Head to Head with Soneva's CTO

Head to Head with Ann-Louise Hancock, Chief Talent Officer, Soneva

 

Tell us a little more about yourself and your role

I joined the luxury holiday resort operator, Soneva, just over a year ago and moved initially to our resort, Soneva Fushi, on the Maldives. I recently relocated to the company’s head office (which we call the ‘Hub’) in Bangkok.

This is my first role within the hospitality industry so being based in the resort for the first nine months was a great induction to the company and the industry. My role as Chief Talent Officer gives me responsibility for the complete HR and development agenda.

I have HR teams in each resort and in the Hub responsible for operational HR and a group learning and development function. It is a refreshing pleasure to work in a company – particularly so in an HR capacity – that applies such focus on the holistic welfare of its talent and measures its success as much by employee satisfaction as its profit margins!

My HR career stretches over 20 years having started with British Gas before moving into financial services. I ended up as the Head of Executive Development at Old Mutual having moved through the ranks at Skandia, the company that morphed into Old Mutual. In between times, I have also run my own talent management consultancy. This varied career path has given me fantastic exposure to different industries and HR experiences all of which have prepared me well for my subsequent move into the hospitality industry. Without doubt, it has been a significant transition and one which is both challenging and exciting.


Describe your leadership style

My leadership style is firm but fair. I believe it is important that everyone takes responsibility and accountability for their role and therefore I encourage all our employees (who we call ‘hosts’) to learn and expand their experience and knowledge.


"We solicit feedback from our hosts regularly to identify what we can do to continually improve their life/work balance and their benefits"

 

I am very accessible to my team and all our hosts and actively encourage them to come and share their thoughts, ideas and any concerns.


As a strong brand in the hospitality industry, what will Soneva do to create a compelling employee proposition over the next few years?

Soneva is a very popular employer in the geographies in which we operate. We are a growing organisation and will continue to focus on providing an ethos, philosophy, facilities and benefits to our current and in the future hosts which sets us above our competitors. We solicit feedback from our hosts regularly to identify what we can do to continually improve their life/work balance and their benefits. This is even more important when the majority of our hosts live on the resorts which tend to be remote. We also ensure that all of our learning and development interventions reinforce the brand, our core purpose and our values. We will soon launch a new brand engagement programme which all our hosts will attend and will be an exciting reinforcement exercise.


Structurally, how will HR meet the increasingly sophisticated needs of your employees (hosts) especially given your international dynamic?

A major objective for HR is to ensure that we are consistently applying and improving our best practices, policies and procedures. In order to remain an employer that people aspire to work for we need to continually build on our reputation as an ‘employer of choice,’ reinforce our brand credentials and evolve our employment offer. The HR team also has to evolve in terms of skills and experience to meet the changing needs of Soneva, the industry and our disparate geographies.


Can you characterise the ideal HR professional that Soneva will recruit?

The ideal HR professional for Soneva will be enthusiastic: an individual who sets high standards and looks to raise the bar. He or she will be focused on developing themselves and others, is respectful, authentic and trustworthy. Innovation is at the heart of what we offer our guests and the same is true for what we offer our hosts; a Soneva HR host needs to think laterally and creatively.

The acronym SLOW LIFE (Sustainable-Local-Organic-Wellness Learning-Inspiring-Fun-Experiences) explains the Soneva philosophy. Our aim is to create unforgettable, enlightening experiences that rejuvenate each guest’s love of SLOW LIFE.  A key requirement for any Soneva host in any role is that they must understand and be ambassadors for SLOWLIFE and love the Soneva brand.

 

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