The road to technology deserves a Welcome Break

Your Ready Business recently spoke to Rod Mckie CEO of the popular motorway services and hotel business ‘Welcome Break’. He tells us the one thing he’s learned is that it’s essential to keep up with technology, “you can’t fold your arms and try to ignore it”.

There are lots of examples of how Welcome Break is using technology to drive positive change within our business. Back office technology is vital for us to fuel the systems operating our day-to-day business. From processing financial payments, through to stock and supply-chain management, technology is helping our business to be more efficient. Also we now schedule and order hotel room bookings through a sophisticated room revenue management system. It has improved room management so much that we moved from a hotel chain averaging 65% occupancy to one with 85-90% almost overnight. This is just the start. We are now seeing technology work its way to the forefront of our employees’ everyday interactions.

Technology is at the centre of our people strategy

Human Resources and access to that information is one area of the business where we are truly using technology to our advantage.

An important step came when we started to use a comprehensive HR database system that provides us with detailed information in real time about our 5,500 employees. Previously this data was tracked in a spreadsheet, now at the click of a button, we have access to it whenever we need it. The database doesn’t just hold top-level stuff such as employee performance reviews and salaries, we can also see who wants a promotion and where each employee would like to work in an ideal scenario. Employee goals and objectives are inputted into the system and our management team can access this data whenever they like.

Connecting and collaborating with our employees

The senior team have been provided with iPads in order to cut down paper trails and improve collaboration with easier and quicker access to documents and information wherever they are.

Another avenue of technology where we have had great success is through our use of an internal employee engagement platform. This digital platform –  which works a bit like an office Facebook account – allows our employees to connect with each other, upload pictures and communicate about business objectives, projects and initiatives. As a management team, my business leaders can also use the platform to provide company updates to staff and land key communications with their teams. Each year, I can cascade all the company’s goals to my leadership team and they can communicate those goals to their own teams – all via this technology. The platform also allows me to publicly congratulate individuals who have delivered excellent customer service. It is amazing how I can send the message to 5,500 people without having to call a meeting – it’s truly a game-changer.

Developing new routes to success

Our traditional business is branching out and we are developing new strands to our business. As a result, we now have a motorway services offering, a hotel business, a gambling stream and we host a dozen famous brands including Waitrose, Burger King and WH Smith. This expansion coupled with increasingly demanding and digitally savvy consumers, means we have to be forward thinking in our approach.

My advice to other CEOs is to look into the future and anticipate what people will want a few years down the line. The healthy-eating movement has gained momentum in the UK, but for years that didn’t extend to service stations. Recently it is starting to change and we have created a new healthy-eating concept, incorporating the Tossed salad bar chain, which is massive in terms of its appeal. My job now is to consider how this and a hundred other things will evolve in future and what I need to do to keep hitting the KPIs.

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