The Growth Works Network – Thoughts on Thursday Series – Staff Engagement

Staff engagement is absolutely critical as we adapt to new working conditions, manage the current environment and prepare for recovery.


With millions of hospitality workers globally placed on furlough, facing reduced hours or working remotely, hoteliers must consider how to maintain productivity and provide emotional support.


During the second of The Growth Works Network’s Thoughts on Thursday discussions, Craig Moffat, General Manager of British Pullman at Belmond, outlined what hospitality leaders at all levels need to do to foster strong colleague engagement right now, and looking to the future.


You can watch Craig’s presentation below.



Following the presentation, The Growth Works Network, a panel of hospitality mentors and mentees from brands such as, Fairmont, Selina, IHG, Hilton, Sofitel, Les Roches and many more, took part in an exclusive illuminating discussion on how to engage and communicate openly during a period of uncertainty.


Our next weekly discussion will look at the Owner Perspective on June 11th, with an owner of Accor, Hilton & Taj properties. Thoughts on Thursday is exclusively for members of The Growth Works Network. Our programme is free for individuals, and if you’d like to participate as either a mentor or a mentee, sign up here.


Hospitality is a Career, Not Just a Job

the growth works network thoughts on Thursday staff engagement


One of the really interesting takeaways from the discussion was the idea that hospitality is a career for life, not just a job.


It was heart-warming to hear Craig use terms like support structure, social circle and family. This re-writes the way many of us think about staff engagement, making it more personal and authentic.


During his presentation, Craig outlined four core competencies to consider when helping to keep your team members healthy, productive and engaged:


  •     Care
  •     Confidence
  •     Curiosity
  •     Community




Care is probably the most pertinent consideration at this moment in time. It’s all about checking in with your team, getting to know them, making sure they know where to go for advice and support.


“I cannot overstate the importance of allocating time to reach out personally to members of your team,” said Craig. This ensures that staff engagement does not get buried under other priorities.


If you’re overseeing a large number of people, you need to delegate to appropriate line managers to ensure they are engaging with every employee. 




Confidence is about being proactive, taking a real interest in the lives of your colleagues so you can connect on a personal level and understand how they are dealing with the current situation. 


It is especially important to make sure staff placed on furlough feel valued. “Honesty is the best policy here,” said Craig. Don’t make commitments that you cannot back up, but be upfront and share information with your team as soon as you get it.


Echoing ideas around diversity of thought from our webinar on Innovation (watch here), Craig explained that having confidence in your team will give them the confidence to come forward and share new ideas and strategies.




While staff placed on furlough in the UK are not allowed to carry out actual ‘work,’ it is still important for them to stay active and keep their minds sharp.


You can help them by sharing useful resources, such as open university courses, related YouTube videos, interesting links and relevant online certifications.


Craig suggested an online book club as another interesting way to create a shared sense of community and curiosity.




Hospitality is filled with people who love to help and connect with others.


Create a community engagement plan, such as donating unused food and drink resources, and find out if your team members are active in their communities. Let them know your brand is ready to support them.


Communicating During Times of Uncertainty

communication staff

Following Craig’s presentation, The Growth Works Network discussed why it’s so important to be open and honest with staff, even during times of profound uncertainty.


Angelo Vassallo, Food and Beverage Director at Fairmont, posed the question of how do you communicate frequently if you’re in middle management and the executive committee is not passing on any information?


Craig Moffat said the important thing was to be honest and open. Communicate what you do know and be honest about what you don’t. Then flip the conversation to ‘what can I do for you now?’ Make a genuine attempt to engage them on a personal level, so you know what is important for them while you wait for the company to sort out issues around the safety of guests and staff needed to consider reopening.


James Lemon, Founder of The Growth Works, asked on behalf of the younger hoteliers who might be experiencing their first downturn, how should we balance the need for trust and openness with the vast amounts of uncertainty?


Craig Moffat replied that, at Belmond, information sharing has become the number one priority at all levels of the business. This constant sharing of information creates an environment where all levels of staff, from housekeeper to senior managers, feel involved and confident to speak up.


Adapting to Remote Working

remote work 

Sandro Monseca, Head of Revenue and Sales at the Louvre Hotel Group, asked how to keep teams engaged that have been working remotely for three months and have no realistic prospect of returning to the office anytime soon?


Craig Moffat suggested that because of the high rental costs of inner-city office spaces, remote working may become the new normal. He said that the last few months have proved that work can be completed on an operational level, but stressed how important it is for teams to take the effort to recreate the social interactions of a shared office, suggesting social Zoom time as a good place to start.


Jon Wardman, Vice President of CRM at Hilton, mentioned that it will be more difficult for newer teams that don’t have established practises to engage and recommended Arianna Huffington’s Thrive programme for those looking to get started. He also warned that speculation and anxiety were some of the pitfalls of not providing deep communication to staff.


The Future of the Hospitality Industry

future hospitality industry

Anuja Rananaware, a Duty Manager at Sofitel, shared that a lot of junior staff were feeling insecure about their futures. She asked how to deal with questions about when and what a return to work will look like?


Craig Moffat said the current crisis was exposing the level of trust between team members and management. If there wasn’t a culture of trust prior to the crisis, you will need to work extra hard to cultivate it now. To help team players remain comfortable, engaged and optimistic, he underlined the need to communicate openly and honestly at all times, explaining what you do know without speculating on what you don’t. Let staff know that, operationally, work will change: lower occupancy will lead to reduced tips, increased cleaning processes could lead to longer shifts, etc.


Jon Wardman added it was vital to ensure that the sequence of communication is handled correctly and that your staff receive information from the right person.


Sabah Mehta, a student at Les Roches, asked whether the future of the hospitality industry is likely to change? Should students continue looking for jobs? 


Patrick Wimble, Founder of Lightbulb and formerly of IHG, reassured young hoteliers that the hospitality industry is still a great place to work in. People are still going to want to travel, see the world and have new experiences. He suggested that hoteliers will need to be open to a wider scope of roles and sectors to succeed in the industry, giving the example that mid-end hotels are likely to reopen sooner than luxury properties.


Make Yourself Indispensable 

staff engagement education

Rhett Cai, a student at Les Roches, asked how do people within sectors that have been hit especially hard, specifically cruise liners, adapt to the changes in demand?


Patrick Wimble and James Lemon agreed that the cruise sector could face a longer layoff than most. They recommended hoteliers learn new skills and broaden their development in the meantime to make themselves indispensable to the industry. They suggested a number of useful resources, such as LinkedIn Learning, eCornell and Aethos that offer a range of professional courses focussing on both personal development and hard technical skills.


Hospitality is All About Interactions

hotel staff engagement connect

The discussion concluded with an awareness of the importance of interaction in the hospitality industry. It was noted that hospitality leaders are replacing the old working existence with a new one.


Interactions with guests and clients are being replaced with increased interaction between team members. Now, more than ever, these efforts to breed trust, motivation and engagement are so important and should be seen as investments in the future of your business.


The Growth Works Network is hosting five more Thoughts on Thursday webinars over the coming weeks. Sign up here to join our community to broaden your network, gain expert insight and participate in the debate.


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