TWIC 2021: Suzie Welch – Chief People Officer, Odeon Cinemas Group

By | September 30, 2021 5:09 pm PDT

This post is part of CJ’s Top Women In Global Cinema 2021 – Redux.

How have your role, position and responsibilities changed since you were first nominated for Top Women In Cinema?

My role as Chief People Officer at ODEON Cinemas Group continues to be the same however the focuses have definitely changed over the last year.

How did COVID affect you and your business personally?

Overnight, COVID changed how we ran the business. The change from “open” to “closed” cinemas meant we had to lead in a different way, talk to our teams and our guests in a different way, and consider different things as we started to understand what was happening. Not knowing or trying to predict the future was the hardest bit – initially it was all about making plans because we didn’t think it would be that long. Then you move more into focusing on the now and not thinking too far into the future to ensure that you make the right decisions.

Like everyone, I think there have been positives and negatives from the last 15 months. I have spent more time with my family, which I have loved, I have focused on staying in touch with my friends – but I have realised how important face-to-face contact is. I am an introvert by nature but that does not mean that I do not need to see people and be with people – I have realised that I have my best ideas when I can chat to people. Of course you can do this on screen and we have (we’ve needed to), but it just is not the same.

How did your role, position and responsibilities change (if at all) during the pandemic? Can you tell us a little bit about what your days were like and what you were doing over the past year?

My role has not changed, but the focus has changed as we have moved through the pandemic – the people (HR) teams have been a key part and have really supported the business through how they’ve supported our colleagues. From government assistance programmes and the impact of COVID on colleagues, through to how we communicate and support people with their mental health and maintain engagement with the business through the time of closure.

It has been a rollercoaster of emotions, energy and a lot of hard work, but as a team we are closer because of it and the level of collaboration across our team and the wider business is much better. The focus for me has been about ensuring that we are supporting all our colleagues; those that were working and those that were not. Also, we’ve had to try to balance the need for structure with the ability to be agile. And change our focus when needed, or because our teams were telling us they needed something different.

Do you think COVID will change the cinema business? If so, how?

I do not think any business will be the same post COVID. In terms of the cinema business, I am sure we will need to think about most things in a different way and challenge what we previously thought was quite normal. The guest experience we create is so important and I think expectations will be higher, post-lockdown, so we need to be able to deliver.

For our teams, we need to continue to ensure that they feel safe at work and that we are adapting our approach for them. It has made me think about what will be important for them in the future – I am not sure we know the answer but we will keep on talking to them so we learn as we reopen and the business builds back.

How do you believe the cinema industry can recover once audiences are able to visit movie theatres again?

Not losing sight of what we are here to do; at its most simple, we are there to put a smile on someone’s face and ensure that every person that comes to visit has a great time. Innovation and cost management will always have a place in the plan, but the guest experience is most important.

What do you like most about working in the cinema industry? What is one of your fondest memories?

I have spent more of my time in this industry in lockdown than I have out of it so it is hard to pick a fond memory. But the experience that sticks in my mind was being out at one of our new cinema openings in the UK a couple of weeks ago, being with the team and seeing their smiles.

The last 15 months have been hard whether you have worked every day to keep the business moving forward or you have been on furlough. Everyone has played their part to ensure that we are able to recover and everyone has looked after each other, too. It gave me so much energy to see the team back at work, loving being back and how happy the guests were, too.


Celluloid Junkie Staff

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