More Than The Nine To Five
TAKING A LOOK INSIDE THE HR DEPT. OF A 24/7, FOUR-SEASON HOSPITALITY BUSINESS,
LOCATED IN THE HEART OF BANFF NATIONAL PARK
Jennifer Rohloff steers an exceptionally well-run ship. As Human Resources Manager for Banff Lodging Co., Jennifer is responsible for the year-round, smooth sailing of the company’s HR Dept., and the wellbeing of its entire workforce – which can swell to a number of 900-plus employees during Banff’s busy summer season.
For Jennifer, it’s true that in the postcard-perfect Banff National Park – that attracts vacationers from all corners of the globe and hosts an average of 3.5 million tourists yearly – there comes some behind-the-scenes pressures for a hospitality business based in the heart of a high-demand tourist destination.
For the HR Dept., these pressures come from ensuring that the company’s nine hotels, eight restaurants, two day spas, Lux Cinema, and Ultimate Sports outdoor rental store, have the just-right team to keep service standards high, day-to-day operations running slickly, and all guests happy – after all, serving over 5000 meals a day and taking care of 5000 daily overnight guests, takes some peer support, hard work and dedication.
To maintain this level of guest service, Jennifer and her team work tirelessly around the calendar to continually recruit a solid workforce made up of permanent, temporary, seasonal and part-time employees. This highly-involved role means that Jennifer has a particular knack for understanding government legislation and best practices for hiring Canadian workers and students, as well as international candidates in Canada for a working holiday adventure. With that, alongside her team, she can often be found attending job fairs and recruitment drives – both internationally and here in Canada.
In this year alone, the company has recruited 704 employees – and still counting.
Recruitment however, is not where the buck stops for this busy HR function; retaining great employees and rewarding a good job done, is Jennifer’s driving force – a philosophy 100% supported by Banff Lodging Co. Director of Operations, Chris Thorburn.
Jennifer’s hands-on approach and the ‘we’re here to help’ attitude she promotes, is admirable. For a three-person team [Jennifer is supported by Luke Hayes, Employee Experience Coordinator, and Mia Hoffmanova, HR Assistant], the HR trio take great attention to setting up all employees to prosper – and with Banff Lodging Co.’s diverse workforce made up of employees from over 30 different countries, a sensitivity to different backgrounds, cultures and customs, is arguably one of the keys to the department’s success.
“Our role is to go beyond the work experience; it’s about the work-life balance and the rich experiences that are open and ready to be enjoyed by our employees here in Banff National Park. We nurture that.”
-Jennifer Rohloff, Banff Lodging Co.
For some, beginning their employment with Banff Lodging Co. involves a first-time gap year, leaving their family, or taking the step to live outside of their home community. Most have never been to Banff, or Canada before, and some will not speak English as their first language. This understanding, and creating a support function that is welcoming, familiar and personable, is something that drives Jennifer and the team in their day-to-day initiatives.
“Over 90% of people that come to Banff come here alone, so it’s integral that we take on the ongoing responsibility of supporting our employees to integrate into the community.”
The orientation program is one commitment that Jennifer and her team stand by, for greeting employees with a friendly face. The orientation involves a two-hour session, hosted by Jennifer or Luke, whereby a small group of new employees join for a relaxed, informational session and Q&A. So far this year, Jennifer and Luke have personally welcomed 468 employees through new hire orientations.
“It’s invaluable that as a HR team, we have real experience of living here as Banff locals. Myself, Luke and Mia, we know first-hand what life is like here, and what there is to do. I’m not training Luke and Mia on the local community resources there are available for our employees to take advantage of, because they already know. They’re embedded into the community, and our combined local experience is a huge value-add to what we can offer our employees.”
For ongoing support, the department also holds twice-weekly drop-in sessions. Open to all employees, these are on a casual, no-appointment-necessary basis, whereby an employee can speak openly and in confidence to the team about any work or life-related issue, and seek out advice, guidance and solutions to anything that may be bothering them.
In addition to making sure that all Banff Lodging Co. recruits are assisted to find their feet within their new roles, Jennifer also keeps a close focus on informing and advising the managers across the business on what they need to know to support their in-hotel departments. From advice on policy, performance management, and employment standards legislation, Jennifer is on-hand to offer her expertise on all HR-related topics.
So, what does a typical day, week, and month look like for Jennifer and her team?
Most days will begin with responding to the employee inquiries left on the general HR line and email service [in addition to the drop-in sessions, Jennifer’s team welcome employees to contact them with all questions, at any time]. The department commit to replying to all messages within one business day.
On a weekly basis, Jennifer will execute departmental initiatives, such as policy development, updating the careers webpage and employee onboarding resources, and providing training resources for managers. Recently, she’s been focused on introducing a new online recruitment system being adopted by the company.
Identifying the opportunities in Canada and other parts of the world for recruitment drives is also a monthly responsibility for Jennifer, as is maintaining excellent relationships with Banff Lake Louise Hospitality Association, the Job Resource Centre, and international gap-year agencies that help Banff Lodging Co. remain competitive in hiring the best employees across the board. The team also works very closely with the Calgary Youth Employment Centre, and the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society to recruit young people and newcomers to Canada to careers in the hospitality industry.
As for Luke, his week-to-week focus is on the retention of employees and the ongoing support of the company’s dynamic workforce. This involves developing employee resources and providing timely information, including company news, and details on employee events and the company benefits program [Banff Lodging Co. offers a substantial employee perks program, including employee discounts for meals in any of the company’s restaurants, complimentary hotel stays, spa discounts, anniversary bonuses, free yoga, movie discounts, canoe rentals, and even subsidized ski passes and rounds of golf on the ‘Tunnel 9’ course at the Fairmont Banff Springs hotel].
Luke is also responsible for the execution of the employee events calendar, including a staff appreciation BBQ held every September, and the annual Anniversary party held by the company to celebrate all employees for long service, across all departments, [52% of Banff Lodging Co.’s salaried employees have been with the company for more than five years, and 27%, more than ten years].
Then there’s Mia, the onboarding powerhouse of the team. Each morning, Mia is responsible for ensuring the arrival process is seamless for employees; that they’re all set up for their new roles and have their welcome material to hand.
Days in this three-person department are no doubt busy. But, for this team, it’s important for them to remember to practice what they preach, and follow the Banff Lodging Co. way; the mentality right from the top that what you achieve in your role matters, but to respect, get out, and enjoy the surroundings of Banff National Park is equally important.
For Jennifer, it’s crucial that her department continue to live, breathe and advocate for the company culture of Banff Lodging Company; that of work hard, play hard – and she’s sticking to it.