Culture is what drives Accor’s success as a company. More than ever, culture is the glue that keeps us together. Canadian Lodging News asked Tracey Kalimeris, vice-president, talent and culture, about the role of culture during a pandemic.
Canadian Lodging News: Why is a company’s corporate culture important?
Tracey Kalimeris: Culture is what drives our success as a company. More than ever, culture is the glue that keeps us together. Throughout these difficult times we have shown that we treat our colleagues as family by looking after them in any way we can.
CLN: Why is it especially important during a pandemic?
TK: Culture is what grounds us and makes us focus on what is important. During the pandemic there have been so many changes which resulted in stress and unknowns but if we keep our mind on the culture it acts as calm in the middle of the storm. When you have a culture of caring and trust, there are processes and values in place that allow us to extend exceptional care to our people during this time. It also provides comfort for personal and emotional needs.
CLN: How has Accor reached out to its employees during the pandemic?
TK: At all levels of the Company a lot of moral and financial support has been provided, whether through our Employee Assistance Program or through leadership communication. We created online newsletters, Facebook Groups and held Live Stream events to update employees on the status of the hotels. We used social media to communicate to ensure transparency and provide our employees had first-hand information. We also saw amazing things happen between our employees. Caring for each other, checking in on each other regularly, leaders who bought school furniture for their employees’ children to help them with the resources needed for at home schooling.
CLN: What are some of the most important things a company can provide during these times?
TK: Simply listening – our Talent & Culture teams have spent hours on the phone helping employees apply for government insurance, tending to panicked calls from those who could not navigate the new processes, and ensuring employees struggling with mental health issues received the help they needed. Empathy has gone a long way in offering support and understanding. In addition to this, we provided a safe environment for employees returning to work through our ALLSafe Program and Road to Recovery Toolkit which includes learning resources, PPE requirements, health screening tools and resources. We helped employees with flexible working arrangements to support childcare or eldercare concerns.
CLN: Have there been any shifts in Accor’s corporate culture during the pandemic — things that are emphasized more than ever?
TK: The focus on personal wellness and mental health are front and center. Besides this, work-life balance has become critical. Safety and wellness have always been important to Accor’s culture and this has been even further emphasized during the pandemic. Communication has also been highlighted as it is such a key component to keeping both our employees and guests informed.
CLN: How has the pandemic affected hiring and training of employees? Special training re cleanliness, etc?
TK: Training has pivoted to include how to address difficult situations with guests and each other. We made sure to move all training to an online platform which has since been accelerated by the pandemic and reoriented to focus on Health & Safety for those re-entering the workforce after temporary layoffs. Our ALLSafe training has been a key focus in ensuring everyone’s safety.
CLN: Are there programs that were in place that are particularly valuable at this time?
TK: Earlier this year, Accor announced its decision to allocate 25 per cent of its planned dividend to launch an ALL Heartist Fund devoted to financially supporting our employees who were most affected by COVID-19. The fund was put in place to provide support to employees who are struggling to pay rent or utilities, buy groceries or cover other expenses incurred as a result of the pandemic. Mental Health programs offered by our Employee Assistance Providers have been especially beneficial at this time. Occupational health and safety programs that support wellness, overall safe workplaces and keeping each other safe. Our culture training programs continue to be valuable as they remind us of our guiding principles and values as a Company.
CLN: Are there special programs relating to diversity?
TK: Our diverse workforce is key to our success. We focus on education and training through our Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives. Recently, we have initiated listening forums with employees across our hotels to understand areas of focus related to diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The information gathered from our listening groups will be used to further build on our D&I strategy.
CLN: How does Accor communicate with its employees during the pandemic?
TK: Zoom meetings, emails, newsletters, Facebook pages, videos and messages from our GMs and CEO. All of these have been pivotal in ensuring we stay in touch with our employees.
CLN: What changes do you expect to see over the coming months as Accor weathers the pandemic and then emerges?
TK: We believe the way we serve our guests will change: guest expectations will change. Some of the new habits adopted during the pandemic will continue after the pandemic such as virtual meetings. We will continue to develop creative ways of doing business, offering services and communication. We expect to see employees at all levels becoming more agile in their roles, learn new skills, take on new responsibilities and our hotels will continue to be resourceful in how they offer services to our guests – virtually or in person.