Holiday Employee Engagement the Biltmore Way

Written By Emily McCollin


Strategic Storytelling

Office parties, surprise cookie tins, holiday vacations, and family stress can contribute to a very unproductive workforce during the holiday season. Managers battle to keep employees on task to meet year end goals and accomplish time-sensitive projects; but let’s be honest, Santa Claus can be fierce competition. To beat the holiday blues, Employee Engagement the Biltmore Way takes on a special sparkle this time of year. 

Christmas spirit at Biltmore starts months in advance; in fact, many of Biltmore’s departments prepare for the holidays all year long. This extended focus presents an additional challenge to managers when it comes to employee engagement because all departments must be at their best and most enthusiastic when the holiday season finally arrives. Biltmore’s success depends on a high level of engagement as employees welcome scores of guests to experience Candlelight in Biltmore House, a family dinner at the Bistro, a corporate holiday party at The Inn on Biltmore Estate, or even a horse drawn carriage ride with that special someone to celebrate the season.

Biltmore employees creating a gingerbread replica of Biltmore House

A few Biltmore managers share their magic for employee engagement during this busy season.

Jack Menard, the Retail Inventory and Fulfillment Manager (picture Santa’s workshop, Biltmore style), believes that the year-round, engaged employee starts with the hiring process. “We have hired kind, helpful people who have a service mindset, so it’s only natural to let them do what they do best.” This empowered and engaged employee is essential to growing a business that is dependent on customer loyalty. Jack says that building to a stellar level of employee engagement that will survive the holiday season is also a year-round effort, requiring employee feedback and interaction on a daily basis.

Terri Koestler, Lodging Director of Human Resources, implements “Candlelight Encouragement” for her teams during the holidays. The Inn on Biltmore Estate is a bustling place behind the scenes, so she plans a weekly themed treat buffet that allows employees to participate at their own convenience as they rotate through various shifts in The Inn that never closes. The buffets often have a healthy focus; something like, “create your own trail mix” to keep employees feeling not only appreciated, but physically energized. Other fun elements of “Candlelight Encouragement” include complimentary mini massage sessions and grand prize drawings. Terri has to be creative and strategic in planning these moments of engagement so that all employees have access, without hindering work flow.

The Biltmore Floral Display team is without doubt one of the busiest departments during the holiday season, spending hours installing the awe-inspiring Christmas decorations throughout the estate. Cathy Barnhardt, Biltmore’s Floral Displays Manager, focuses on building engagement with her team well in advance of the holidays with the motto, “Don’t be scared, be prepared!” Cathy provides her creative teams with support for work/life balance, alongside opportunities to show initiative and take ownership of the creative process at work – a sure combination for engagement. Cathy also makes time during the busy season for the occasional team lunch to boost morale and a sense of cohesiveness, along with providing biscuits and coffee for the really hectic mornings when she needs all teams at top performance. With the media attention Biltmore Estate enjoys, particularly during the holidays, Cathy allows any designers on her team that are interested, to share in the spotlight. This outside attention gives the designers well-deserved acclaim for the hard work they do which inspires them to continue to work and develop.

For more on Employee Engagement the Biltmore Way, we welcome you to join us for our next Open Enrollment workshop at The Inn on Biltmore Estate.