The Capital Hotel and Apartment’s people-first approach gets recognised at the 2022 CHRO Awards

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John Skelton, CPO of The Capital Hotels and Apartments.

Human resources executives, or chief people officers (CPO), have become critical during the pandemic. Individuals in these roles are instrumental in helping organisations craft effective work-from-home strategies, map out hybrid work models, and enable frictionless collaboration between remote and in-office staff, all while safeguarding employee well-being.

Among these HR executives and CPOs, a select few have shown outstanding skills, vision, and results this year. These individuals are being recognised for their achievements at the 2022 CHRO Awards. The awards acknowledge the chief human resource officers of listed companies, large corporations, state-owned entities, and government institutions and award them for outstanding performance and leadership.

One of the CHRO Award nominees this year is John Skelton, Chief People Officer at The Capital Hotel Group. Skelton joined The Capital Hotels and Apartments in 2016, which, at the time, had just 199 employees and now employs over 1000 staff.

“When I joined, there was no focus on employee training and engagement, and I was determined to change the culture of the business. Since then, the growth and shift in HR have been exponential,” says Skelton.  

When Skelton joined The Capital, the company ran its HR department manually. “If you wanted someone’s file, you would have to go to the payroll manager and ask for it – like a library book,” recalls Skelton.

Since then, a new values programme, based on the acronym HOME, has given the culture a more inclusive approach. In addition, training programmes have been designed that allowed staff to develop essential business skills that support the future growth of the business.

Skelton’s department also introduced Employee of the Month initiatives to improve morale in the group. Each month, the winning staff member sits with the CEO for breakfast to discuss the business face-to-face. A new Employee Self Service system, called Roubler, was also introduced, where staff shifts, payslips, policies, and leave are all available on a custom app, accessible anytime, anywhere. Unlimited leave has been introduced to the Support Office (aka Head office) in June 2021 to help prevent burnout during intense periods of pressure while opening hotels.

“I’m proud to have worked with the exceptional team here to introduce a structured and innovative HR department which uses a transactional and transformational approach. The transactional is the training, the payroll, and the engagement side. The recruitment and transformational side involves talent and performance management and organisational design. This is all underpinned by the change management process we have taken the group through.”

Skelton’s innovative approach to people management has contributed to the company becoming one of the fastest-growing hotel groups in South Africa. “We open around two hotels a year, the most recent being The Capital Mbombela, The Capital Zimbali and The Capital 15 on Orange during the second half of the year in 2021. This achievement was only possible with a highly motivated HR team that recruited, trained and inducted more than 360 individuals during this time. We now employ over 1,000 permanent employees and around 400 outsourced staff,” concludes Skelton.

CHRO will host its awards event on 17 November at Inanda Club, where nominees will also have the opportunity to network and enjoy a range of entertainment. All nominations are submitted by the panel of judges, business leaders, colleagues, HR teams, and partners. Industry experts at CHRO South Africa prepare the shortlist under the supervision of the board of judges.