To the outsider, this may seem a curious paradox. After all, if serviced apartments are known to have fewer staff compared with hotels due to their leaner operations, how has this come about?
One thing these rising stars of the hospitality market figured out a long time ago is that personal relationships can be key to loyalty. Having seen this sector flourish in North America, our goal was to take the idea of making guests feel welcome to the next level by bridging the gap between hotels and home.
In the build-up to opening Staybridge Suites Liverpool, we quickly recognised how crucial it was to recruit by personality, not just skillset, if we wanted to build genuine connections and inspire employee as well as guest loyalty. We therefore introduced the idea of ‘audition days’ to help us seek out people who find it easy to build relationships; something that has since become the norm for many extended-stay brands.
Fast-forward 11 years and, not only does this aparthotel continue to win awards and be ranked consistently as one of the city’s top three properties on TripAdvisor, but – critically – this correlates directly with remarkable staff retention rates well above the industry standard.
Whilst many key members of the team there have been with us from day one, many others – myself and our COO included – are still employed within Cycas; something that is all the more valuable when you think about how successful cultures always start from the top.
As the first property in our portfolio, what we learned in Liverpool therefore really helped shape the way we recruit. And, whilst we’ve expanded across Europe and our reach has moved into full service and double-decker hotels, this determination to make our hotels the best places to work as well as stay remains very much at the heart of our business.
By hiring for attitude and social confidence, not just experience, we’ve been able to create an engaged and happy workforce who consistently deliver a ‘positively outrageous’ service that translates into loyal guests and delighted stakeholders. Crucially, our employees tell us that coming to work every day is not just a job, but a way of life.
This positive approach is something that shines through our guest satisfaction scores; we’re a top performing hotel management company in Europe across all its brands in terms of top guest experience feedback. And, if our customers keep telling us that having a team of people who make them feel at home is such a big reason that they keep coming back, it stands to reason why it’s so strongly in our interest to retain such remarkable talent.
With the economic and political challenges, it’s never been more important to attract and retain the right people. Developing a performance culture that makes them feel valued and encourages them to take having fun seriously can therefore be key to commercial success, from hiring the right people to keeping them motivated and inspiring them to stay.
And when you consider that some industry reports suggest employee retention rates in the UK hospitality sector are already well below that of other industries, it’s clear how avoiding costly employee turnover can help a business thrive.
The fact remains that the hospitality world is a people business, and a successful hotel is underpinned by its staff. So, with more brands to choose from and more ways to stay than ever before, ensuring you have the right culture in place can make the difference when it comes to turning true hospitality into exceptional commercial results.
About the author
Janet Roberts is responsible for Cycas Hospitality’s performance culture and, along with the rest of her team, oversees the management of people across all of the hotels in our portfolio. Before joining Cycas she ran her own company, delivering training programmes to a range of prestigious hotel groups. Her skills lie in the fields of training, facilitating and coaching, with a specialist emphasis on leadership. In addition to her extensive experience, she is a qualified assessor for the Training and Development Lead Body, and has a B/TEC H.N.D in Hotel Catering & Institutional Management from Llandrillo College.
Before she became the Lead Culture Coach, Janet was the General Manager at Liverpool Staybridge Suites Hotel. Recognition of her excellence arrived in November 2014, in the form of the much coveted ‘General Manager of the Year’ award at the IHG ‘Hotel Star Awards’ and in 2018 her efforts in developing Cycas’s distinctive cultural approach was recognised with the company scooping the hospitality industry’s ‘Best Employer Award’ at The Cateys 2018.