Reconnect & work ready!

Chief People Officer Bobby Davis shares details on our ‘reconnect & work ready’ programme….

I had only recently moved into the hospitality sector when the global pandemic hit. And overnight I watched (virtually) our thriving portfolio of busy hotels turn into 21 eerily quiet properties with skeleton staffing and c1200 people put on furlough.

A year of perpetual uncertainty for a large workforce who are so very used to being around people; connected, smiling, offering great guest experience to being on furlough, home schooling, financially squeezed, maybe alone, maybe suffering from COVID, shielding others and no knowledge of when they would be back at work. And equally, there were those who did continue working, where their days were long and relentless too, walking the empty corridors, keeping the properties safe but without a guest in sight. 

And then we had this rollercoaster of a ride on our hands, in and out of lockdown. Team members returned in the summer with guest expectations high – wanting to know our hotels were clean and safe but wanting to avoid the constant reminders of green footprints, mine tape over basins and so on. We went from 0 to 60mph in what felt like minutes, the hotels full, all tee times taken, “Eat Out to Help Out” followed by a further period of almost silence with many of our team members back on furlough. Then came the almost tier system!! Christmas cancelled. In came 2021 and we waited for the Roadmap.

So, when we were communicating with our team members across a variety of channels, the message was clear – “lockdown 3 has been the worst”. People were really low, whether at work or at home. With no guests and/or no work, there was a lack of stimulation, chronic boredom but equally a question of “what will work be like this time round, when will we actually get to come back?”

This comeback needed to be different. We needed to hit the re-set button and really go for it, believing that that this really would be the last one. What did we have to lose? And so, the idea for Reconnect & Work Ready was born.

In a nutshell Reconnect & Work Ready had three main outcomes:

  1. Get the team back together – some of them hadn’t seen each other for months, so this was about very quickly re-building team cohesion. Oh…and to have some fun!
  2. As teams, ensure that the hotels were well and truly ready to welcome the return of our guests. This included cleanliness, safety and those all-important first welcoming impressions.
  3. Learn some new stuff and re-learn some basics. Allowing the teams to get their hands on the new orders tablets, tasting new menu offerings as well as practicing barista skills, using the reception system, upselling tactics and more.

And how did these outcomes become a reality?

Well, none of this would have become a reality without some immense teamwork, finding oodles of creativity throughout our ranks and a little help from a partner/friends, in particularly Mapal Software/Flow Hospitality Training and Pizza Si.

We set up a steering group in March with representation from General Managers, operational roles, service experts, marketing, sales and of course, the People Team! With getting going in March, we ensured that our Reconnectology covered the opening of Golf, Leisure & Spa, and then our accommodation, restaurants, and bars.

And as for the format, we have kept a consistent approach to this too. We have ensured a variety of connections to cater for all tastes:


  • virtual meetings via Teams – opportunities for early discussions, sowing seeds before people set back in the building and providing new information for team members to get to grips with
  • utilising Flow Hospitality online training to the full – using the great modules already in the system, building new ones, using the Mapal software to distribute videos, infographics, photos books and other information to a wide audience at home

And then, some days back together in the hotel, where the list of activities were varied and extensive:

  • Zoom gym sessions linking all 21 hotels together in preparation for the return of leisure guests
  • A whole range of team building exercises to quickly evaporate any supposed differences between those on furlough, those on skeleton, those old timers, and those new starters. This did not take long…we have all been through the same pandemic and we all want to be back to doing what we do best – great guest experience
  • Polishing, cleaning, planting, folding – I am running out of verbs!
  • And what felt like a glorious never ending feeding frenzy! The opportunity to try dishes from our excellent new menus, and the incredibly generous Pizza Si feeding all our team members across 21 sites on one of the training days.

And last but by no means least, memories from a great Reconnect & Work Ready preparation week in video. The standard and quality of these was just incredible. What a talented bunch we have here and creative content we have been able to use across the airwaves to promote our hotels and the fantastic people who work there.

Now, being totally honest, this industry continues to wrestle with all number of challenges to get back on its feet again as we reopen our doors. Reconnect & Work Ready was merely a drop in the ocean with how we now need to support our valuable workforce as customers, with HIGH expectations, return. But equally, we cannot unsee what this initial week of reconnection has done to build confidence, know we are resilient enough to withstand these choppy waters and to look after each other as well as we look after the guests.

Connection is our BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) that we can achieve EVERY day together. How cool is that!