Interview with Angel Birt - HR Director at Press Up Entertainment GroupPosted in : HR Interview Series on 21 October 2019
Name: Angel Birt
Position & Organisation: HR Director, Press Up Entertainment Group
Number of Employees: 1700
Time in Post: 4 years in my current role, 19 years with the company
Previous Job: I’ve been with Press Up since leaving college. I started my journey as a Bartender and progressed to Bar manager, General Manager and then Operations manager before starting my current HR position.
Tell us about your business in a sentence
We are Irelands leading Leisure and Hospitality group with over 50 venues including hotels, bars, restaurants, cinemas, venues and nightclubs.
Give us an idea about your early life and career?
I moved from Monaghan to Dublin when I was 17 to pursue my studies in Applied Science. I worked part time in Captain Americas on Grafton Street for 3 years during my college course. I loved the atmosphere of working in hospitality, the busy environment and interacting with so many versatile people.
After college I moved into a management position and this added another level to my love of hospitality, the people management element.
In 2006 I was lucky enough to spend a year travelling in Australia, where I continued working within hospitality to fund my travels. When I returned, I moved into the General Manager position at Captain Americas Tallaght for 3 years before taking on my Operations Manager role in 2011. As the company grew the need for a HR function presented itself and this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to develop my career within Press Up and do what I love, working with people. I established the HR function for Press Up in 2015 with an employee head count of 600 at the time. We now have a head count of 1700 and will have almost 2000 by year end with the opening of 2 more restaurants and a hotel with multiple food and beverage outlets. It’s been a busy and exciting couple of years to say the least!
What are the key challenges you face in your role?
To ensure the culture the company was built upon remains the same as the company expands. The constant challenge in hospitality is recruitment and retention, hospitality in general tends to have a transient workforce resulting in a high attrition rate. At Press Up our strong company culture helps to attract and retain the best people.
I worked closely with the owners of the company at the beginning when Press Up was founded. We had a great connection with all members of staff and knew everyone on a personal level, which lead to a family like culture in the workplace. As we continue to expand, we place a lot of trust in our senior management team to have this connection with their respective teams, keeping the family like culture alive.
I believe the difference between good and great is passion, and we’ve always looked to recruit and retain people who are passionate about hospitality, passionate about their role whether it’s in the kitchen, the bar or front of house. We want people to love what they do as their passion can be seen in service and in the product.
Finding and retaining the right people will always be the biggest challenge but that’s the nature of hospitality.
What keeps you going when things get tough?
We have a great team in Press Up and there’s always someone to use as a soundboard when needed which is great. I’m a positive person by nature and quite resilient so I take each day and each challenge as it comes.
If you could do any job in the world, what would it be?
I would have to say my current job, I couldn’t see myself wanting to do anything else (as cheesy as it may sound). The people, and the pride I have working for this company makes it the perfect role for me and I really do love it.
I love the versatility of my role, not only in the different job functions but in the diverse range of businesses we have. The growth of the company always throws up new experiences and I’m never bored and constantly challenged, which I thrive on.
Who do you most admire in business locally and/or internationally? Why?
Locally I would say Paddy Mc Killen and Matt Ryan, the co-founders of Press Up Entertainment Group. Their dedication and hard work ethic has lead Press Up and myself to where we are today. They really have created fantastic environments for people to work and socialise in.
Internationality, I admire the work of Isabelle Kocher, the CEO of Engie, a global energy company. In her first move as CEO , she implemented a 3 year plan to shift the company portfolios from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. She has also set equality objectives ensuring at least 25% of executives and 35% of high potential staff are female. Given the fact I have two daughters, I find equality initiatives like these very encouraging for their future.
How do you unwind after a tough week?
I am married with two young daughters and I love hanging out with them. All my family live down the country and I love getting out of the city and visiting them.
What’s your top office/business bugbear?
Poor time keeping. Understandably sometimes things run on or situations arise that can’t be planned for but in general, time keeping is something everyone should make an effort to be good at. It’s respectful.
What are the key characteristics of your top performing employees?
That’s easy, as mentioned above, passion. For staff dealing with customers on a daily basis we see our top performers are always people who are passionate about their role. When people love what they do they tend to succeed. For management there’s added characteristics which include respectfulness, ability to adapt to change and communication skills. The best performing managers lead by example and by taking this approach they gain respect from their teams and create a team that want to deliver for them.
What piece of advice would you give to a person trying to reach your position?
Where possible, gain experience in the field of the business you’re in, this way you have a better understanding of what drives people in your company, you know the business, the exciting parts and the challenging parts. Gain a thorough understanding of the company, the business and its operations, this way you can provide valuable input to ensure the operations align with both business needs and employee needs, a winning formula.
What would be the key piece of advice you would give to people considering a career in human resources?
Generally, a well-established HR function will have a variety of positions so I would advise working as a Generalist in your first role. Discover which area best suits your skillset and interests you most. By approaching your career in this way, you can build up your knowledge in all areas before moving into the area that appeals to you.
What benefits do staff value most in your organisation?
The continual training and development and opportunity for career progression is valued most. Nearly all of our senior management team have grown with the company over the years. We have the unique added value of movement, promotion and upskilling across our multiple range of venues. We tend to see people leaving their current roles and coming to Press Up as there is no progression for them with their current company. With Press Up we create opportunities for people who have the ability and want to progress in their career.
The Staff Privilege card we issue which entitles employees to a group wide discount in all our venues is also a hit with staff.
In your view what is the best thing an organisation can do to motivate staff and drive higher performance?
Listen to staff feedback. One front of house team member could interact with 60+ guests per day, even more in the bar sector. For a company to succeed they need to listen to the feedback from employees at every level. From speaking to people in service and having worked in service myself there’s nothing more frustrating than a problem that management could easily fix but don’t. Communication between all levels of staff is paramount. When staff feel they can speak to management and have issues resolved they feel valued and of course this leads to engaged staff and people engaged in their work are happier and deliver better results. Communication is key.
Reward and recognition is something we are constantly working on, trying to ensure the staff that go above and beyond are acknowledged and thanked. We’re currently working on an Awards Ceremony for next year to officially recognise the amazing people we have within the company.
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