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Blog : Purple Interview - Eugenio Pirri, VP People & Organisational Development - Dorchester Collection


Purple Interview - Eugenio Pirri, VP People & Organisational Development - Dorchester Collection

1. Can you give us a brief introduction to Dorchester Collection?

Dorchester Collection is a hotel company set up to manage some of the world’s most iconic luxury hotels in Europe and the USA. We are driven by our core values; Passion, Personality, Respect, Working Together and Innovation. We don’t make a single decision without these – using them to help us work together; cross culturally, cross departmentally. Our hotels are all individual, with their own character, design and culture. Our vision is to become the ultimate hotel management organisation; offering the best and most-desired experiences.


2. What was your first job and how did you become VP, People and Organisational Development?


My first job was in McDonald’s at 14 – in charge of the fryer! Having always been career driven, I attended all of the learning programs offered and within three years I was a manager. McDonald’s was a great learning ground for understanding different cultures and knowing when to vary leadership styles, especially when managing people who were older than me. It taught me a lot about myself and this was when I first realised it’s not about what you do as a business, it’s about the people who are doing it. I fell in love with service and so I moved into hotels, starting as a room attendant and worked my way up. It was the hardest job physically, but the camaraderie, the fun and the engagement was great. Such amazing team spirit and that’s what got me hooked with hotels. From here I moved through the business, into food and beverage, engineering, accounts. Our HR Director recognised my talent with people and suggested I moved in the direction of HR – a year later I was HR Director of Metropolitan Hotel Vancouver at just 24.

What then allowed me to grow my career was my drive and operational experience. HR professionals shouldn’t underestimate the importance of gaining operational exposure.


3. You have iconic hotels across Europe and the United States all with their own individual style – how do you ensure this uniqueness is aligned with the values of the Collection and ‘lived’ consistently across the globe?

We respect the individuality of our employees and understand and embrace differences. We hire because of talent, and we always respect that talent as this is what will build on the individuality of the hotels; allowing our culture to feed through. It’s about engaging people with the base core standards and then encouraging them to use their individuality to go over and above.  Our learning academy is built around our values and is bespoke for every level of the organisation. We want people to learn about themselves as the more they know, the more they will understand our culture and values.

We also believe that when you open a hotel in a new location with a different culture you shouldn’t try and change that. What we aim to do is deliver our product consistently, with service excellence, using the uniqueness of the location – in Paris our delivery is typically French-style, in London it’s traditionally English.


4. Your hospitality career spans 20 years – what’s the biggest change in regards to people engagement you’ve seen and what do you think the next will be?

The different generations in the workplace. This isn’t so much of a challenge though; it just makes you think about how you can do things differently – how you communicate, what you do to engage, how you embrace social platforms. The future is all about fluidity. People want things quicker, faster and now! If organisations don’t recognise this, can’t be nimble or willing to move / change, then they won’t survive. Take advantage of opportunities around talent and take risks developing them. Growth and promotions have helped Dorchester Collection keep retention rates high – we move people around our locations, we take risks and as a result our talent stays with us.


5. Is this your first experience of working for a privately owned collection? If so, have you got any advice for managing upwards in this situation? What’s the difference between here and private equity owned?

Yes and I love it; we don’t have a traditional corporate structure and I couldn’t imagine working for a different style now. We are owned by the Brunei Investment Agency and report to the board. Everyone gets involved in running and developing the business though, we gain far more buy in this way. Our guidelines come from an individual and entrepreneur perspective.   


6. Can you share some of your life lessons with us?

You’re not just giving people jobs – you’re giving them a means to achieve their dreams. I realised this many years ago when I gave an employee her very first job. She spoke little English, however that job changed her life – she learnt the language, she could provide her family with money which then helped them improve their lifestyle. Giving people a job gives people an opportunity. Talent is everywhere, sometimes you just need to take the time to look beyond the expected and you’ll find it.


7. Global career mobility is moving up the priority list, with many businesses recognising they have the talent but not always in the right place – how do you use your talent management tools to optimise your workforce?

The best arsenal we have is knowing our talent so we talk to our people, we listen to what they have to say and we assess what the data shows us. Tools like nine box succession planning give you the visibility to do this – simply and fairly. By knowing our people better we can maximise the opportunities available to them; that’s why we’ve doubled the number of promotions and transfers in the last few years. We couldn’t do this without the conversations though – that’s why we invest in talent management tools.

It’s also great that our people are open to movement across our collection. We therefore look at individual strengths, where there are opportunities and where possible move them to that area; supporting them with visas and work permits to ensure our mobility is truly global.


8. It’s Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer aims to help readers become more ‘employable’; what do you think schools/colleges, Universities and employers should be doing to support this?

To facilitate a smooth transition from higher education to graduate employment, the curriculum needs to have a balance between theoretical and actual current operating knowledge of what happens in the workplace. We should focus on placements/ internships and work experience to enhance employability through greater engagement with leading industry players.

9. What are you reading at the moment?

I’m much more of a music person rather than being an avid reader; however I do like trade journals, HR titles and legal case notes. I get a lot from them and helps me think about things in a different perspective.

10. As the competition for talent becomes fiercer, employers are resorting to innovative and quirky ways to interview potential candidates; often asking absurd questions. What’s your approach at Dorchester Collection? And what’s the strangest question you’ve asked / been asked?

We hire according to our talent and devised a recruitment tool which directly links to our talent benchmark. The strangest question I have been asked is, “When is it ok to call off sick from work?”.

11. What advice do you have for HR professionals looking to move into a global role; what should be on their CV?

Absolutely operational experience – if you haven’t got it then get it through job shadowing, job sharing and taking shifts in different areas of the business. Following on from this is cultural knowledge, especially for global roles. So I encourage people to take the assignments offered – go abroad, spend a year somewhere else, be adaptable and flexible. The quicker you experience and realise things are different across the globe then the easier your future role will be.

If you are yet to have global experience you must demonstrate transferable skills – so make sure you know all elements of global HR roles, your CV is balanced and you associate your experience to the role requirements. It’s important to have subject matter expertise, though be more rounded with your knowledge as the silos are now gone and in all roles you need to be more generalist and show flexibility. Use your networks, get a mentor and use consultants to give you the expert edge. The best advice I was given and live by is ‘do your job like you’re not afraid to lose it’ – you’ll gain an edge and take calculated risks which will really make a difference.


12. What are your three employment No No’s?

  • Don’t get too personal in an interview
  • Dress for the job you want
  • People who don’t have a career plan


13. Can you share your experiences of working with Purple Cubed?

We’ve partnered with Purple Cubed for the last couple of years, having implemented our online talent management system ‘Your Future’ across all of our hotels. With the introduction of this system, we believe we are stronger, have clearer knowledge around our people and succession planning and can really make a difference in how we develop our teams. Both us and Purple Cubed learnt from the first year of launch and have seen fantastic outcomes as a result. We’re about to launch again, with a few minor changes in an effort to improve the huge achievement of 95% completion in year one to 100% globally this year. Having now seen the results and what this system can do for employees, I know we’ll reach this goal.

Ready to get in touch?