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This profile was last updated on 8/20/14  and contains information from public web pages and contributions from the ZoomInfo community.

Group Human Resources Director

Email: t***@***.biz
Merlin Entertainments Group Ltd
3 Market Close
Poole , Dorset BH15 1NQ
United Kingdom

Company Description: Merlin Entertainments is the second largest attractions operator in Europe and the ninth largest in the world. A young, dynamic organistaion, it currently operates...   more

Employment History

  • Vice President Human Resources
    Hilton Hotels Corporation
  • Group Human Resources Director On the Executive Board
    Merlin Entertainments , Europe
  • Vice President Human Resources
    GTS/Ebone - London

Board Memberships and Affiliations

45 Total References
Web References
Leadership Council | Women 1st, 20 Aug 2014 [cached]
Tea Colaianni
As group HR director at Merlin Entertainments, Tea is responsible for the people strategy for some of the world's best-known brands - including LEGOLAND, SEA LIFE, Madame Tussauds, The London Eye, THORPE PARK and Alton Towers.
Tea has over 16 years' experience in HR management in different industries at European and international level. In her current role, she looks after human resources for 92 attractions in 20 countries over four continents, with 18,000 employees and 46 million customers.
Tea began her career as a lawyer, before moving into HR. Before joining Merlin in 2010, she worked at Hilton for seven years and was responsible for HR in a region comprising more than 20,000 employees, 180 hotels and operating in 25 countries. Tea is also a member of the Women 1st Top 100 Club.
Top 100 Women in Business | Hospitality, Travel, Tourism & Passenger Transport | Women 1st, 20 Aug 2014 [cached]
Tea Colaianni
Tea has over 16 years' experience in HR management in different sectors at European and international level. Prior to joining Merlin in 2010, Tea worked at Hilton for seven years and was responsible for the HR function in a region comprising more than 20,000 employees, 180 hotels and operating in 25 countries.
Issue 3: Tea Colaianni – Merlin Entertainments Group | FG Partnership, 11 Oct 2013 [cached]
Issue 3: Tea Colaianni - Merlin Entertainments Group
Being female has not affected Tea Colaianni's career development at all - in fact she can recall just one time when sexism reared its ugly head. She was a trainee lawyer in Brussels and in a business meeting with some Japanese clients, when, to her mortification, Colaianni's boss asked her to make a cup of tea for everyone:
"I told him to get up and make it himself," she laughs. "The Japanese clients were surprised to have a woman in the meeting in the first place and then when I refused to do what my boss asked, they were really shocked."
Colaianni is now group HR director on the Executive Board of Merlin Entertainments, Europe's number one and the world's number two global leisure attractions operator. With more than 90 attractions in 21 countries, including the world's leading aquarium brand, SEA LIFE; LEGOLAND Parks and Discovery Centres; the EDF Energy London Eye; Alton Towers; Gardaland in Italy and Heide Park in Germany - her early decision to let no-one talk down to her has obviously paid off.
Equal opportunities
Colaianni describes herself as ambitious, driven and independent, traits that she admits have been easier to exercise thanks to the fact that her husband runs his own business and has the flexibility to share some of the childcare duties for their now seven and six year old sons (who, unsurprisingly, think their mum has the best job in the world). Colaianni feels a responsibility to make it easier for other women to progress in their working lives too. She is on the Leadership Council for Women 1st, the initiative run by People 1st (the sector skills council for hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism in the UK on whose council of members Colaianni also sits) to increase the number of female board-level executives in the sector to 10% by 2015 and 20% by 2025.
She has just joined the Prince's Trust Women's Leadership Group whose mission is to raise funds to help young women to transform their lives through education and enterprise. She has also just received approval from Merlin's CEO, Nick Varney, to organise the first 'Merlin Women' virtual conference at the end of this year to look at ways of enabling female employees to fulfil their potential.
"We do have work to do on this area ourselves," she explains. "I am the only woman on the board here at Merlin and of our grade two executives, 18% are women and in grade three, which includes general managers, it is 39%."
Having said that, she believes the company culture at Merlin is incredibly supportive to employees across the board and is justifiably proud that the organisation recently won an HR Distinction Award for employee engagement. For a business that employs more than 20,000 staff worldwide, 13,000 of whom are seasonal (numbers that have swollen this year with the opening of the new hotel at LEGOLAND Windsor; a new LEGOLAND park in Malaysia; the integration of the 10 attractions in Asia Pacific added through the acquisition earlier this year of Living and Leisure Australia; the openings of three new LEGOLAND Discovery Centres plus the new Weymouth Tower), staff turnover is impressively low. The figure is currently just over 22.5% which compares very favourably against the People 1st benchmark of 29% for leisure attractions. Colaianni says the target is to get Merlin's figure down to 20% by 2015 and she is confident this can be achieved. You would not want to bet against her. Colaianni has a proven track record for reaching her goals and is not afraid of challenging the status quo if she feels there is a better way.
Yet with so many brands operating in so many territories, Colaianni recognised that Merlin's previous set of values were way too many, too confusing and had evolved from site level upwards, dating back to when the original Merlin acquired the larger Tussauds Group.
All of this comes under the umbrella of 'The Merlin Way' and while the cynical may think it all sounds a bit like touchy-feely PR speak, Colaianni has plenty of examples to show the positive impact it has had in all aspects of the business.
The Merlin Way is complemented by a number of other recruitment, staff training and reward initiatives instigated by Colaianni and all designed to work together to strengthen the Merlin brand around the world. These include the STAR scheme under which colleagues can recognise each other online; and the CEO Award Plan, which annually grants company shares to employees for long service or outstanding performance.
Colaianni says while Merlin encourages all of its operations to adopt its group wide strategies, it is also very entrepreneurial, giving some operational flexibility and autonomy so that the initiatives can be adapted to the local market or, in some instances, it is more a case of allowing them to get used to the idea of doing things differently.
Dealing with HR issues across Europe is something Colaianni gained experience of during her time at Hilton, immediately prior to joining Merlin.
Although a native Italian, Colaianni has never actually worked in Italy and says her best language for business is English.
From a recruitment point of view, finding seasonal staff in Germany has also been tricky as unemployment is so low and, Colaianni acknowledges, because the industry does not pay as well as others.
Colaianni says, however, that the uniqueness of the organisation and its ongoing expansion provide constant challenges. In 2013 alone, she will open a hotel in LEGOLAND California, LEGOLAND Discovery Centre in Toronto and Westchester - New York, a SEA LIFE centre in Manchester and a Dungeon in Berlin to name a few. She is looking forward to fulfilling her professional ambition of being group HR director for a publicly-listed company, something she intends to do at Merlin. The volatility in the financial markets that led the group to put plans for flotation on hold two years ago have not gone away, and an IPO is still very much the ultimate goal for the company so, yet again, Colaianni looks likely to achieve what she set out to do.
Tea Colaianni, Merlin, interviewed in Personnel Today | Kiddy & Partners, 31 May 2013 [cached]
Tea Colaianni, Merlin, interviewed in Personnel Today
News and insight
Tea Colaianni, Merlin, interviewed in Personnel Today
HRD profile: Tea Colaianni, Merlin Entertainments Group
As the HR director for attractions company Merlin Entertainments Group, which has a turnover of more than £1billion, you'd expect Tea Colaianni to be busy. But just listening to her to-do list is exhausting: from early morning calls to Australia to discuss the opening of new attractions to late evening teleconferences with her counterparts in the US and Canada, Colaianni appears to have endless reserves of energy.
When Colaianni joined the company, which owns popular attractions such as LEGOLAND and the London Eye, in February 2010 it had already completed a string of acquisitions. These included the 2007 buy-out of the Tussauds Group, which has helped to make Merlin second only to Disney in terms of worldwide visitor numbers. Merlin now runs 98 attractions, seven hotels and two holiday villages in 22 different countries, attracting 54 million visitors annually.
But with such rapid growth, Colaianni says she and her HR team faced a daunting challenge: "By the time I joined it was clear that, while those attractions had been integrated from a commercial perspective and brand perspective, not much had been done in terms of integrating them from a cultural or broader human resources perspective."
Employees in different attractions, even if they were in the same country, were operating on different terms and conditions and in separate pension schemes, and were often following conflicting policies or procedures. She says: "It was quite obvious we had to break that."
The role of Colaianni and her team is to set the strategic direction of the HR function and coordinate all of the HR activities and initiatives, after which each division will implement those on a local level.
Before joining Merlin, Colaianni had led other transformation projects, including bringing together disparate geographical teams at Global One, the now defunct joint venture between France Telecom, Deutsche Telekom and Sprint.
"There were some similarities there in terms of taking people from different parts of the organisation and integrating them into the company," she says.
It was just an exercise that didn't produce the right results," says Colaianni.
According to Colaianni, the company operates as though it were a listed company anyway, and the demands of being a private-equity backed enterprise mean there is constant pressure to deliver a return on every investment.
"Some of the challenges we will face [as a listed company] will be to keep that small company, entrepreneurial mentality we have now," she explains. "If and when we do list, we need to think about how we help our senior management teams to adapt. There will be a lot of focus on analysts and investors, for example."
Consequently, one of Colaianni's key focuses since her appointment has been on executive-level development, including putting every member of the board (including herself) through the renowned Kiddy & Partners' board development programme.
Something that is of upmost importance to Colaianni is that HR is involved in any key business decisions from the very start. The company is considering a move into India, for example, and HR will go out there with the site search teams to identify any potential employment issues from the outset.
"There is no 'By the way, we're opening an attraction on the other side of the world and we need to recruit a certain number of people'," says Colaianni.
Once again, bringing everyone together into Merlin's way of working will fall to Colaianni and her teams on the ground, and the ongoing prospect of a stock market listing will keep them busy.
"I expect we'll see more expansion, more growth," she concludes.
Tea Colaianni, group HR ..., 19 Nov 2013 [cached]
Tea Colaianni, group HR director, Merlin Entertainments Group
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