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Interview with – Hilary Archer HR Manager St Ermin’s Hotel

Who are you and what is your current job role? Hilary Archer, Human Resources Manager St Ermin’s Hotel How did you get to this position…what was the pathway and what did you do before? I originally started out with a degree in Fashion Design and then changed tack completely. I moved to London, worked in retail in Oxford Street then had an opportunity to become a wages clerk for one of the high street stores, which I took, as at that point I had no administration or office based skills. It was as a wages clerk that I got my first job in a 5 star London hotel. I loved the environment so much I volunteered in my spare time to help out other departments which gave me an all round understanding of the business.

I have worked for Forte Hotels, Hilton, Thistle/Mount Charlotte, Marriott and IHG. During my time with these companies I took every opportunity given me and developed a generalist approach to Human Resources including Training and Development. After being made redundant from IHG in 2009 I took a year off, then at the beginning of 2010 did some consultancy work and as part of this was put in touch with the current owners of St Ermin’s, who offered me the role of HR on a permanent basis. What are the challenges in this job? Challenges at St Ermin’s have been many although typical of a hotel that is sold to new owners then undergone a closure and full refurbishment. The very best bits have involved creating a culture from scratch that embraces both American and British cultures and one we believe complements the hotels physical ambiance. Also adopting a recruitment ethos that is not typical of our industry, which in itself creates a challenge in so far as always holding our nerve and only recruiting those we believe will be able to live our Vision. Who has influenced you the most in your career and why? There is not one single person who has influenced me most in my career. Quite the opposite. I try to learn and take something from everyone I come into contact with, even those who at the time, I may not think I will gain anything positive from. It’s usually when I am creating training that I’m reminded how much I have gained from all the General Managers and various Directors I have worked with over the years. What do you do to switch off? When I’m really immersed in a new project I do find it hard to switch off. At other times my problem is I have so many interests and things I love doing that I procrastinate too much and then loose the free time! In 2013 I shall put renewed effort into being creative in some form or another. Any Pearls of Wisdom or strategies for success that you would like to share? I am not sure I am the right person to look to for pearls of wisdom. The things that have worked for me are: Recognising what my values in life are and whilst remaining true to them, also recognising that as I’ve got older these values have changed.

Taking every opportunity that has been given me (even if at the time I was not sure where it would lead). Being the best that I can be at whatever I am doing at the time.

Learning to truly listen.

Question everything. What are the current issues in your business / sector and how do you see them being resolved? I think the current issues for our sector are the same as they have always been since I have been in the industry, and they are twofold.

The first is that on the whole this country still fails to hold our industry in high enough regard and our education system is seriously lacking in understanding what is required to ensure young people have the skills and aptitude to make a successful and rewarding career, particularly in hotels, which are mini industries in their own right requiring many different skills to run them. Whilst television has gone a long way to giving insight into the food and beverage and hotel side of the industry (some good, some bad) it should not be left to the media to raise our profile. Until we (our industry leading bodies and government education departments) get a grip on the fundamental issues, nothing will change. We will continue to fight the good fight and hope for the best.

The second is that in times of economic downturn our industry sector tends to immediately reduce or strip out its ability to manage and develop its people. Whilst it is absolutely right to respond to the downturn by looking for different solutions to become more cost effective with employee efficiencies, this must be done with both short and long term strategically (and historically) informed decision making, not just a quick financial fix process.


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