As part of our 'Spotlight on...' series, we caught up with renowned hotelier Robin Hutson, Founder and Chief Executive of Lime Wood Group and Home Grown Hotels, to hear how he has managed his team during the Covid-19 pandemic, and what measures he has taken to protect his people.

Robin Hutson crop

How are you preparing your team to bounce back to work post lockdown?

Every single team member has engaged in a blend of FLOW Hospitality learning e-modules – and a vibrant and upbeat Covid-19 training session led by L&D manager called “Playing by the one-metre rule!”. Followed by online quizzes to embed learning. Training is entirely safety and service based – facilitated and interactive training to ensure we remember that we are simply going back to what we do brilliantly but with physical distancing and more stringent (and obvious) cleanliness processes as per government guidance, this included listening to concerns, a chat about mental health concerns and how people cope differently with change. There are a minimum of 6 Mental Health First Aiders available per property for teams to engage with. The People team have been in touch with everyone throughout the whole process. There has been a communication / training / activity or information to everyone at least every 7 days to minimise the feeling of isolation.

2. What measures have you put in place to ensure the safety of your team while they are at work?

Full risk assessment of each individual property. SOPs all revised, and SSW documents updated, circulated, and turned into training sessions. All documents are available on THE HIVE for all to study. All forms of PPE are available to any team member who requests it. (SOPs state for example, Housekeeping are changing full disposable gear after every room clean) Staggered start, break, lunch times. And staggered guest arrival / departure times; reduced covers etc to eliminate overcrowding. Signage FOH & BOH. Individual packed lunches. Hand sanitisers at every entry / exit. 2-hour cycles of full cleaning of all touchpoints. Physical distancing in staff areas mandatory. 50% pay for people isolating or sick as incentive for them to ensure the correct moral compass.

3. How important is community to your business? Will you implement any new initiatives to help drive community engagement post-lockdown?

We have always believed in the importance of the local community, especially during lockdown we supplied many of them with food from the kitchen garden and generally offered support and tried to be good neighbours.

4. Reports have shown that customers will be looking to feel safe and protected in hospitality establishments. What measures have you taken to deliver these expectations without hindering the charm of the environment and experience?

There are a raft of safety measures in place including welcome safety kits in each bedroom, however the experience of the first couple of days appears to be that guests want the atmosphere to be as normal as possible and are not overly nervous. It’s important that this is a partnership of trust between team member and guest, with each side playing an equal part.

5. Are there any suppliers, individuals, or organisations which you feel have gone above and beyond to help you and your staff during lockdown and/or to prepare for re-opening?

All of our suppliers have been great, these are generally long relationships and they have shown flexibility in working with us, however Simpsons Wine Estate in Kent gave us a bottle of fizz for every one of our NHS heroes who we gave rooms to last weekend.

 For more support and advice surrounding one of the most important resources in hospitality, people, visit our 'Spotlight on... People' page.