Talent Development & Retention Manager (London, UK)

Alevtina Lesnykh

Alevtina Lesnykh's Story

I entered hospitality in 2013 when I was a student of international relations faculty and combined my studies with work in ibis Samara, Russia. Initially I saw work in a hotel as an opportunity to practise my English and get cross-cultural exposure; there were no long going plans to stay in the industry. But once I stepped into hotel operations life I madly fell in love with it and realized that it was the right place to be. Not only the bustling activity intrigued me but also opportunity to explore, experiment, express myself, be a part of an awesome team and build a career I was dreaming about.

First, I started as the Personal Assistant to General Manager Holger Buchwald. It was definitely a lucky change! Holger is one of the most inspiring leaders I have met in my life. He is genuinely involved in all aspects of hotel life, truly cares about guests and talents, and he is so enthusiastic that it is almost impossible not to catch this hospitality “fever”.

I have been working for four years at ibis Samara and being experimenter by nature, I grasped all opportunities to try myself in different roles: personal assistant, operations coordinator, front office administrator, duty manager, guest experience relay. There was even a period of 6 months when twice a week I combined a daytime administrative work in the hotel with evening shifts at Front Office. It was a bit dangerous as at one moment I was too close to burnout. I do not recommend you to repeat that. However, I was so hungry for experience and learning that neither lack of sleep nor need to continue studies at the university could stop me. I knew that more adventures happen to those who are crazy enough to dare and act, this is why I moved to the next role in Accor.

In 2017, I found out that T&C (talent & Culture) team in Accor corporate support office in Moscow was searching for an engaged internal candidate. This was a great and, frankly speaking, a bit scary opportunity for me to move away from my wonderful small town to the unknown huge city where I did not know anybody and start in a role where I had minimal experience. I strongly believe that fortune favours the bold, therefore I applied for the position, passed online interviews, was selected for the role and eventually joined Moscow office dream team. Very soon, I was offered an additional task of being Heartist Super Transformer for Russia, Georgia, Ukraine and the CIS perimeter (more than 60 hotels + 1 corporate office) and lead the cultural transformation journey together with the Heartist squad team. Heartist Journey is all about sincere actions helping us to bring hospitality to a next level and deliver personal valuable experiences to our guests and talents. Being a Heartist Super Transformer was an incredible lifetime experience! Our company culture proves that we as talents are empowered to make a true positive impact on our work life & lives of people around us, think outside of the box and find new creative solutions.

In 2019 I became a Learning and Development (L&D) Manager and proud member of Accor Academy. I also continued to carry on the duties of T&C representative (Talent management, engagement survey & other exciting tasks) for Russia, CIS + Turkey & Israel. One of the thrilling challenges for Academy team is to change people’s attitude toward learning and help talents understand the benefits of lifelong learning concept. From school time many people carry the stereotype that education is a boring & hard, but in Academy, we open new perspectives to people and show them how exciting it is to learn and develop; the sky is the only limit here. It was extremely fulfilling to act as enlightenment and motivation agent for the talents.

Driven by curiosity I study new languages, discover cultures and connect with people. This is why in October 2021 I moved a bit further from home and applied for a new challenge as Talent Management and Retention Manager in the UK office in London, looking after 11 support offices in Accor Northern Europe and the talent pool of 800 Talents. New role, new location, yay! Developing in T&C I was lucky to find my true vocation. Through talent management we support talents in identifying career tracks & strong points, we sustain and develop high-performing teams, form constructive feedback culture and help people thrive within the company.

Friends see my passion and always ask, “What is so special about hospitality? Why do you recommend people searching for their calling consider it as a career journey?” . My answer is simple. Hospitality offers boundless opportunities for open-minded, active and optimistic people. If you put people in the heart of everything you do, if you are eager to learn and do your best to deliver top service this is definitely the great way for you. Working in either a hotel or a corporate office you will never be bored, every day brings you new connections, opportunities to enlarge your knowledge, develop personally and professionally, form a rewarding career path.

Of course, it’s not all roses. To succeed you need to work very hard and sometimes even harder. You may face situations of uncertainty & hardships, high occupancy, short deadlines, tough negotiations, guests complaints, talents complaints, dilemmas in decision making, etc. No matter what you need to stay cool and confident when things do not go the way you expected, be kind to others even if they behave irresponsibly. You require to have a certain level of emotional intelligence and “feel” the people, be brave enough to try new things and go outside of the box. Hard work always pays off; whatever you are eager to achieve, it will come to you. After all it’s all about enjoying your work life and making your career aspirations come true.

  • Alevtina Lesnykh
  • Talent Development & Retention Manager
  • London Support Office (United Kingdom)