Posted: 20 July 2021

We’re delighted to introduce our new Managing Director Jon West. Here’s a little bit about him and what he’s passionate about doing for Ashorne Hill.

So Jon, tell us a little bit about yourself and how your career led you to Ashorne Hill?

I’ve worked in automotive for the past 30 years in Human Resources.  I started at Ford as a graduate trainee and then came to Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) when Ford acquired Land Rover in 2000.  I always wanted to work in Learning & Development but over the years have tended to gravitate towards Manufacturing and Employee Relations.  For the past 12 years I was manufacturing HR Director and I’ve played a big part in developing the strong relationship that JLR enjoys with their Trade Union partners.  But finally the opportunity came to move into the L&D space and I’m really excited to be doing so in such a beautiful venue and with such a fantastic team.

It’s been a really tough 12 months for the events sector in particular.  What will be your key focus areas to support the venue’s recovery? And how will you support the learning and development team too?

My focus is going to be firmly on the team.  We’ve brought many back from furlough already but some teams are still on flexi-furlough so their wellbeing and return is top of my agenda.  We’ve got gaps in the business as we see enquiry volumes grow. I need to support that recruitment drive to fill the gaps.

Ashorne Hill is renowned for its great reputation in delivering fantastic events.  We’ve received a couple of business awards recently for our customer service. I want to make sure that continues to be the case and that we continue to improve our reputation. Finally, I will be looking to support our L&D team.  Over the last 12 months, they have transformed our training products into a digital first solution. We need to raise awareness of these flexible modules and how they can better support companies who may have adopted a more hybrid working policy.

Having never worked in hospitality or events before, what attracted you to Ashorne Hill?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been to many events at Ashorne over the past decade and have stayed here often.  I’ve always been struck by how deeply the team care about customers and how the environment has allowed trainees to focus on their growth and development.

What does recovery look like for you at the moment?  Are you seeing an increase in enquiries and demand? Is everyone craving face-to-face time or looking at hybrid meeting options?

There has been a continued air of caution in the volume of enquiries until now. As the government announces more lifting of restrictions we are seeing the enquiry volume gain momentum.

Most recently we’ve seen an increase in all manner of event enquiries from private parties and missed celebrations to training cohorts and team building events to bring teams back together.  We are also seeing a large growth in the number of series of events confirming since the latest announcement. The future looks really bright for us.

Lead times have naturally shortened and 90% of enquiries are for 2021 which is hugely positive for us.

Do you have any predictions for the future of training and events? And do you think Zoom fatigue means face-to-face will come back stronger than ever or do you think companies have found a smarter way of working and training their teams?

As many companies have adopted flexible working policies – either hybrid or totally home-based, we believe there will be a greater need for strategy days, team building, opportunities for companies to get teams together to brainstorm and train.

Earlier this year, we launched a monthly meet-ups package for local businesses that have ditched the office environment and need a space to meet their teams regularly.

Zoom has its place for small, quick interactions but nothing can beat face-to-face contact and there does seem to be a desire for people to get back out again.

Over the last 12 months, many people have left the events sector and its widely reported within events and hospitality on how difficult it is to recruit.  As someone coming into the sector from outside, what advice and reasons would you give to anyone who might like to move into hospitality and events or may have never considered it as a sector?

Combined, the hospitality and events sectors are probably one of the largest sectors that contribute to the UK economy.  Sadly, they were also the greatest impacted by the pandemic. Whilst a lot of people have migrated away from hospitality and events over the last year, it means there are some amazing opportunities to join the sector at the moment.

We are fast paced. We are a people first sector and it’s certainly not a lonely place to work.  For ambitious people and graduates that want to fast track themselves into management positions, there is very little red tape in hospitality, the training and development opportunities are great and it provides a brilliant opportunity for someone to get up the career ladder.

And we are a close knit industry.  Our world is actually a small one despite its big economic contribution and you will make friends for life.

The world of hospitality also provides a range of options for anyone looking for a change in direction and for graduates looking for new career opportunities.

And finally, when you’re not supporting your teams and delivering great training events and meetings, what do you like to do in your own spare time?

I’m a keen gardener and enjoy cooking.  However, every time I’m lucky enough to eat at Ashorne, I realise what a big gulf there is between my enthusiastic amateurism and the mastery of true professionals!  The food at Ashorne really is quite outstanding.  I also like walking our two dogs, watching football (I won’t say which team to maintain some credibility) and I am determined to make time to play golf more often.