People Power reigns at Cliste Hospitality and the iNUA Collection

Deirdre Buckley is passionate about people, and in her role as Group Director of People and Culture for Cliste Hospitality and the iNUA collection, she brings that passion to life

Her journey began when she started in a graduate role under the mentorship of Gerry O’Connor, who was instrumental in shaping her understanding of guest experience and fostering an innovative mindset which was the Blarney Park Hotel in Cork in the mid – late 90’s! This role also provided Deirdre the opportunity to lead the personnel role there, which sparked her passion for People & Culture. Since then, she has held various HRM roles in both hospitality and retail/wholesale sectors, working with renowned leaders and brands in Ireland and internationally. Throughout her career, Deirdre has emphasized the importance of building connections with people, which not only opened doors to new opportunities but also has led to life-long friendships.

Her current role at Cliste Hospitality allows her to bring her wealth of experience and expertise in people management to create a positive and engaging work environment. Deirdre’s commitment to fostering strong relationships, supporting employee well-being, and driving a culture of excellence has made People and Culture a key strategy pillar of the organization.

Deirdre understands the importance of people in the hospitality industry. She finds immense energy and fulfilment from interacting with individuals and making a positive impact through her position in People & Culture. As she explains, “We’re a people business. None of us can achieve anything without our colleagues. That, for us, is really important.”

The role of People & Culture in hospitality has evolved, and this has accelerated over the last 3 years due to the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, including people leaving the industry and the need to attract new talent. Deirdre emphasizes the value of taking care of existing team members, creating positive experiences, and offering opportunities for growth and development. By doing so, even if people choose to move on, they will remember their time in the industry and the doors it opened for them.

Drawing inspiration from other countries where people are proud to work in hospitality, Deirdre highlights the need to influence the perception of the industry in Ireland. She recognizes the depth of experience, skills and professionalism of her colleagues in Cliste / iNUA and emphasizes the importance of demonstrating the industry’s value to the wider public. She believes that successful hoteliers understand the importance of appreciating and acknowledging their teams, especially during challenging and stressful times and can influence this perception by sharing their stories, showcasing career pathways available. ‘We are in a position to change perceptions and promote the industry’s value’.

People & Culture in Cliste / iNUA is to ensure that the workplace is a respectful and inclusive environment. Deirdre acknowledges the support and understanding she receives from the Directors, who recognise the value of people in a successful business.

‘’At Cliste / iNUA, we understand the immense value of development within our people strategy,” says Deirdre. For us, development is not just an investment in our people; it is a strategic decision that drives innovation, cultivates talent, and propels our company forward.

We are very proud to partner with Down Syndrome Ireland (DSI) and actively participate in their National Employment Programme. Our partnership with DSI began in 2018 when we were seeking a national charity partner for our corporate social responsibility initiatives. However, what started as a CSR endeavour quickly grew into something much more significant. As we learned about DSI’s National Employment Programme, we realized that it aligned perfectly with our core values of inclusivity and providing meaningful opportunities for all. Through this programme, we have had the privilege of working with graduates who are ready to embark on their professional journey. We were the first hotel company to partner with DSI on this programme, and the impact has been remarkable. Currently, we have 14 colleagues with Down Syndrome working across our iNUA Collection properties, contributing their unique skills, enthusiasm, and dedication to the team. The presence of our colleagues with Down Syndrome has had a profound impact on our workplace culture and the experiences of our guests. Their dedication, passion, and love for their jobs are evident to everyone they interact with. Aoife Gaffney, Head of Employment at DSI and her team have provided invaluable on-going guidance and mentor training to us to ensure success on our partnership.

The Cliste / iNUA teams remain committed to supporting DSI through fundraising efforts, but the National Employment Program is seen as the sustainable aspect of the partnership—a true win-win for all.

Trevor McCarthy, Learning & Development Manager for Cliste / iNUA, leads the overall strategy to ensure the company provides upskilling opportunities and clear career pathways for all. Deirdre highlights programmes such as the Leadership Development Programme, Senior Manager Development Programme, and Management Development Programme that have been implemented to enhance skills and prepare individuals for future roles and provide succession for the ambitious growth of Cliste / iNUA. Upcoming programs include supervisory development, departmental coach development, and a graduate program, ensuring a range of opportunities for professional growth.

The iNUA Collection recently celebrated the achievement of its first group of trainee chefs who successfully completed an intensive two-year Professional Cookery Traineeship in collaboration with Limerick and Clare Education and Training Board. This esteemed program, which commenced in September 2021, provided a comprehensive blend of classroom instruction at the College of FET, Hospitality Campus in Limerick, and invaluable practical experience at the iNUA Collection properties. The trainees were honoured at a dégustation lunch, marking the culmination of their learning and assessment. Led by Group Executive Chef Stefan Matz and in partnership with the dedicated team at Limerick and Clare ETB’s Hospitality Campus, the trainees were equipped with a highly sought-after QQI Level 6 Advanced Certificate in Professional Cookery. Stefan Matz congratulated the trainees on their accomplishment, emphasizing their readiness to embark on exciting culinary careers.

Deirdre emphasizes that partnerships and support from organisations such as ETBs, Hospitality Schools, Hospitality & Tourism Skillnet’s, professional bodies, facilitators, and training providers form the essential foundation for our business. These collaborations are crucial in equipping our team with the skills needed for succession planning and fostering sustainable growth within our industry.

Reflecting on her career in hospitality, Deirdre credits her mentors along the way and acknowledges the support of her colleagues and team at Cliste / iNUA. Deirdre’s genuine enthusiasm and dedication shines through as she embraces the rewarding journey she has embarked on in hospitality.