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Events

Mediocrity to Magnificence in less than two years - Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I Hotel

Franck Sibille, General Manager of the Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I Hotel in Barcelona, shares with BI WORLDWIDE the arduous journey in behavioural change management which has taken the hotel from a poor performing conference hotel to one which is proud to impress!

In May 2015, there was already a new name over the door of the HUSA run Rey Juan Carlos I. It was now a Fairmont, however Sibille soon realised that a new name and an investment of 40 million Euros was not really going to achieve his objective of turning the property into a world-class luxury conference hotel, of which the city of Barcelona could truly be proud of.

There needed to be an inner transformation, a quantum leap in behavioural change of the staff for the hotel to succeed. Sibille wanted to call this initiative a ‘detox’ programme, but the term conjured so many negatives that it evolved into adopting the name ‘CLIC’. CLIC stands for Connections, Leadership, Illusion (hope in Spanish) and Community.

Sibille had the innovative idea to bring in the Barcelona Handball Coach, Xesco Espar, to set the scene. The Coach had taken the Handball team from languishing at the bottom of the table into the Premier League in one year. An avid tennis player himself, Sebille understood the value of sports coaching to achieve enhanced business performance.

Change had to come from within the staff. Much of the transformation came from demonstrating transparent communication, engaging staff to find solutions particularly in food and beverage, whilst ensuring that management had the passion and energy to deliver each and every day.

Sibille shared: “There were lots of obstacles. We had employees on three different types of contracts determining different pay and benefits. Every day we faced the challenge of inconsistency in services. It was hard to attract talent to a business which didn’t have a great reputation” admitted Sibille.

You have to have staff who know how to shake the tree and make the jam! They are often two different types of people or they have to evolve into the roles as the challenges of the business change over time as success is achieved. You need the right people in the right place at the right time. But they don’t need to be there forever.”

The hotel lost 10% of its staff during the change, but Sibille thought it would have been even more. They didn’t reduce the headcount though. Investing in the right people allowed staff to deliver the service guests expected and the financials are now in a really healthy state. The hotel has 400 staff, representing a staff to guest ratio of 1:2. A large proportion of the staff are focused on delivering outstanding food and beverage experiences.

Christian Fons, the Head Concierge of the hotel, has been selected as one of the finalists for ‘Best Concierge in the World’

  • Franck Sibille
  • General Manager

Has this investment in human capital paid off? Sibille answers: “It sure has! Christian Fons, the Head Concierge of the hotel, has been selected as one of the finalists for the highly coveted award of ‘Best Concierge in the World’ bestowed by the renowned association Les Clefs d’Or.”

Behavioural change is achievable even given the most difficult circumstances. Staff need to see management is transparent, conditions are equal and fair for all of them and there is no fluctuation in energy and passion displayed at the top.

As the Accor Global Meeting Exchange conference, bringing together more than 300 industry specialists from around the world together for a four day convention in the hotel, came to an end, the overwhelming majority of us agreed that Franck Sibille has undertaken a remarkable journey in change management, which gained such resonance from the audience this weekend in Barcelona. The hotel now exudes customer service excellence, personified by Christian who is a role model to anyone wanting to go into the hotel and hospitality sector to make a career for themselves.

Christophe Tressmar, Director of the Barcelona Convention Bureau, stated: “The city needs men like Franck to ensure that we stay at the top of our game. A bit like Barca, we have to invest in the best players to win!”

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