Many HR leaders had their work cut out for them over the last year, namely because none had ever dealt with a global pandemic before. This meant that many leaders had to furlough staff, implement remote working policies and manage employee wellbeing form afar.
For one HR leader, however, another challenge presented itself. Rohaise Rose-Bristow, People Director and Co-owner of Highlands-based The Torridon, was no stranger to furloughing staff due to the closure of hotels throughout the pandemic, but for this hotel employees lived on-site due to its rural location in Scotland.
Due to this, Rose-Bristow had to continue looking after staff on-site, despite them being unable to work. “It’s like running another hotel really,” she told HR Grapevine. To find out how this HR leader continued to support its employees, while also maintaining engagement while they were furloughed through activities such as bike rides and quizzes, HR Grapevine spoke with Rose-Bristow to get her insights…
Has your rural location impacted the way you have managed staff at The Torridon?
I think it has had a big impact. The way it’s different is because we are in a Highlands location and 45 of our staff are live-in so they live on site, which creates this totally different dimension because if we were running Torridon in the city everybody would be at their own houses. But the difference for us is this is as well as where they work it’s also their home. Obviously we’re used to creating that home, but suddenly when there was no work and it was only home, it completely changed the dynamic of it.
What support have you rolled out for your staff during this time?
We offered online training, so we ramped up that which is not just business work related but creative related if they wanted to learn something new. So that was rolled out as an interactive training programme staff could dial into. We also set up a personal trainer, so fitness was done outside once a week. Friday night suppers was an initiative to create a bit of fun. There were various sort of games that employees did, such as a treasure hunt or a quiz night, so there was various things like that. On the weekend they could do whatever they wanted, but during the week we wanted to create that structure.
How have you kept people engaged and productive?
It’s harder possibly in the winter when you have got shorter days and its dark by 4pm, but in the summer what we really promote is the outdoors, when it’s light till midnight. So it’s really promoting that outdoor lifestyle, so whether it’s going off cycling which we provide bikes for or to go on activities. But it comes to a point where you have to take up your own responsibility for your time off. It’s their playground and they want to get out in it.
How do you recruit individuals for The Torridon?
When we recruit we are recruiting people that like adventure, so that helps. So it’s their playground and they want to get out in it. There’s a lot of work that goes on before they get here to make sure you hire the right sort of people that can live in this location because some can’t – it’s not for everybody. It looks great, but it’s quite different to visit and to live here and so we carefully construct our recruitment process to make sure we get the right people that like this environment.
Would you say that during the pandemic you have been able to place employees at the heart of the business?
I think it was always at the forefront of whatever we do, but is has shifted the focus, as it went from work related to leisure related. So when people are here we very much focused on training development and health & fitness, but they are all linked to work. I think what was highlighted during the pandemic was supporting people when they are off, so there was a shift. I think probably the hardest thing is getting that balance right, because they are furloughed and they’re not working but how do you maintain that positive interaction and getting that balance while getting the tone right.