From accommodating guests in elegantly decorated bedrooms, to fine dining experiences and providing corporate and event space, the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness enjoys an excellent reputation around the world.
Executive Magazine had the chance to experience the excellence of service that the Kingsmills team prides itself on, enjoying an artisan menu in a private dining room for this month’s business lunch.
On arrival at the hotel, we were warmly welcomed by our afternoon host, Kingsmills Operations Manager Craig Ewan, alongside the hotel’s General Manager, Tony Story.
Craig and his team were quick to provide us with liquid refreshment to quench our thirst on the hot summer day, while our other guests, Sandy Grant, General Manager of Tulloch Homes, and John Smart, Partner at Wright , Johnston & Mackenzie followed us quickly. .
We were all seated at a beautifully decorated table, in what I can only describe as a regal room, and introduced to restaurant supervisor Kelly who looked after us for the afternoon.
Having worked at Kingsmills for four years, Kelly provided exemplary service with a smile on her face as she looked after our every need throughout lunch.
As we all enjoyed our Geoff-prepared lunches that not only looked good but tasted amazing, our discussion quickly turned to how each of the industry leaders had overcome the recruiting challenges faced by the region was currently facing.
Craig said: ‘We’re doing well for staff at the moment but that’s only because we did a massive recruitment drive in May.
“After struggling to get experienced people to work for us, we decided to look to a younger market, so we recruited and trained them all.
“It creates more work, but that way you can shape them and they don’t pick up bad habits with them.”
Sandy, who works in the construction industry, said he is also struggling to find staff and especially site managers.
He said: “We are struggling like everyone else – trying to find site managers is a problem for us.
“In the past, we brought young people into the business and trained them.
“Learning good disciplines and company culture to start with is more beneficial because it’s much easier to teach than to bring someone in and try to change them.”
“We are lucky because we have a good group of youngsters at the moment who come from different backgrounds like business and we also have a former footballer.
“Not all of them have a construction background, but they have the ability to grow, learn and be part of a successful team.”
Sandy added that getting people to stay in the industry is also an issue at the moment, as wages have become more competitive.
“We try to make it difficult for people to make the decision to leave, and the salary is just part of that,” he explained.
“There’s more to a job than a salary, like job satisfaction.
“We had a few people who wanted to leave, and we had to explain to them, ‘here is your itinerary and what we can offer you’ and luckily we persuaded them to stay.
“I think this will be a conversation we need to have more often than not now.”
The discussion then took a natural turn towards the fact that there is a difference between the ethos of work that is present among young people today compared to when they started working.
Craig said: “One thing we notice in interviews now is that a lot of young people want to work for you, but not full time.
“They just want to work three days a week and I’m like ‘how do you make it work?’
“My human resources director and I had to question ourselves and we had to accept that we came from an old school background.
“We just have to respect it. We hire them three days a week and don’t give them more unless they want to.
“It’s so bad though.”
Sandy added: “It doesn’t suit me either. It’s the same with trades – 30 years ago, if the overtime offer was there, there would be a queue.
“Now people don’t want to work anymore and I understand that people have other things that are important to them.
“But the majority of people just want what they need to live and have no ambition beyond that.”
Craig explained something he had learned: “I was working with agencies such as Skills Development Scotland and the term ‘career portfolio’ was described to me.
“It’s the youth theme – they’re in a job for about a year and then move on.
“There really isn’t a career anymore.”
John replied, “Some people are looking for more than one job.
“But I think burnout is also a factor in the mix – people have had a big life change from Covid and are reassessing what they want to do professionally.
“And if we look at politics, the Scottish government is looking at a four-day week and if young people are interested in that, it’s probably no surprise that they want to work less.”
John hasn’t had any problems recruiting, but says the shift from office work to working from home can sometimes impact productivity.
“We currently have a hybrid system, with people in the office at least 40% of the week.
“I think Covid has provided us with a better work/life balance, but sometimes there is a productivity issue when people don’t come into the office.
“I’d like to see him move to more of a 60/40 ratio in the office.”
Sandy added: “For us, Covid was good in some ways because it forced some of our team members who would be in the office to go out there.
“The office team then had to interact with the site managers and all of a sudden a penny fell with them that there is value in this and they are now more on site.
“We have shared offices so people have a hub they can work from.”
The discussion then moved to the lack of accommodation in the area, which poses a problem in attracting skilled workers to the Highlands.
Sandy said: “We do our best to provide as much accommodation as possible, but there are hurdles at play such as the planning system.
“While the national government is doing all it can to talk about the lack of housing, it doesn’t seem to take turns at the local level.
“There are also not enough planning staff to handle all the planning requests.
“Furthermore, there is a powerful lobby that opposes development.
“There is a housing crisis, but it’s not that we don’t have enough land, but we don’t have enough to build houses.
“There has to be a way to free up more land available to build on.”
John asked, “Is the housing stock seen as investment stock, a problem?”
Sandy replied, “Yeah – I think that’s true.
“It’s classic supply and demand.
“There is a lack of supply everywhere. People with money come in and get a vacation home for example, pushing homes to a level unaffordable for a lot of people, meaning the market that really needs to be served is still being missed.
Artisan Menu at Kingsmills Hotel
Seafood Platter – Connage Dunlop Cheese Puff – Smoked Chicken & Truffle Press
Rack of Venison Roasted with Coffee – Heritage Carrots & Chestnut Tatin Pie – Grilled Bass Fillet
Name: Sandy Grant
Occupation: General Manager at Tulloch Homes. Having worked for Tulloch Homes for over 20 years, Sandy got her current role when Springfield acquired Tulloch last year.
Name: Craig Ewan
Job: Operations Manager at Kingsmills Hotel and Ness Walk in Inverness. Craig has been in the hotel business all his life.
Craig completed the NC500 in a breathtaking 33 hours and 59 minutes in 2021, raising funds for Maggies Highlands.
Name: John Smart
Job: A partner at Wright, Johnston and Mackenzie, John helps companies buy and sell commercial properties.
John is ranked in the Legal 500 for his expertise in commercial property and the environment.