Careerfile: Carl Smith, head of HR at Novotel London West

You’ve moved from a training position to head of HR – what can someone from a training background bring to that position?

Having 24 years’ hotel experience, 14 of which are in operations and 10 years in HR & training, I have wealth of knowledge that I can bring to the role. There is also a large amount of crossover, as training and talent work closely with HR and also cover some key HR areas.

What area of staff development are you currently addressing?

Management development in the form of our ‘People of Promise’ initiative which is designed to identify people who show potential and help them to become stars in the hotel industry through bespoke training programmes. I am also working on a new management programme for all supervisors and heads of department.

How and why did you get into training?

I have always been involved in some sort of training, even in junior positions that I have held. I was always asked to train new colleagues and then as you develop your career, you are accountable for your team’s development. After 16 years, my interest grew and I decided that my skills lay in training which is why I decided to focus on learning and development. Mike McKay, general manager at The Park Court (soon to become Thistle Lancaster Gate), saw this passion in me and took a gamble on employing me as the hotel’s first training officer.

What’s the best or most memorable training event you’ve attended?

Several years ago I attended a motivational session run by a fantastic trainer called Michael Niven. The whole day was really interactive and included giant crosswords and jigsaws. It was an extremely motivational session.

And the worst…

One on telephone skills: it lasted 30 minutes and all we did was call other hotels and chat about the calls, so it was not really a training session.

What’s key to putting on a successful course?

Planning: if you haven’t researched your topic or become 100% involved in the course, your delegates will see through you. This is why I believe it is vital to prepare session notes and use colourful, but simple, visual aids.

How do you measure the impact of training?

Various ways: post course briefs, monthly reviews, additional coaching, a fly-on-the-wall approach, asking questions and setting projects.

When you were a youngster what did you want to be?

As a youngster I always wanted to work in a large four- or five-star hotel in London. I achieved this after 18 [years or aged 18??] when I worked at the Cumberland, which became part of the Le Meriden London Training Team. Now I believe that I have exceeded the goals that I set as a child.

What, in life generally, really annoys you?

My biggest bugbear is people with a negative attitude. I see the good and positive in everybody.

What was the first record you bought?

It was Now That’s What I Call Music One – it had flying pigs on the cover. That shows my age!

What book are you currently reading?

I love books: biographies are a favourite and I am reading Winston Churchill and his life at Blenheim Palace.

Who’s your hero?

Richard Branson. Nothing stops him

What’s the best piece of training/L&D advice you’ve been given?

Always be positive about the subject, make it fun and enjoy the training session yourself.

How do you relax?

I live in Marylebone in central London, so have lots of opportunities to enjoy the culture of London. I love to visit the theatre, eat out, or sometimes just watch a DVD on the sofa, but that does not happen very often as I am actively involved with other commitments.

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