The staff team: The heart of the Palace Experience

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François Delahaye, General Manager of the Plaza Athénée


I recently met with François Delahaye, General Manager of the Dorchester Collection. Like a fine symphony maestro, he leads the hotels in the Collection: Plaza Athénée, the Meurice in Paris, The Dorchester in Londres, The Beverly Hills Hotel and the Bel-Air Hotel in Los Angeles, Hotel Principe di Savoia in Milan, the Coworth Park in Ascot, 45 Park Lane in Londres, as well as the Richemond in Geneva and the Eden in Rome.

Human Resources are above all a question of scale. We spend a lot of money on training. At Dorchester Collection, we are a relatively small group, but it is fundamental for us to develop talents. We do so on a local level to train new arrivals and educate them on the basics of luxury hotels. More and more, we complete their expertise and way of being according to the education that they have received. They have to rapidly learn how to carry themselves, express themselves, interact with the client and also thereby play their role in the client experience to the fullest. It is thus important to help them grow, evolve quickly, and help them find an internship abroad to improve their English.

We can also work with Christian Dior in the spa, for instance. This helps us tremendously when it comes to training the staff in an establishment that is not within our home ground of familiarity.

Of course, despite the fact that we allocate a large budget for training, some people leave to join the competition, and this can be costly. But some people come back a little more mature. They might have discovered new things, seen things that were not necessarily better elsewhere, and, in most cases, stay loyal to our hotels afterward.

Dorchester Collection is one of the only companies that owns our hotels. We don’t face the need to constantly convince the owner to invest. Personally, I think that this is essential. It means we have more time to look after the well-being of our employees. They won’t be able to make clients happy unless they themselves are happy. We are also lucky to have an owner who gives us time to develop the brand in an intelligent way.

How do you manage to create a team spirit or even a family spirit in your teams?

I would say that everything begins with the management. I often meet my staff teams on site to discuss matters with them and it is essential to have an exemplary comportment. I attach a lot of importance to personalize the relation that I have with each of my employees and staff members. It’s very important; I like when there is no doubt on the fact that the pleasure of working together is shared. You create team spirit by bringing together the teams. For this, I regularly share information and success indicators of our company. It is important for everyone to have an idea about what our establishment does on a daily basis. It is also important for everyone to share their values and common goals. Finally, I personally lead the trainings to present the strategy of the Plaza Athénée in the years to come.

Finally, a team spirit only comes together by surrounding yourself with people you can trust, to whom I can delegate responsibilities. It is important to strike the right balance of accompaniment and autonomy to allow people to live out experiences that will make them grow. This is why I surround myself with workers who have potential, and I never take decisions on an authoritative basis. My service team heads exercise freedom over the management of their service. This way, they don’t feel restrained, and they can each bring a touch of humanity.

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