No Ordinary Resort

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Lobby, Spice Island Beach Resort

It’s the kind of place you see on the pages of glossy travel magazines—pristine beaches, nearly empty of people and full of carefully groomed white sand; open-air dining rooms with fans turning lazily overhead; waiters with silver trays of iced drinks; guests in gauzy beachware lounging beside private pools. Welcome to the 5-star Spice Island Beach Resort, one of Grenada’s most luxurious hotels. Inside the front lobby you’ll find photographs of British royalty visiting the place—and a picture of the hotel’s owner, Royston O. Hopkin, being knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

What makes this place seem royal to me, though, is the care with which it’s treating its staff. Michelle McDonald, human resource development manager at Spice Island, recognized years ago that the resort could play a beneficial role in the health of its employees.

Michelle McDonald

Michelle McDonald

McDonald got in touch with the public health faculty at St. George’s University, and that connection led to SPH, and this week SPH students Lauren Johnson, Eva Shiu, and Caroline Kusi are surveying nearly 100 Spice Island employees about their health concerns. The students set up shop in the hotel canteen and catch staff at the end of their lunch or dinner breaks to ask questions. Because they know a long survey would be a turn-off, the students do the job in under eight minutes.

Left to right: Lauren Johnson, Eva Shiu, Caroline Kusi

Left to right: Lauren Johnson, Eva Shiu, Caroline Kusi, in Spice Island’s employee canteen

“One employee timed me,” Shiu laughs. “Six minutes. He joked, ‘You’re going to pay me for every minute.’”

After two survey sessions, the students were coming up with some common themes:

  • Nutrition is a big concern—one employee wanted to know how to design a diet to cope with diabetes
  • Weight management and control are also key issues
  • Many employees expressed concern about cancer prevention
  • Lots of staff are receptive to the idea of a walking group—in part because it would motivate them to exercise

Overall, the students have found that people seem pleased to take part in the survey. “One man complimented us,” Johnson said happily. “He told me the survey was clear and well set-up.”

McDonald hopes to use the data to find new ways to boost employee health and well-being. That’s what I’d call a royal idea.

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