In every hotel, there’s a community made up of the people who work there. Tight knit professional teams form strong bonds and create a great atmosphere for visitors. Wellington’s warm and welcoming CQ Hotel, also sees itself as part of a very special community, the people who work and live around the capital’s famous and vibrant Cuba quarter.
As General Manager Olivier Lacoua explains: “Everybody who works here understands that and lives by the values created by the team: a place for everyone, where employees feel safe and comfortable and we show passion in all that we do for our customers and community.”
Back in 1908, the building was home to The People’s Palace, Cuba Street’s distinctive hotel run by the Salvation Army. Today, in a revitalised building that blends old architecture with high-tech modern styling, the tradition of taking care of others extends to an active commitment to employee development right across the business.
CQ Hotel has 82 employees who, judging by the mostly five-star rave reviews on TripAdvisor, take consistently excellent care of a steady stream of guests from all over New Zealand and the world.
Over the last two years, nine employees have completed ServiceIQ on-job skill development programmes, while a further 13 are currently enrolled or completing their training. This includes apprentice chefs, members of the housekeeping team, restaurant food & beverage staff and front of house managers.
“We always need to train employees and increase professionalism to satisfy our customers,” says Olivier.
“For our employees, gaining better skills and a qualification is attractive. Depending on the programme, it can take between one and three years on the job for a person to qualify, and this gives us, the employer, the chance to build trust and a positive relationship with them.”
As an operator, Olivier says ServiceIQ helps upskill and put a little bit of structure into the employee development pathway. Training on-job also helps retain employees and when they complete their qualification, they are a real inspiration to others.
Training on-job also helps retain employees and when they complete their qualification, they are a real inspiration to others.
It’s a mutually beneficial initiative for everyone: CQ employees, customers and the business.
Olivier, as his name suggests, was born and raised in France. He is one of New Zealand’s most experienced hoteliers and a veteran of the global hospitality industry with roles in France, United Kingdom, United States, and New Zealand. He has clear insights into what it takes for a hotel to succeed.
In France, hospitality service at its best is highly professional, stylish and more akin to an art form. Olivier describes New Zealand’s service as personal with a good friendly attitude.
The standard he seeks for his employees is a mix of both qualities.
“It’s all about balance. I think too much Kiwi attitude would be too relaxed, but professional service combined with a Kiwi attitude is ideal.”
“At the end of the day if you have a culture of learning you are on the right track.”
A positive attitude is a prerequisite for all CQ Hotel employees.
“We can train for skills but if someone isn’t willing there’s not much you can do,” says Olivier.
Training isn’t limited to job specific skills, but other areas where employees can benefit. This includes a starter programme in literacy skills to help support employees with English as their second language.
In addition, Olivier believes it’s vital to celebrate success, and to acknowledge his people’s achievement each day.
“It may only be for something small, but it’s the way you thank your people that is important,” he says. “Our people are also encouraged to nominate other employees who demonstrate our values and they receive awards.”
As well as career development, the business also gives employees a wide range of other benefits which include meals, access to discounted dental care, monthly and annual employee awards, and quality special events to celebrate milestones.