The Client

Crabtree & Crabtree is a bespoke holiday letting agency, with a curated portfolio of exclusive holiday homes across the North of England and South of Scotland. Founded by Emma Crabtree in 2004, it has grown to become an 11- strong team with properties across four unspoilt regions. Until recently, most of the team worked in the Kelso office in the Scottish Borders.

The Challenge

In 2019, during a period of controlled growth, the business sought a human resources partner that could lead on all aspects of people management and effectively become an extension of the team. The focus was on a strategic relationship and personal touch service that would provide longer term recommendations as well as assistance with employment contracts, policies and appraisals. Purpose HR was recommended by a colleague at Scottish Enterprise.

“We sought HR guidance in a phase of controlled expansion, building the team from 7 up to now 11 with a view to continued growth” explains Emma Crabtree. People here are passionate about our brand. It’s a friendly, family feel team who know each other well. We recognised a need to formalise how we work as we grow, which we hadn’t particularly done before, but without losing our sense of camaraderie and warmth. We sought a listening ear, a partner who could recommend responses to formal and informal issues quickly and sensitively.”

The arrival of the pandemic in March 2020 presented a series of new HR (as well as business) challenges. As well as managing growth and formalising procedures, another significant HR challenge emerged. Sudden remote working, and uncertainty around how and to what extent the holiday lettings industry would return to business, presented immediate people management priorities.

“We sought HR guidance in a phase of controlled expansion, building the team from 7 up to now 11 with a view to continued growth”

The Solution

Five months before the pandemic took hold, Purpose HR began building its role as a close partner who would respond in a bespoke way to all emerging HR needs.

The team installed a framework for recruitment, employee relations and professional development and introduced tools, systems and processes to manage everyday HR needs. They helped with the process and procedures around a maternity leave and a promotion to manager position and the development needs around that. The team also refined all documentation to suit the style and feel of a small growing business, moving away from a cover all approach.

As the pandemic struck, Crabtree & Crabtree found themselves having to reorganise thousands of bookings, as well as processing deferrals and cancellations and adjusting to new legislation and ever changing guidance (and sometimes lack of!). The team became busier than ever. All new recruits were interviewed and hired online, with Purpose HR guiding the team carefully and sensitively, helping the interviewers to listen well in an unusual setting and observe the candidates as well as ask leading questions.

One of those essential recruits was an operations manager, a new post that became increasingly urgent with so many changing external factors affecting liaison with customers both holidaymakers and holiday property owners.

“It was vital for us to get this right, and Purpose HR helped us to form a strong double act: they knew how to help us find ideal candidates, ask the right questions and remain calm in the face of hospitality industry chaos! Recruitment is about the right people, it’s not just about growth. Purpose HR are a valuable, professional helping hand in identifying who we need and where to find them.”

As pandemic restrictions eased, the business became even busier, on boarding new property owners in all four regions of England and Scotland. As a result, the property management team continues to expand.

The Outcome

In a time of great change and uncertainty for the hospitality industry, Crabtree & Crabtree describes Purpose HR as a professional, reassuring HR partner “who knows exactly what we need, when we need it and how to achieve it.” They see the team as being “under the skin of the business and its changing needs”.

The business now has a more bespoke and personal, less generic set of documents and contracts relating to people and workplace management, including a valued new employee handbook.

“We also now have a strong and reassuring knowledge of how best to manage the more intangible parts of HR, keeping the ‘feel’ informal, whilst creating a more structured framework for how we behave as we grow the business. It’s good to have guidance on how to bring out the best in our team’s enthusiasm and capabilities without over -formalising how we do it.”

In 2021, Crabtree & Crabtree has a clear plan of what needs to happen to manage and grow its ever -busy team, with everything to do with people management clearly signposted.

“In Purpose HR we’ve found a team who understand us, are similar in size to us and are growing like us. They help us manage our people and any emerging situations, large or small. With the new HR plan, we feel as if we know what’s coming next and always have a reassuring sense of calm in the face of sudden changes. Our contacts are delightful, efficient and best of all, they understand us and reflect our own warm culture.”

Emma Crabtree, Director, Crabtree & Crabtree

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