All last week 10Eighty partnered with The People Space on a series of free daily webcasts sharing insights on the current crisis.
In the first webcast on 11 May, Sian Harrington talked to Eugenio Pirri, Chief People and Culture Officer at Dorchester Collection, discussing the impact of COVID-19 at the international luxury hotel chain. A business that went from multi-million revenue to zero in a few weeks while concentrating on maintaining learning and development in difficult times.
As Chief People and Culture Officer, Eugenio is responsible for all aspects of HR, learning and development, employee and guest engagement, innovation and corporate responsibility, working with all functions to ensure their people are the cornerstone of every business decision.
For Eugenio, handling the crisis revolves around regular and consistent communication that meets the needs of their diverse workforce. They refer to their employees as ‘legends’, now ‘legends at home’, sending them regular, beautifully produced newsletters that focus on mind, munch and mood alongside plenty of other opportunities to check-in, engage, interact and communicate with each other.
Missing social interaction
Newsletters focus on tips, information and advice aimed at reminding each team member that they are appreciated during these uncertain times. Eugenio says they have been doing work around mindfulness because they realise a lot of people are stressed and missing the social interaction of the workplace. One initiative has been to encourage employees to engage with volunteering, which has been well received by employees who have embraced the opportunity to give back.
Keeping in touch is important so HR and managers arrange regular check-in conversations with all staff and managers are asked to be there for their teams. That doesn’t mean they are expected to have all the answers but they must make themselves available to staff.
Dorchester Collection communicate using a range of methods and channels, offering coaching and lunch and learns, as well as newsletters and video-link meetings. Eugenio says “it’s important to consider the environment in which staff might be working when at home. Not all of your people have the luxury of private space and good wifi; they may be sharing small accommodation, may have to share devices, may be caring for children or others and if you don’t know their circumstances you can’t be sure what method of communication best meets their needs; so be flexible”.
Working from home is not the natural way of doing things in the hospitality industry but Dorchester Collection has found it has served some of their staff well. For others it may mean adapting to new technologies, changing forms of communication and a myriad of distractions including the spring sunshine. Providing an employee toolkit to help them through COVID-19 is essential.
Eugenio says that they have guaranteed jobs, although there will likely be a long hiring freeze once the lockdown ends. That’s a happy position to be in, and he and his team are in discussions about an eventual return to work and how to schedule work and team assignments in the future.
We’ll be sharing more insights in the coming weeks from each of these webcasts.