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4 principles for HR success from the hospitality industry

Audrey Christophe, The Royal Champagne
Audrey Christophe
Audrey Christophe has directed human resources at The Royal Champagne, a Leading Hotel of the World, since its opening in 2018. She has helped build its award-winning culture and guided the company to win four great places to work awards. She holds a master's degree in Hotel Innovation Management and previously worked with the Fairmont group in Monaco, and as the head of Human Resources at a 5-star Relais & Châteaux hotel.

In client-facing service industries like hospitality, delivering great customer experiences to the company’s end customer is the ultimate goal of every employee—and companies succeed or fail based on how well they deliver. Similarly, HR professionals across industries must recognize they, too, are in the customer service business and have tremendous power to deliver great employee experiences, which can significantly influence the overall success of the company.

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By applying service principles and deeply held hospitality industry values, human resources can build operational excellence, improve company reputation and increase employee loyalty, ultimately boosting its strategic value in the organization. This sets up a positive chain reaction where employees are compelled to deliver excellent experiences to the end customer, in turn building their loyalty and driving company success.

Below are four key principles that we at The Royal Champagne—our hotel and spa that opened in Champillon, France, in 2018—have used to build an environment where employees love to work, are met with great opportunities for growth and want to stay, achieve and serve their guests. This approach also earned The Royal Champagne several “Great Place to Work” awards. These practices hold power across all industries and help companies deliver excellent employee experiences:

  1. You get what you pay for.

Paying employees a higher wage may mean less profit for a company in the short term but having a long view and investing in employees at a higher level can generate a culture of greater employee satisfaction, dedication and loyalty. Not only do competitive salaries attract strong talent, but these all-stars want to stay with the company and invest themselves in making the company a success, which often translates into savings over the longer term and less turnover. Employees at The Royal Champagne, for example, are generally given generous benefits and salaries nearly 15% higher than regional competitors. This allows the hotel to attract top talent from major international metropolitan areas and motivates them to deliver excellent service that drives the business forward.

  1. Values drive excellence.

When you recruit employees who already adhere to the company’s values, what is most important already comes naturally to them. For example, providing great customer experiences is a value that is hard to teach, but is expected in luxury hospitality. While surface skills may positively stand out on a resume, when recruiting, companies can put themselves ahead of the game by selecting staff who already have excellent attitudes and an entrepreneurial mindset—skills that are harder to teach.

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  1. Always be open to the next thing.

Company cultures should include support for passion projects, continuous innovation and entrepreneurialism. Supporting creative ideas and risk-taking allows employees to stretch themselves and go beyond what is expected in their normal day-to-day roles, giving them the opportunity to find greater fulfillment in their jobs.

In our company, these entrepreneurial values are driven from the top, from our CEO Denise Dupre’, who is always listening for employees’ passion projects and encouraging them to push the envelope of our offerings—and then stands behind them as they try new things.

For instance, one of our company’s female pastry chefs led a local philanthropy project, providing pastries every day during Breast Cancer Awareness month to breast cancer victims. She was given full support and use of company resources to move this forward. In addition, one of the company’s vineyard managers was granted support and resources to experiment with aging wine under the sea and in specialized gold and titanium barrels. This resulted in award-winning vintages.

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Giving employees the latitude to try new things they are passionate about and empowering them to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors can deliver surprising positive outcomes and a better experience for everyone.

  1. Flex accordingly.

Since COVID, flexibility at work is commonplace. Continuing to meet employees where they are, especially after the pandemic, is crucial; yet, some employers fail to recognize just how much this contributes to employee satisfaction, morale and loyalty, ultimately reducing company costs for recruiting and new hire training. But this is more than just a remote work issue.

Accommodating employees’ personal circumstances must be a company rule. When employers give enough flexibility to make employees’ work life the best fit, they are more satisfied, provide better service, become more accountable for company innovation and work more productively.

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For example, taking personal needs into account has prevented us from losing female employees who were experiencing major difficulties with their family during the pandemic. We learned about their personal circumstances and applied changes to our collaboration efforts and re-envisioned how they could do their jobs.

Not only did we retain their talent, but they are more productive than ever, and know the company cares about them—and all its employees—authentically.

These service principles that we know so well in the hospitality industry separate companies who win “Great Place to Work” awards from those who do not—and can help companies retain great performers for the long term. By delivering personalized service and adapting to each employee’s needs, HR can meet them exactly where they are and lay the foundations for an exceptional employee experience—which affects the whole company’s success.