Ready for a big bite
It is Rockey’s infectious passion for growing brands that has led him to Big Easy. Established in 1991, the chain now has two restaurants across London employing about 250 people.
Reporting into MD Noel Darcy, Rockey is the fourth person to take on the people director role – but he’s not fazed by the challenge. “When I arrived there was no induction plan in place for me,” he says. “So Noel and I agreed to separately write down five key things we needed to work on from a people perspective. Amazingly, our lists matched.” Company culture was identified by both as the organisation’s top challenge, and getting under the skin of it is what motivates Rockey.
“The ability to create and impact an organisation and getting people to believe in what you believe in – that is getting to the real core of the business,” he enthuses. The other areas of focus the pair identified were: recruitment, induction, payroll and career development.
First on Rockey’s to-do list was getting to know everyone. “People were surprised I was talking to them. It wasn’t something that had happened before – people worked in silo. Just saying ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’ can make the world of difference. A head waiter told me he felt more engaged in the business because everyone seemed friendlier.”
From that moment, Rockey was on a mission to change perceptions and mindsets, starting with giving people the opportunity to feed back. He’s implemented a monthly forum called ‘Speak Easy’, where employees can openly share their views on the organisation. “Generosity is one of our values, not just in portion size, but also to give people time to talk,” he reveals.
Recruitment is now done centrally, empowering staff to choose their own talent for new roles. Rockey says: “If the head chef needs a new chef, they are much more qualified than me to choose the right person. We [HR] are here to provide support.”
Retention is up too. “In the past six months, we’ve seen a 42% reduction in turnover and a good consistency in our mystery diner scores too. Plus adding a few record-breaking sales days, it feels like things are really starting to change.”