Earlier this year, we reported that The Torridon in the Scottish Highlands had invested almost £500k into new staff accommodation, in a move that is already paying off, with employee turnover dropping to 33%.
The resort, which includes a five-star boutique, traditional Scottish inn, fine-dining restaurant, pub, self-catering cottage and activities hut, created six new eco-friendly flats, which now allow 42 staff members to live on site.
We caught up with owner Rohaise Rose-Bristow, who runs the resort with her husband Dan, to uncover how they recruit, retain and motivate their staff in one of the remotest locations in the Scottish Highlands.
How do you advertise new job roles both internally and externally within the business?
Right from the advertising stage of the recruitment process, we are committed to nurturing the right talent to ensure that customer satisfaction is achieved. To attract talent, I have developed a comprehensive three-month induction and training programme for each member of staff.
We promote The Torridon as a desirable and unique place to work and as no ordinary resort. Our stunning location offers lots of opportunities for our team, including learning new outdoor activities, living away from home and taking part in career-developing training.
What training schemes do you currently have in place?
We have developed a five-star service programme and a leadership and management programme in-house to ensure our team is constantly evolving – both professionally and personally.
The five-star customer service training, which is completed by staff members at every level, classifies the high standard of service we expect and how this can be delivered. The two-week programme teaches our team how to treat every guest like a VIP and prepare them for difficult situations. It is essential that each team member understands the valuable part they play in the business and we have found this has helped push our team to consistently pull out all the stops for not only guests but their colleagues too.
Since the development of our leadership and management training programme, we have seen a great improvement on the strategic-thinking and management techniques from all of our heads of department. Our management training scheme is endorsed by The Institute of Leadership and Management, allowing our staff to earn a recognised qualification while working with us. The training is also provided newly promoted supervisors and managers to provide them with the skills they need to hit the ground running. Each of our senior management team are taught how train, so we can keep developing the team at all levels.
We employ apprentices through Apprentices in Hospitality Scotland, which aspires to continue inspiring the next generation of ambassadors for the hospitality industry. I am the chairperson to lead the development of the programme and we are focused on encouraging more partners and more apprentices to get involved with the programme.
We also run a ‘Be Our Guest’ programme, which entitles each staff member to an experience at the hotel, dinner or a stay, within two weeks of joining, and based on this they are asked to provide feedback to the team. This is part of our strategy to deliver the experience of ‘Luxury with a Personal Touch’ through the team.
What retention methods have worked particularly well for you recently?
We have made it our focus to invest more time in listening and getting to know each individual working with us. We listen to our customers all the time, but we really need to listen and hear what our people are telling or showing us and recognising that despite the challenges of running a hotel. This has helped us adapt and evolve our working practices, as well as understand the needs and values of our team members.
Staff turnover at the hotel has been reduced to 33%, largely down to staff responding to the incentive of putting in place policies to ensure the team have a work/life balance and so much accessible training to aid career progression. As I am a qualified coach, I can offer each of our team one-to-one coaching support and promotional training for our senior team.
We offer Going the Extra Mile (GEM) Awards to our team who are working at an outstanding level and going above and beyond. any of the team can nominate their colleague, which is a great morale-booster and rewards our team with immediate recognition.
Recently we invested £500k into new on-site staff accommodation, which encourages our managers to stay on and provides a better work/life balance.
What is it that staff really want? A better / work life balance?
I have found that our team want more support and a healthy work/life balance. As we are in a very remote location, a majority of our staff live on-site rather than commuting in, so it’s essential we can provide them with opportunities and time away from work. We treat everyone individually and I understand that not everyone has the same ambitions, values and emotions, so we do our best to offer something of interest to everyone. We also acknowledge everyone’s different learning styles and adapt their training to their personal requirements.
We understand how hard it is for our team to be away from their homes, so we engaged with Hospitality Action and its Employee Engagement Programme. We felt it was beneficial that our team had an external resource to lean on that didn’t involve speaking to their line manager or a colleague. Providing this focused support gives our team the opportunity to use the service and discuss anything they want about the challenges or concerns they may have at work or at home. As well as the Employee Engagement Programme, we have put in place mental health policies and allocated time off to ensure the team have enough time away from their role to recuperate.
To give the team an opportunity to get off-site and maximise their time off, we plan events and activities for the team to take part in. These include social gatherings in the local area, a schedule of activities for just staff to take part in, gym memberships and arrange for supermarket deliveries so the team can order their favourite food and products that they may not get in our local village.
How does your recruitment process work?
The process starts with an application form, where we assess the individual’s experience, personality and learning styles, before we offer them the opportunity for a Skype interview. We understand that a lot of our applicants won’t be local, so Skype interview provides us the opportunity to chat to the candidates without making them travel across the country. Senior managers are invited to a face-to-face interview and then we do a thorough reference check before making our decision.
How often do you find you are recruiting new staff?
As a seasonal business we have found that we are recruiting for new team members on an bi-annual basis, in February and May, but, as we continue to expand and adapt our guest offer, we always on the lookout for talent.
What techniques and avenues work best and garner the best response rate?
We find that social media and our Gumtree account is a great way of attracting new talent. this is very beneficial for us because from looking at the resort online, the candidates already have a great idea of our ethos and culture. We are also constantly developing our careers page on our website and we make it a priority to build relationships with recruitment agencies.
What budget do you allocate to recruitment and training staff each year?
Our annual training budget for the team is £50k.
What incentives and rewards do you offer?
Bespoke training to aid career progression, internal recognition and healthy work/life equilibrium. Our GEM winners receive a choice of treats to choose from as a thank you and bi-annual special prize draw, with prizes including experiences and hotel stays. We also provide a staff discount for the resort, as well as a family & friends discount. We offer free activities with our Torridon Outdoors team and provide a host of coaching and training.