Mandarin Oriental leverages lessons of another crisis

GOSTELOW REPORT—“Two years ago the team looked at me rather strangely when I started talking about kindness. We had been weeks away from re-launching the hotel after a two-year massive renovation when J6 happened,” says Amanda Hyndman, general manager of the 181-key Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, and area vice president of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group.

J6 was the hotel’s much-publicized fire, on June 6, 2018, but from the start it has always been called J6.

“At the time, we did our utmost to keep our arms around our colleagues, supporting them both financially and emotionally. There were a lot of emotions and insecurities to tend to,” she recalled.

Amanda Hyndman, photographed in the welcome area of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, has put away her usual business attire for more normal times.
Amanda Hyndman, photographed in the welcome area of Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, has put away her usual business attire for more normal times.

Owned since 1996 by Hong Kong-based Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, the hotel retained, on full pay, its entire 600-strong team, including those running Bar Boulud, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal and The Rosebery.

‘’My main priority was to retain the team for the re-opening, and I knew that with so much time at home they could be bored and tempted to get other jobs. Everyone was so kind to us after J6 – from the Fire Brigade themselves and the Salvation Army to other hotels. They cared for guests and colleagues on the day itself.”  

To give back, FANtasticLondon enabled the team to volunteer, working with the underprivileged, including the homeless, senior citizens and local schools. They worked alongside colleagues from different departments and seniority to deliver, in all, 40,000 hours of community service before re-opening, and 7,000 hours after it.

“FANtasticLondon continues to an objective going forward. It really bonds the team, it supports almost 100% retention,” the GM said. 

The hotel re-opened on April 15, 2019, with the vision “to become one of the finest hotels in the world, reinvented and reimagined, through kind and generous service.” Ironically, only 344 days after that glorious re-opening, the hotel had to close again because of coronavirus.

Once again, the team has been kept on (this time, the U.K. government makes up 80% of salaries).  Once again, Amanda Hyndman is leading her troops, but this time partly from home as well as, in atypical smart-casual gear, visiting the property’s skeleton maintenance and security personal several times a week.

“All virtually, I start with a senior team brief at 9 a.m. and a second one every day, same participants, at 3 p.m. They, in turn, lead weekly meetings with their own teams. We have regular update calls with department heads. Teams produce their own weekly fun newsletters. Senior team leaders check in with every individual for a weekly one-on-one just to check that they and their families are doing OK,” Hyndman explained.

“Everyone can access our MyMO app, on which I upload a general update video every Friday. We have a new #StayingEngaged competition, to post pics and videos of what people are up to – we share recipes, wellness tips or highlighting new skills. All this communication is, in addition, complemented by purely voluntary daily learning and development activities led by HR, and by daily wellness videos from San Jose, California-based Grokker, to nurture hearts, minds and bodies.”

Hyndman finds Microsoft Teams great for document sharing, video calls (small), and chats. Zoom is preferred for virtual meetings of 10 or more, and Skype is used for online training. When it comes to general messaging, and communicating with global colleagues she turns to WhatsApp, and for group calls it is LoopUp and GoToMeetings. The teams add Facebook and Houseparty too, she admits.

The entire team remains on standby. “Yet again, as was the case this time a year ago, we truly cannot wait to re-open and welcome our guests back. There will be more kindness than ever. This is our rallying cry for tomorrow.”