Awards served up on a plate at people-focused Milton Keynes hotel

From left, Dominika Balut, guest service staff supervisor, and guess service staff Lewis Edmondson, serve up the MK Chamber award ' as well as coffee ' to group sales support manager Gemma Royle and group head of sales Marc Webster
From left, Dominika Balut, guest service staff supervisor, and guess service staff Lewis Edmondson, serve up the MK Chamber award ' as well as coffee ' to group sales support manager Gemma Royle and group head of sales Marc Webster

JURYS Inn hotel in Central Milton Keynes is to the local business community what Wembley Stadium is to footballers.

When big networking or showcase events happen in the city centre, they almost invariably take place at the big three-star hotel in Midsummer Boulevard.

“Most people might think ‘hotel, that’s beds’,” said general manager Grace McElroy. “But we’re much more than that.”

The 279 rooms are looked after by between 25 and 30 agency staff, and there are 75 directly employed full-time, part-time and casual team members at the hotel .

Jurys Inn is a multinational company, running 32 hotels in cities throughout the UK, Ireland and the Czech Republic.

As such it has developed a sophisticated way of identifying, recruiting, retaining and motivating staff. It was that which won it the Excellence in People Development category, sponsored by Nampak Plastics, at the Milton Keynes and North Bucks Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Awards.

Helen Evans, the hotel’s human resources manager, said they look for five key values in employees, most of whom come from connections with other staff.

The values they look for are people who are genuine, willing, positive, friendly and consistent.

“You can’t teach someone to smile,” said Grace, who joined Jurys Inn as a graduate herself. “People will have other qualities useful in other industries but those we look for in hospitality.”

Once people are taken on, they are not only shown the basics but are teamed up with a buddy alongside who they will work in jobs as varied as reception, bar, portering and conference catering. This is not simply to give them experience but to avoid repetition and boredom from doing the same job day-in-day-out.

Staff are given regular training, appraised on a periodic basis and kept in touch with career opportunities not only in the hotel but in others across the chain.

Employees are kept in touch with an internal newsletter, called MK Moos, as well as company-wide print and email publications and regular staff surveys which have lead to new employee benefits as well as actions to improve ways of working.

Helen said it was all about being a good employer, and being somewhere people want to work and – in an industry famed for high staff turnover – to stay and develop their careers. Jurys Inn, in Central Milton Keynes replaces an average of two people each month

Helen said: “People recommend us to members of their family and friends. They wouldn’t do that if we weren’t a good employer.” Staff get a bonus if they are praised by guests either by letter or online.

On top of all that, the £6million-a-year turnover business also arranges parties and events for staff and even tries to think of new ways to present training information. They turned a health a safety briefing into a quiz with prizes, all to get away from the dreaded death-by-PowerPoint presentations. Competitive inter-departmental training plans are refreshed every year.

The hotel, which also has 13 meeting rooms to cater for between two and a banquet for 340 people, proudly displays its Chamber awards since it opened in 2006. Last year, Jurys Inn was also shortlisted for customer care and environment accolades and are keen to consider going for gold again, if the categories are available to go for.