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Pembrokeshire Resort Bluestone to Showcase Impressive Growth at Flagship Business

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Since it opened in 2008, Bluestone National Park Resort has quickly grown to one of the largest private sector employers in Wales. And its people have been directly at the heart of the business. With the workforce more than doubling from 300 to 700 in less than a decade, as well as future expansion set to take staff numbers to 1,000 by 2020, there’s more need than ever to find, train and retain the right employees. Director of Human Resources Debbie Rainbow tells us about the resort’s bespoke employee engagement programme and how the empowerment and wellness of its workforce is key to future success.

Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business, so the theory goes. And it would be hard to find an employer more determined to embed this principle than Bluestone, where a programme of initiatives and benefits continually develops and evolves to safeguard its key asset – its people.

“Our employees are central to Bluestone; ever since the business was established back in 2008, their health and wellbeing has been a top priority for us,” says Debbie. “In 2012 we revisited the brand, culture and personality of the business as well as investigating ways of empowering and engaging staff to improve our overall guest experience.   This led to the creation of the ‘Be Part of It’ initiative.

“Designed as a means of empowering our entire workforce, its aim is to make every individual employee feel like an inclusive part of the Bluestone cog. We felt it was important to ensure that every member of staff understands why they are so vital to the success of the business.”

‘Be Part of It’ includes a talk at every staff induction from Bluestone founder and CEO William McNamara about the heritage of Bluestone and his vision for the future, with the aim of inspiring employees and making each member of staff feel part of the Bluestone family. The initiative also included a 12 to 18-month leadership skills training programme, part-funded by the Welsh Government, as well as the creation of a new Learning and Development Manager role.

“In 2014, Lucy Good was appointed to this position and was charged with revising our people development programmes” says Debbie. “As a result we launched our ‘Every Person Counts’ training and development programme to formalise the review process for all members of staff. Like many businesses, we ensure that every employee has a regular six-month review and is given an individual development plan outlining their goals, ambitions and training requirements.

“In addition to the formal training that all our staff receive on a regular basis – from NVQs to Institute of Leadership and Management qualifications and specialist awards such as the National Examination Board in Occupational Safety and Health  – what I think makes Bluestone stand out from other businesses is our staff wellness programme. Not only do we offer our staff a full programme of exercise classes throughout the week such as aqua pump and circuits, we also offer access to a fitness coach, where they can obtain advice on nutrition and fitness, as well as heavily subsidising the healthy eating options in the staff canteen to ensure they are accessible to everyone. The resort even has its own rugby and netball team!”

With awareness of mental health issues increasing throughout the UK, in 2016 Bluestone decided to invest in mental health first aid training for all senior managers. In addition to this, we also run mindfulness classes for staff, to encourage them to pay attention to their thoughts and feelings.

“We closely monitor staff absence as we want to safeguard our workforce and ensure we do everything we can to look after them in the working environment,” says Debbie. “Our senior managers are now trained to recognise the symptoms of anxiety and depression and know to address them with the member of staff. All our staff also have access to a counselling service, either via telephone or face to face, if needed.”

Last year, after receiving the Gold Investors in People Award in 2015, Bluestone received the Corporate Health Standard for Wales Bronze Award, which recognises standards in the workplace. Following this success, the resort has now been advised that they already meet the criteria for the higher awards, which they have now applied for. The in-house ‘ACE’ staff awards were created in 2016 to recognise excellence in attitude and culture and, with 10 categories and a prize of £1,000 in each, are proving a great way of motivating staff. An apprenticeship programme for the food and beverage department, in conjunction with Coleg Sir Gar, was also introduced in 2016 and has been so successful that expansion into the maintenance, spa and other departments is being planned. Bluestone was also awarded the South West Wales CIPD award for outstanding employee engagement at the end of 2016, recognising the lengths the business goes to, to motivate and encourage its workforce.

Central to Bluestone’s ethos and values is helping the local community, and with the imminent launch of the  volunteering programme, staff will be encouraged and supported in getting involved in volunteering.

“Staff will be able to clock up volunteering hours and recognised and rewarded for their community work with, for example, spa vouchers,” says Debbie. “We strongly believe that the skills they learn through volunteering can be brought back into the business. We’re also giving staff the opportunity to take part in a Vietnam to Cambodia cycle ride in September to raise money for the Bluestone Foundation. The trip will be partially paid for by Bluestone and we’ll put together a training programme for those who want to go.

“In summary, we’re all very proud of our achievements over the past few years from the development of our staff Wellness and ‘Be Part of It’ Programme, to the receipt of our Gold award for Investors in People and CIPD Award for Outstanding Staff Engagement, to the launch of our first apprenticeship programme and our ACE awards, however we are not a business to rest on our laurels. We are always looking at new ways to develop and nurture our existing staff and will continue to upskill our workforce, while also looking out for their wellbeing to ensure they have the work-life balance we all aspire to have.”