Confessions of a hotel general manager: Scott Grant on nurturing your staff’s best

9 March 2016

When it comes to managing a hotel, there’s no substitute for experience. When Scott Grant was appointed General Manager of Ibis hotel in Mackay, QLD, there was no part of the hotel business that he was not familiar with. Since 2004, Grant has been with the Accor group and through his time there, he has embraced the Accor key values of empowering and nurturing the careers of their employees.

Ibis Mackay was built in 2015 to cater to the needs of travellers in transit. The hotel provides guests with a ‘premium economy’ experience, ensuring a high quality stay without the prohibitive price tag. Upon opening, the hotel joined a network of over 60 Ibis hotels in Australia and more than 1,600 worldwide.

Working with Grant is Oliver Carey, a British-born head chef. Having worked as a head chef in hotels around the world since ‘99, Carey explains how using empathy allows him to get the optimal performance from his team. Despite their pairing being a relatively recent one, the two discuss their working relationship and why they feel a hotel’s success is intrinsically linked to a positive staff culture and a healthy employee-employer relationship.

Scott Grant

My first job was a kitchen hand in a hotel. Over the years I transitioned from that to a casual food and beverage attendant to a food and beverage team leader to a food and beverage supervisor, food and beverage manager, then general manager. I worked all around Australia. Knowing the minutiae of all the different roles within the business allows me to talk with a great deal of experience, and keep each team member accountable for the outcomes that we're delivering.

I'm a very driven person. I love to succeed and am willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that the business is successful. Work is a place I really enjoy coming to everyday. I'm always looking to ensure that I'm up to date. I recently went on a holiday to far north Queensland, and there were a couple of restaurants with fantastic menus. I took pictures and coming back, had a chat with Ollie [Carey] about potential opportunities to tweak our offering. That comes out of being passionate about the business of the industry.

Two heads are better than one, so if there’s a problem that needs to be solved, each individual staff member is really empowered to solve that problem right then and there. That’s got a great deal to do with our culture within Accor and our staff training programme. People crave belonging, and people need to feel special, so we really need to make sure that our team is engaged with that. That translates to a more positive workforce and work environment and we’re seeing the effects of that in our customer service scores and our rankings. This hotel was deemed the highest-ranking hotel in Queensland for our guest service and interaction for 2015.

As Ollie’s one of our key people in the business – being head chef – I have a daily catch-up with him. Sometimes it’s a formal sit-down meeting, but a lot of it is just talking in the kitchen, about how things are going, what's working and what's not working. It's important to be able to have those open communication channels, so if there are any problems, we’re able to talk about it as two mature individuals, fix it, and move on. We’ve been working together six months now and we’ve established a really good, open relationship.

You try to nurture team members’ strengths throughout their careers. Some people are happy in the current job that they’re doing, and they might be happy doing that for the rest of their life, which is fine. It’s understanding who wants to do what and then working with people that want to grow and get to the next level. When Ollie first started here, one of my first discussions was, ‘Okay, this is our plan. This is where I'd like you to be.’ I see it as part of my job to help Ollie reach the next level in his career.

It’s all about building trust, and once you can build the trust that you have their best interests in mind, that’s when you really see the real performance come out. Their success is our success. If they succeed, we provide a better experience, more people recommend us, more people stay, and it just evolves from there.

Oliver Carey

When it comes to working relationships, it’s really important to build trust and be transparent. And I believe we’ve got that. We’re both professional people and we can speak on a professional basis as well as a personal basis to get the job done. Together we’re a united front. We’re focused on achieving that end result. So you have got to be adaptable and listen to each other.

I was brought up in the UK, and my first job was at 13 years old, as a pot wash. I came to Australia in ’99 and never looked back. Since ’99 I’ve been working as a head chef in various hotels. An early mentor taught me to seek to understand someone’s approach to their way of working before asking them to do something. That’s really helped me. When talking with staff, I try and find a key point, and I try and understand where people are coming from and why they work in certain ways. You could be with the same person for 14 hours in the kitchen, and you’ve got to have that relationship where you can relate over other things as well as getting the job done.

I think it’s important to be positive. For everyone from the guests to the staff, to the management. You need to give your best, because we’re here for the guests. If it weren’t for the guests, we wouldn't be here, so our number one priority is looking after them. And it’s a pleasure. I think if you get satisfaction in a role, it confirms that you’re on the right track, that you’re doing it correctly.

That relates to the relationship I do have with Scott as well. Open and honest communication has got to be key in every business. We’re quick to highlight and isolate any potential problems before they happen, and as Scott mentioned, we’re in daily communication. It just means we can do our jobs much better. Reaching that point of effective communication was relatively easy for us, because I believe we have the same passion, the same enthusiasm, and the same goals. When I came on board, Scott set down his mission statement, pitching where he would like the business to be in future, against where we currently are. And we’re united in attaining that goal.

For more information on Accor Hotels, visit the company website.

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