EXCLUSIVE: Michael Caines MBE encourages staff to experience the exceptional

Employee Benefits Connect 2019

Employee Benefits Connect 2019: Michelin star chef Michael Caines MBE (pictured) ensures employee engagement by placing passion at the centre of strategy, and encouraging staff to appreciate and buy into the customer experience they are part of creating.

In the closing keynote address at Employee Benefits Connect 2019, titled ‘The secret sauce of winning leadership’, Caines told stories from his own background and working life, sharing how challenges and hurdles along the journey have helped shape his approach to being a leader. He also described how he built his country house hotel, Lympstone Manor in Exmouth, from a dilapidated wedding venue into a thriving business with engaged, passionate staff.

When employees are inducted, for example, they are shown a video expressing Caines’ viewpoint and passion for the business. This is a method of gaining their buy-in into the organisation’s values and mission from day one.

“No matter what department they’re in, part of their induction day is to get them into the brand and get them into a sense of the journey that’s been taken to get to Lympstone Manor,” he explained.

Other methods Caines uses to ensure that employees value the experience they are providing, is that after one year of service, staff members are able to stay and dine at the hotel for free. This is seen as both a perk and a method of ensuring that they realise the value of their work.

At festive dinners that take place each year, employees are shown promotional videos and informed about projects that are underway within the business. The organisation also uses champions and ambassadors to use storytelling and broadcast messages about key products and developments.

“We see our business through the individuals that we employ,” he said. “[The business] has captured my heart, and now I want it to capture the hearts of others.

“We have a strong identity in [the phrase] ‘experience the exceptional’. That’s not just for our guests, that’s also for our staff. Even if they leave us, we want them to feel that their time with us has been exceptional.”

Caines noted that an important part of the organisation’s journey was creating a brand and a sense of identity and place. This aims to be seen not just by guests, but lived throughout the day-to-day workings of the hotel. At the core, Caines said, is passion.

“Passion for food, passion for hospitality, passion for wine, a passion for housekeeping; we don’t leave anyone out,” he explained. “We use that as a narrative to empower and also buy-in our staff.”

When it comes to environmental commitments, for example, the hotel is committed to ‘guilt-free pleasure’, and Caines stated that it is important for staff to be able to see sustainable values being carried through each element of the business, from removing plastic straws to sourcing local produce, reinforcing the brand.

“We bring our staff into our projects, so that they can be a narrative [about] what we do,” he said. “So many of us do amazing stuff within our workplace, but we never really record it, so we lose the opportunity to tell the story. It’s a great marketing tool but also acts as a huge empowerment [tool] for your staff.”

Caines went on to outline the key ingredients that make up strong leadership, which include honesty, leading by example, accountability, good communications, being willing to delegate and empower, and fairness. He also explained that it is important to set clear goals for individuals and teams, and to motivate employees and recognise their effort.

“It’s about future-proofing and inspiring the next generation, and to do that you have to lead by example,” he said. “The engagement of staff is a reflection of your own leadership ability. One team, one dream, one outcome.”