Purple Cubed puts talent at heart of Valor Hospitality Europe

Profile picture for user jmilne By Janine Milne August 17, 2015
Rapid growth makes engagement a priority for hospitality chain Valor.

moira laird
Moira Laird

To say it’s been quite a busy first year of operation for Valor Hospitality Europe is a bit of an understatement.

Over the last year, the new hospitality management company has grown from an initial portfolio of 11 UK hotels in the original QMH estate to 20 today, including well known hotel brands such as Hilton, Holiday Inn, Best Western and Crowne Plaza.

According to Moira Laird, HR director:

It’s been a time of intense change and rapid business innovation.

Staffing levels have doubled to 2,000 and the aim is to build a portfolio of 50 hotels within five years, in the UK and Europe.

It’s an ambitious expansion plan, but rapid change is never easy for employees. Inevitably, this level of change meant that “things started to slide” in terms of engagement levels.

But Laird, backed by Brian McCarthy, the new managing director, a fellow believer in the power of engagement, was keen to quickly put in measures to keep employees motivated and focused.

As a new company, the first thing to do was to decide and set down the values and goals of the company, which would guide the behaviour of all employees.

Right from the outset, it was decided to implement Purple Cubed’s talent system, Talent Toolbox, to help ensure employees put these values into practice. Valor’s managing director had already used Purple Cubed in a previous role and was keen to use it again in the newly formed company. Laird explains:

The new company developed the strategy, the people piece and we needed a talent system alongside that.

To help communicate these changes, Laird accompanied the managing director to each hotel team, talking to staff about the new company and the values.

Together with performance management and succession planning, Talent Toolbox includes development plans for individuals. Staff can also indicate that they are ready for the next job and upload their CV/resume there.

Laird is personally looking forward most to being able to banish paper from the performance management process. Updating performance management is something she says:

that has always been on my outstanding, overdue list to get done.

The old paper system is never up to date and is “overcomplicated and cumbersome,” adds Laird.

Documents have to be manually typed up and then printed off to be signed by other managers. It is tedious, time consuming and means that it is very difficult to collate the documents to provide an overview of performance across the business.

In contrast, employees already using the new performance management process can do everything through Purple Cubed. They write their own performance review. Their managers also do the same and then the two responses are compared. Any disparity is a jumping off point for discussion.

Laird estimates that about 80% of performance reviews will be through the new system by the end of August. Once everyone is locked into the new online process, then Laird can begin to analyse performance across the business, and have a more global view of capabilities and clearer idea where to focus talent development.

Succession planning

With the performance management piece in place, Laird will be able to turn attention to another capability long on her wish list for automation: succession planning. Until now, succession planning has been basically held on a Word document.

When employees log on at the start of their shift, they will be greeted by the Purple Cubed screen, which includes newsfeeds, so they can keep up to date with what’s going on in the company or with global news.

There’s also a temperature check function, which invites employees tp say how they are feeling that day.
Another key function on the portal is the coffee chat facility. Everyone’s picture and profile are loaded into the system, so it’s easy to find people. Says Laird:

They’re great. Every employee is loaded into the system. Anyone can request a coffee chat with anyone else.

There’s a menu of topic people might want to discuss, such as development goals. The employee can request for a meeting – either face to face or over the phone. The respondent can then agree to the meeting and their calendars are automatically updated.

If wanted, notes from that meeting can be put into Talent Toolbox, which can help managers at a later date with performance reviews, for example. Laird says:

We’ve already seen the value of the coffee chats in the first six months.

It may be a simple idea, but it’s proved incredibly successful at boosting engagement levels.

For Valor it’s a simple equation: engaged staff create great customer experience which in turn creates a commercially successful business.

In terms of benefits so far, the temperature checks have already revealed an improvement in employee engagement and Laird notes that there has also been improvements in retention levels:

ROI for me is an upswing in engagement, which services better customer experience which creates commercial success.

But she also points out that she only needs to identify and promote five managers in the business, which the system helps her identify, for the system to be paid for. Two have already been promoted this way. Laird explains:

Our policy as far as possible is to develop and promote from within and we’re getting strong retention.

An average of 10% of employees are staying for 10 years or more and the average length of tenure for a general manager is 15 years. Using Talent Toolbox, staff will be able to see what vacancies are available internally that they can apply for.

The company’s training directory is in the system, so if employees or managers identify a training requirement – for example recruitment and selection skills training – they can check in the directory when the next course is running.

It’s a case of so far, so very good with the Purple Cubed system, but with the benefit of hindsight, is there anything she would change? Her answer is simple:

I wish I could have had it years ago.