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Lisa Williams, executive housekeeper at The Grand in York, believes she’s conquered the staffing crisis and shares how this was achieved

Lisa Williams joined five-star The Grand as the last lockdown ended, having spent just under six years at St Pancras Renaissance Hotel

The staffing rotas overseen by Lisa Williams must at times look like something that could bamboozle the best project managers. But aided by her assistant Fiona McCartney, it’s a challenge to celebrate as, unlike many hotels, they are not dealing with the more stressful task of hunting for someone, anyone, to join the housekeeping team.

“We turned how we recruit on its head – and I’m thrilled with the results,” Williams says. Rather than explain required hours and rigid five out of seven day shift systems to potential candidates, they fully embraced not only flexi-time but a friendly approach which encouraged people to speak openly at interview stage about the issues in their life away from work which could create stress and anxiety if they felt ‘trapped’ by schedules.

“Instead of simply telling them our expectations, we start by asking them what they genuinely think they could do for us, even if it’s only a small amount, and then try our best to accommodate that within the shift pattern.”

Staff are still expected to arrive on time and their attitude towards guests and other team members remains paramount, but they always feel able to speak up and share worries. “Morale is really good, and I don’t think you’ll find a happier team – that’s important as we all have to work extremely hard.”

Some staff virtually create their own schedules and when agency workers are needed to fill gaps they too are treated like The Grand’s own employees. Williams admits that building the staffing rotas can be challenging. But it’s a task she and McCartney are more than willing to accept. Her ethos and passion for housekeeping is also embraced by general manager Simon Mahon – which is always a help!

The proof of ‘friendly flexitime’ working well is that The Grand coped with 100 per cent occupancy throughout the summer staycation boom – managing linen shortages as well as staffing issues. Her current mission includes enticing back skilled hospitality workers who left the sector. It’s not just about better pay rates and incentives but paying more than lip service to what should be the real meaning of ‘Work – Life Balance’.

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