Success Story – In conversation with Naureen Ahmed

Naureen Ahmed is a seasoned hospitality professional, a fervent community builder, an engaging storyteller, and the visionary founder of ‘Inspiring Women in Hospitality’.  

With a life journey that saw her living in four different countries by the age of 10, Naureen’s path to the hospitality industry felt predestined. Her academic pursuits led her to the EHL Hospitality Business School in Lausanne, where she felt an immediate kinship with fellow students, each with their own unique stories. 

Embarking on her career with a position at the Landmark London Hotel, Naureen quickly embraced the operational aspects of hospitality, setting the stage for a significant tenure at STR. Over 12 years, she transitioned through roles from analyst to head of departments, playing a pivotal role in transforming STR into the recognised brand it is today. Naureen’s leadership style is marked by inclusivity and a focus on building multicultural team environments. 

Recognising the underrepresentation of women in hospitality, Naureen launched the ‘Inspiring Women in Hospitality’ podcast to amplify female voices and inspire change within the industry.  

Her efforts expanded in September 2023 with the creation of the Inspire Community, a platform designed to foster support among women through mentorship and career development discussions. 

Can you share a significant challenge you faced in your hospitality career and how you overcame it? 

Advocating women’s empowerment is something I deeply care about. For me personally, one of my biggest challenges in the earlier years of my career was centred on speaking too quietly. The belief that hard work alone would get me noticed was a notion I held too closely, only to realise it was far from effective. I had to practise raising my voice, which felt like shouting to me, but it was the only way others could finally hear me. 

It involved pushing myself out of my comfort zone, especially in meetings where I forced myself to speak up, to make sure I was noticed. I learned the hard way that visibility is crucial for career progression. Looking back, I see how I could have approached things differently, particularly in how I shared my achievements and successes during one-on-one meetings with my manager—a practice I really underestimated at the time. 

The process of becoming more vocal and ensuring my voice was heard has become much more natural over time, but it still feels like a work in progress. It still takes time and practice, and it’s not about waiting for the perfect moment to feel ready. You just have to do it. 

What inspired you to create the ‘Inspiring Women in Hospitality’ podcast, and what do you hope to achieve with it? 

The inspiration for creating the ‘Inspiring Women in Hospitality’ podcast stemmed from my years at STR, where I was fortunate enough to interact with a diverse array of companies and individuals across the global hospitality industry.  

Despite encountering many incredible women, I noticed a significant gap in visibility; the industry’s leadership was predominantly male. This observation sparked a real desire to amplify the stories of these women, to create a platform where our voices could be prominently heard and celebrated. 

The concept for the podcast had been brewing since 2019, but it was the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, with all of us confined to our homes and all using Zoom, that helped bring this idea to life. It began as a passion project, but quickly evolved, and I’m about to do my 200th interview! 

My goal was always to ensure that every story, regardless of the individual’s level of experience, is heard. I believe everyone has the capacity to inspire, and by sharing these diverse journeys, I hope to create a sense of community and connection.  

The podcast aims to resonate with listeners, helping them see that they are not alone in their challenges and aspirations. Ultimately, I seek to foster a reflective space where we can pause, listen, and draw inspiration from one another. 

With joy being a core value of yours, what have been the most fulfilling and joyful aspects of setting up the Inspire Community, and how do you ensure that this stays central to the values of the business? 

Joy is at the heart of everything I do with the Inspire Community. The greatest joy comes from creating spaces where women can come together, share, and support each other, whether online or in person. It’s deeply fulfilling to facilitate these nurturing environments where open, judgement-free conversations allow us to celebrate our successes and navigate our challenges together. 

Maintaining this atmosphere of joy, positivity, and communal uplift is fundamental. It’s about ensuring we progress as a community, fostering an inclusive space where everyone’s growth is intertwined with mutual support. This commitment to collective upliftment and optimism is what I continually aim to embed in the core values of the Inspire Community. 

In your experience, how does the gender disparity in leadership roles within the hospitality industry impact the work environment and team dynamics? 

I’ve been fortunate to work in environments where gender balance was more or less maintained, even finding myself in teams at STR where women outnumbered men. My teams have varied over the years, from being all men to a mix, and coincidentally, by the time I left it was a team of all women, not out of design but based on talent. Personally, my approach has always been to hire the best candidate, regardless of gender. 

However, looking at wider research and insights, it’s clear that opportunities aren’t equally distributed between genders, with bias—often unconscious—playing a significant role. My aim is to raise awareness, educate, and challenge potentially biased decisions to ensure a more even distribution of opportunities. 

An interesting statistic from my interviews is that 51% of the women I’ve spoken to have started their own businesses, choosing entrepreneurship over navigating the complexities of corporate work-life flexibility. This trend underscores a need for more inclusive conversations around work arrangements, not just for women but for all caregivers, encouraging a shift towards more flexible work environments for both parents. 

In advocating for gender balance, it’s crucial to involve men in these conversations too. I’ve met many men in the industry who are strong advocates for gender balance. It’s important to engage with them, learn from each other, and work collectively towards uplifting everyone, finding solutions that benefit all, not just a select few. 

How has your personal leadership style evolved as you’ve navigated through your career? 

It’s a bit challenging to pinpoint this, but I’d say it comes down to two things. The first is that my leadership style is incredibly flexible, tailored to the person standing right in front of me. This realisation came from understanding that everyone I work with brings a different set of experiences, backgrounds, and motivations to the table, and my approach needs to adapt to meet those diverse needs. 

The second, and perhaps the most pivotal shift in my leadership, has been recognising the role of empathy. For the longest time, I didn’t openly attribute my success in leadership to being empathetic. It wasn’t something that was traditionally highlighted as a key trait for leaders. But over time, I’ve come to see that empathy is what truly defines me as a leader. It’s allowed me to listen more intently, create a supportive space for my team, and understand their unique needs and motivations. This deep level of understanding has been crucial in helping each member of my team grow and develop in the direction they aspire to. 

What are the most significant challenges that women face in the hospitality industry today, and how does your platform aim to address these issues? 

We’ve all heard of the “old boys’ club” – a network that, frankly, doesn’t exist in the same form for women. At the same time, I’ve come across too many stories of women competing against each other due to the scarcity of leadership roles. This counterproductive mindset needs to change, and that’s where my platform steps in. We’re here to create a foundation for strong bonds and mutual support, to counteract these outdated dynamics. 

The community we’re building is not just about making connections; it’s a space for learning from one another. Each month, we delve into topics aimed at career development, offering practical insights that members can apply directly.  

Furthermore, recognising the gap in mentorship opportunities for women, we’ve initiated mentor matching to make these crucial relationships more accessible. It’s become clear to me that women often don’t have the same networking opportunities as men, especially those who juggle their careers with primary caregiving responsibilities. This limitation often restricts their ability to attend events and conferences, which are traditional networking avenues. 

By creating this community, we’re breaking down the barriers to networking and mentorship. We’re addressing challenges like building your profile and networking, both of which are essential for career advancement. Yet, it’s not just about what we can do individually; organisations also play a crucial role. They need to cultivate more inclusive cultures where everyone feels comfortable speaking up and sharing their ideas. If the environment doesn’t support openness, progress for anyone is stifled. 

This need for cultural change in the industry also ties into the broader issue of showcasing the diverse career paths within hospitality. Part of my motivation for the podcast was to highlight these opportunities, to show that there’s so much more to the industry than is commonly perceived.  

Organisations need to do a better job of marketing themselves as desirable places to work, focusing not just on customer satisfaction but also on being employee-centric. It’s about making the industry attractive to potential talent, and addressing the labour shortages by showcasing the variety and richness of careers available in hospitality. 

Looking ahead, what changes do you hope to see in the hospitality industry regarding gender balance and inclusion, and what role do you see the Inspire Community playing in this transformation? 

While some organisations and regions, not just in hospitality, have adopted quotas as a means to ensure diversity across the board, I must admit, I’m not a big fan of quotas. However, I do believe in the power of starting conversations and taking a hard look at the existing data within organisations to understand where the gaps and patterns of exclusion are. 

From my perspective, the focus should not solely be on recruitment but on nurturing and retaining the talent we already have, particularly women who have been invested in by their companies. It baffles me why any organisation would want to lose such valuable assets, especially considering the costs associated with hiring new employees versus retaining existing ones. 

Flexibility in the workplace is another area ripe for innovation, extending beyond the option of remote work to include flexible hours, part-time roles, and job sharing. Moreover, the approach to parental leave needs a broader perspective, encouraging leaders, especially men, to lead by example by taking their full leave if it aligns with the company’s values, setting a precedent throughout the organisation. 

As for the Inspire Community, I see it playing a crucial role in this transformation. Our community, predominantly composed of women in mid-career positions, represents the next generation of CEOs and industry leaders.  

My vision is to prepare and propel these women into leadership roles by fostering a strong support network, increasing visibility, and encouraging them to be vocal and recognised for their contributions. We aim to ensure that these women are not just filling positions but are also on stage, leading discussions, and gaining the recognition they deserve.  

The change starts with each of us, working together to create a more inclusive and balanced industry. 

To discuss how we can support your businesses with your overall people strategy or to access our full suite of human capital services through Hospitality People Group, please get in touch on Tel: +44 20 8600 1180 or directly with team below:

Chris Denison Smith, Managing Director – FM Recruitment
+44 20 8600 1160 / +44 7775 711923
chrisdenisonsmith@fmrecruitment.co.uk   

Dan Akhtar, Managing Director – HPG Advisory Services
+44 208 600 1166 / +44 7808 157796
dan@hpgsearch.com   

 Guy Lean, Managing Director – Madison Mayfair
+44 20 8 600 1180 / +44 7813 009787
guylean@madisonmayfair.com   

Andrea Shaw, Director – FM Recruitment
+44 20 8 600 1160 / +44 7714 236469
andreashaw@fmrecruitment.co.uk  

Client Accountant, London – Position Filled

This position has now been filled. Please check our latest job opportunities here

Are you ready to take the next big step in your accounting career? Our client, an actively growing boutique management accountancy practice specialising in the vibrant hospitality industry, is on the lookout for their next star team member: a Client Accountant!

Based in sunny South London with excellent transport links, this role offers the perfect blend of professional growth and flexibility. Imagine working alongside a close-knit team, gaining invaluable insights into the financial and operational world of restaurants and bars. And here’s the best part: if you show promise in other areas, our client is all about nurturing your talents!

Reporting directly to the partners, you’ll dive into producing accounts for their diverse range of clients and ensuring top-notch quality in all your work. Whether you’re crunching numbers, meeting with business owners, or mentoring junior accountants, attention to detail and a knack for client relations are key.

Here’s what’s in store for you:

  • Managing a portfolio of exciting clients.
  • Crafting monthly management accounts that’ll make our directors’ jaws drop.
  • Preparing financial reporting packs like a pro.
  • Hosting monthly meetings with business owners to showcase your financial wizardry.
  • Keeping a watchful eye over junior accountants’ work to maintain top-notch standards.
  • Building strong internal relationships to ensure all client needs are met with a smile.

Now, let’s talk about you. To thrive in this role, you’ll need:

  • ACA / ACCA / CIMA qualification, freshly minted.
  • A minimum of five years’ experience in a similar role (because you’re no stranger to the accounting game!).
  • Mad skills in Sage 50, Google Docs, Excel, and all things Microsoft.
  • The gift of the gab and top-notch communication skills.
  • A love for numbers and an analytical mind that can’t be beat.

Oh, and one more thing: all applicants must be eligible to work in the UK.

So, are you ready to make waves in the world of accounting while enjoying the flexibility you deserve? If yes, hit that apply button and let’s make magic happen!

All applicants must be eligible to work in the UK.

For more information or to apply, please contact Tairona at fm@fmrecruitment.co.uk or call on +44 208 600 1164

Is Hospitality really the most stressful industry in the UK?

April is Stress Awareness Month, and after a number of publications last year reported that 57% of hospitality employees regularly experience high levels of stress, we want to ask if hospitality really is the most stressful industry in the UK? 

The most stressful industry in the UK? 

In July last year, a report from addiction and rehab specialist Delamere, on the toxicity of the hustle culture, gave a breakdown on stress in various industries. This report was picked up in a number of other articles at the time, and presented hospitality as the most stressful industry in the UK. According to the report, 57.1% of “Accommodation and Food Service” workers reported poor mental health, more than Health and Social Care and Manufacturing which rounded out the top three places. The data to back this up were attributed to Lifeworks’ monthly Mental Health Index. These figures tend to vary by month and while Hospitality is no longer considered the worst offender in terms of workplace stress, it still rates consistently low in areas such as Average Hours Worked and Work-Life Balance.  

The impact of stress on retention rates 

Long Hours and Work-Life Balance, contribute highly towards levels of stress, which can eventually lead to burnout, especially if the level of commitment to the business and its culture begins to wane. Inevitable this can lead to reduced productivity and employee retention levels.  

Last year, we published The Battle for Retention which looked at a number of other factors that can affect employee turnover. 

Advice on how to tackle stress in the workplace consistently revolves around how to spot it in yourself, and in your employees. As individuals, we all have a responsibility to ourselves to recognise when we are working too hard or neglecting our personal commitments. Hospitality Action is a charity that supports hospitality employees both inside and outside of the workplace. In their Advice Hub, they share expert advice and information on how to get further support on a range of issues, including Stress.  

Signs of stress can include:  

  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Feeling irritated with family, friends or co-workers 
  • Drinking more than usual 
  • Struggling with work deadlines 
  • Feeling isolated and lonely 
  • Physical symptoms such as: panic attacks, headaches, chest pains, indigestion, dizziness, nausea, sweating, breathing problems

Mental health charity Mind recommends some ways to manage it including:  

  • Identify your triggers – Try to prepare for stress by recognising what sets it off 
  • Organise your time – Make a list of your tasks and approach them in order of urgency 
  • Be clear about your limits – While it isn’t always possible to say no to things, let people know if you don’t have the capacity to fulfil their demands 
  • Try to take a short break – it may seem counter-intuitive to take a break when you are stressed but if you can allow yourself one, this can help how you feel 
  • Develop interests and hobbies – Outside of work, try to make time for what you enjoy to take you away from stress 
  • Get enough sleep 
  • Stay physically active 
  • Eat a balanced diet 
  • Spend time in nature 
  • Build a support network – having friends and family, or finding support at work to talk through why you feel stressed can make a big difference 

Employers also have a duty to instill a workplace culture that can help spot the signs of stress and empower them to engage with employees on a more personal level, especially if they are seeing symptoms of stress in the team or in individuals. According to the Health and Safety Executive, signs of stress in a team can include: 

  •  Increase in arguments amongst staff 
  • Higher staff turnover 
  • More reports of stress 
  • More sickness absence 
  • Decreased performance 
  • More complaints and grievances   

 In individuals, leaders may notice a change in the way people act or feel, such as: 

  •  Taking more time off 
  • Arriving for work later 
  • Being more twitchy or nervous 
  • Mood swings 
  • Being withdrawn 
  • A loss of motivation, commitment and confidence 
  • Increased emotional reactions – being more tearful, sensitive or aggressive 

In addition to the free support for hospitality employees, Hospitality Action also offers a number of support packages including Stress and Resilience Training, designed to bolster the resilience and wellbeing of your employees. 

If you would like support with your people strategy in 2023, FM Recruitment are here for you. With a superb track record in finding the right people for the right role, we have long standing relationships with clients and candidates and we can help guide you through challenging and sometimes stressful times.  

 If you would like to chat about your people strategy, please contact us on +44 20 8600 1160.  

 

HOSPACE 2022 – Overview and looking ahead to 2023 

After two years of huge challenges, hospitality enjoyed a bumper year in 2022 as pent-up demand drove business. However, as the Permacrisis (a word that was recently chosen as Collins English Dictionary’s word of the year) shows no sign of abating, 2023 has already been labelled by some as the “year of coping”. In this article, we reflect on some of the insights from HOSPACE and the hospitality industry in 2022 and look forward to what trends we might expect to see in 2023. 

Sustainability
Despite the ongoing cost of living crisis, sustainability continues to be a driving force behind many of the decisions made by owners, operators and investors. The current costs of energy and our reliance on fossil fuels have made more sustainable options a preferred option in terms of future-proofing.  

Speaking at HOSPACE in November, Danny Pecorelli, Managing Director of Exclusive Hotels, noted that while their collection of hotels may include some challenging designs, they have put sustainability into every decision they make. This has led to the introduction of wild swimming pools, technology-led solutions and a gradual movement from gas to induction in the kitchens. 

Unfortunately, many operators noted that none of this comes cheaply, but the cost of not doing something is even higher. 

Danny’s commitment to sustainability was later recognised as he was deservedly announced as the winner of the Inspirational Sustainability Leader of the year award. 

Recruitment
From a recruitment perspective we are continuing to see trends from 2022 expected to continue throughout 2023.  

Culture continues to play a determining factor in decisions candidates make to accept new roles or stay in current positions. We have spoken before about how candidates want to share the same values as their current and prospective employers.  

The way in which companies communicate and act on these values will be seen as a crucial factor in successful recruitment and retention. The cost of living is also a huge factor as many candidates are starting to see moving jobs as being an easier route to an inflation busting pay rise.  

With inflation hitting double figures in recent months, any pay increase less than this is viewed as a real terms pay cut. Moving jobs is often seen as the best way to increase a wage packet and we are now seeing remuneration expectations hitting +20% on current wages.  

2023 – A Coping Year
With these additional costs and an uncertain revenue forecast facing hotel operators in 2023, it is no wonder that a number of commentators at HOSPACE were referring to “A Coping Year” ahead.  

Hospitality has faced huge challenges in the last three years and those that have come through have developed a significant level of resilience.  

In many ways, the Pandemic Pivot was a lifeline for hospitality as it forced operators to adopt new technologies and ways of working to directly improve the customer and employee experience.  

While this agility and adaptability were necessary survival techniques in 2020/1, these skills will be used to continuously improve processes, control costs, boost revenues and drive profits in 2023.  

Previous recessions saw hotels forced to drop rates and drive occupancy to maintain profits. With many hotels still struggling with being under-resourced and the costs of selling a room increasing alongside the cost of living, many hotels will be looking to maintain or even increase rates. Some operators are potentially closing parts of their building or restaurants to save costs.  

Overall, it does look like the luxury sector may be in a stronger position to adapt to the current challenges. Their ability to pass increased costs onto customers who can still afford luxury is a comfort that won’t be reflected at every level of hospitality, which will be faced with a carefully balancing act of cutting costs and raising prices. 

Although 2022 has been a bumper year, we’re seeing a degree of caution for 2023. 

For support with your next career move or to improve your recruitment strategy, please contact FM Recruitment now using any of the below details:   

 Office +44 20 8600 1160 I Email fm@fmrecruitment.co.uk   
Chris Denison Smith +44 7775 711923 I Email:  chrisdenisonsmith@fmrecruitment.co.uk  
Andrea Shaw +44 7714 236469 I Email:  andreashaw@fmrecruitment.co.uk  
Tairona Lattanzi +44 20 8600 1164 I Email: taironalattanzi@fmrecruitment.co.uk

 

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