Inn Collection Group named one of best places to work in UK

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Smiles all around: Inn Collection Group has put its people first
Smiles all around: Inn Collection Group has put its people first

Related tags Training Pubco + head office Finance

The Inn Collection Group (ICG) is celebrating being officially named as one of the UK’s best places to work after the Newcastle-based pubco was named on the 2023 list compiled by The Sunday Times.

Recognising companies that create happier working environments by fostering engagement from their teams, ICG’s listing comes following a recent survey of employees where 78% of respondents declared themselves “happy” at work.

With more than 1,000 employees across the group, The Inn Collection Group’s mission statement of “making people happy” has been directed internally as it aims to support its people in their personal and professional development.

ICG Liz Robertson
People director Liz Robertson

said ranking on the list was a “real affirmation”, but a bit of a surprise. “We entered this year, genuinely thinking we would just see what the process was so, so that we could learn and do better next year,” she said.

“We genuinely did not think we would make it this year, having only have a people department for just over 18 months.”

The company had grown exponentially in the last 18 months, and 1,000 new hires are expected to be made by the end of the year. But the people director believed what sets it apart was that it always put people first.

Investing in people

“We were operating a fine balance of growing, but not losing that family feel we have to the business,” she added. “[We] make sure there’s human connection, and that we are talking to our colleagues, and that communication goes both ways.

“We’re listening to their thoughts, and where we need to improve, as well as communicating in a better way about what the business is doing and the direction we’re taking.”

In July 2022, ICG launched a vision on making people happy, and has put “real focus” on communicating that to employees.

During the past year, this has seen the establishment of a seven-strong People Team at its central support offices in Benton, who work to attract, nurture and support staff across the company.

The mission statement also included addressing the benefits package and adding incentives such as paid breaks, and £1 stays at sites for employees through January to March. This had been a “massive hit”, according to Robertson.

The team also focused on employee wellbeing and an employee assistance programme, which focused on the individual and any help they may need – albeit this be financial aid or mental health support.

Offering their Inn Safe Hands support programme through respected independent provider Hospitality Action allows the group to also support colleagues in their lives away from work too, whatever the challenge being faced.  

More to be done

An annual awards ceremony recognition programme had also been rolled out: this celebrated rising stars in the business, and heroes in the kitchen, front of house and housekeeping teams. “It’s gone down really well”, said Robertson, “our colleagues are already talking about it for next year, and wanting to get nominated.”

ICG, like many hospitality businesses, was feeling the burden of the recruitment crisis, caused by Brexit and a change in workers’ culture since Covid.

It’s too early to tell whether the new initiatives are making an impact on staff retention. However, the business had noted that it had been able to attract and recruit effectively, where other operators had been struggling.

“You would argue a direct link is the benefits package we’re putting out,” said Robertson. “We’re building our employer brand and selling what it’s like to work for ICG.”

However, ICG’s investment in its people was nowhere near done. “From our perspective, there’ still an awful lot we want to do in making a great working environment for our colleagues,” said Robertson.

The pubco was looking at improving its communication with staff and doing more in terms of career progression. Its chef academy will launch later this month, and career development pathways were in the works.

From here on out, investing in its learning and development programme will be a key focus.

Robertson’s advice for other operators? She quoted Richard Branson: “Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don't want to.”

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