Shortlisted team for Award for Organisational Change: Personnel Today Awards 2000
In 1998, the new chief executive for The Forte Hotel Group Antoine Cau and his management team recognised their business was facing a great challenge. Research conducted by Mori among 1,026 staff had found that while employees were loyal to the hotel in which they worked, there was limited loyalty to the particular brand they worked for and a low priority to Forte itself.
Staff morale was low and in some areas labour turnover had reached 81 per cent. In the marketplace, product differentiation had become extremely difficult, new innovations were quickly duplicated by Forte’s competitors and it was clear that a new initiative was needed if the company was to improve sales and growth. Forte needed a new, unified image which every employee could be proud of and contribute to, which would attract new customers and inspire their loyalty. The management team identified improvements in customer service as the key driver to the changes they required.
Forte invested £10m over three years in a customer service initiative called Commitment to Excellence. The programme took a holistic approach to improving customer services, asking guests what kind of service they required and turning this knowledge into training initiatives that would build the necessary behaviours in individuals, teams, departments and hotels.
Having gathered their initial research material, Forte worked with Forum, a specialist company in change management, to create a comprehensive action plan. It was possible to identify the main areas where current provision fell short of customer expectations and a training design team was established to produce company-wide initiatives to bridge these gaps. The team comprised Forum, Forte operators and training professionals from within the company to ensure the process was owned by employees throughout the business.
Before a total roll-out the training programme was piloted across 24 hotels and Forte’s head office, with feedback from these sessions being used to inform implementation in the future. With training plans finalised, the scheme was cascaded through the business, allowing line managers to deliver the initiatives needed for each brand with HR’s support, rather than HR acting as sole provider. This was a very different way of training from any previous training initiative in the company but meant there was ownership and investment in the programme throughout the company.
Alongside this, Forte developed new communication tools and introduced an employee reward scheme to recognise outstanding levels of customer service. Clear, measurable success criteria were established at the outset of the project. Guest and Employee Satisfaction Tracker surveys are carried out twice a year which – with the addition of complaint and compliment measures, management statistics and financial data – have shown Commitment to Excellence to have had a positive effect across all of Forte’s brands.
Company fact file
Team Commitment to Excellence The Forte Hotel Group
Team leader Tracy Robbins, quality and HR director
Number of people in HR team 9
Number of employees HR is responsible for 47,000
Main achievements Delivery of Commitment to Excellence training to all 47,000 employees, working in 250 hotels in 50 countries of the world. Year-on-year complaints fell by 15 per cent, compliments rose by 24 per cent
Judge’s Comment "Forte’s sensitivity to diverse cultures and balancing that with corporate identity is conclusive evidence of effective change through improvements in retention, staff satisfaction, customer satisfaction. It has also established processes for continued improvement beyond the programme"