Unsung Hero of the Year – Paul Skinner, Dukes Hotel


Paul Skinner, general manager, Dukes Hotel

Paul Skinner is the general manager of Dukes London.

Paul and his management team have navigated lockdown defiantly, with three key focuses: the mental and physical wellbeing of their teams, the hotel’s participation in wider community initiatives and the teamwork and adaptability needed for the reopening of the hotel on September 3. Paul, working closely with Karen Watson (HR Director), Hubert Losguardi and Alberto Cambus (Sales and Marketing) and Vincent Sluiter (Financial Controller), set up a number of activities for their staff throughout furlough, designed to boost team spirit and maintain – even grow – the important sense of community that underpins the Dukes family. Weekly team video calls and Zoom quizzes helped to keep the team up to speed, connected and motivated. Further team support was offered to all staff from members of the executive team and management team who shared their personal contact details with all employees over lockdown.

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As well as connecting with his staff, during Lockdown Paul Skinner maintained regular contact with Dukes London’s loyal customers through a series of monthly newsletters, where he updated guests about the pandemic and the lockdown situation in London, as well as keeping them entertained and engaged with a ‘share a memory’ contest. He ensured that Dukes remained rooted in its community – offering beds to key workers and initiating charity.

The mental and physical wellbeing of Dukes’ employees was the main focus as lockdown hit and staff went on furlough. To boost employee engagement and motivation, Paul worked closely with HR to organise various activities to connect hotel staff, including cooking competitions and a ‘Summer Holiday Challenge’, where the team was encouraged to recreate their dream holiday scene at home, with the chance to win a one-night stay at partner hotel Stoke Park. The Dukes Olympics was designed as a fun and engaging activity for Dukes employees – encouraging them to stay active and create their own Olympic challenges.

Dukes London also did its bit for the wider London community, offering beds to key workers via the Small Luxury Hotels initiative. The Dukes team was encouraged by sales and marketing to take part in the 5km for £5 social media campaign with all proceeds going to the NHS. DUKES also participated in the ‘Golden Friend Scheme’ designed by Hospitality Action, which was created to support elderly people in the community with hourly phone calls each week, to keep them entertained during the stricter parts of lockdown.

Paul played a key role in the reopening, forging a clear team vision and encouraging everyone to embrace a ‘multitasking mindset’. Different departments had to be flexible, adaptable and work together as a unanimous team. Paul led from the front and by example. He and the team stripped and made beds, supported the F&B department when needed and assisted the front of house with check-in and responding to guest requests. Up-beat, smiling, practical and warm, the team at Dukes has maintained its inimitable standards while keeping a forensic eye on the safety of staff and returning guests: setting clear new hygiene standards that encompass new social-distancing measures and enhanced cleaning protocols.

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Zoe Monk

The author Zoe Monk


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