As one hotelier once put it to me, the hotel business is simply “people serving people”. So the quality and training of staff, particularly at the luxury end, is absolutely critical.
Different hotels have subtly different recruitment philosophies. Why should you care about this when you choose a hotel?
Because attentive and friendly staff are more likely to leave a positive imprint on your memory than any other aspect of your hotel stay.
Here’s a capsule summary of the findings from speaking to some of London’s leading hoteliers about how they fill their hotel jobs:
One Aldwych. This iconic 5 star hotel believes that good service comes from the heart. When hiring people, they combine a rigorous assessment system with a significant dose of intuition. People are recruited as much for emotional intelligence as technical ability and, according to founder Gordon Campbell Gray, the ability to be “kind”. More about One Aldwych here.
Claridge’s (Maybourne Hotel Group). Service at Claridge’s is like “performance” as they need to excel constantly to excite guests. They look for staff with “exceptional energy, passion, dedication and professionalism” who are trained to “over-deliver” as consistently as possible. I also met the HR and Marketing Directors at Maybourne’s HQ, who told me that recruiting and retaining excellent staff was their number one priority.
InterContinental Hotels Group. People are hired according to the profile of each of their various brands. For example, for Holiday Inn they look for staff with a very different personality to those they’d recruit for InterContinental. There’s a lot of emphasis on their employees speaking the specific brand’s “language”.
Rocco Forte Collection (Brown’s in London). Sir Rocco Forte emphasised to me how he feels each individual has an innate sense of hospitality. He and his General Managers try to provide a positive example by coaching and training the right behaviours. Staff are key to the service philosophy, which aims above all to make each customer feel like an individual.
Le Meridien. I met the CEO of this group before the takeover by Starwood, though they still operate as Le Meridien in their Piccadilly hotel. The emphasis is on hiring people with the right attitude: those who enjoy the company of others and who can “engage”. The ability to anticipate the needs of guests is seen as critical.
Myhotels. The Chairman of this boutique hotel group (with hotels in Bloomsbury and Chelsea) believes you should recruit people who already have a certain warmth, as this is not something which can be instilled. They aim to create a “family” atmosphere among their staff.
YOTEL. They look for staff with good service skills generally, not necessarily with a hotel background. Indeed, the wording of their job vacancies makes them sound like airline jobs (“cabin crew”) rather than typical hotel jobs! YOTEL trains its people to serve customers in a friendly manner with the ability to work quickly under pressure, since fast turnaround is vital to their business model. We have a further article on YOTEL’s airport hotels.
Hilton. I’ve visited the company’s corporate headquarters in Watford and have also met GMs at various Hiltons. They all have an enlightened, long-term approach towards training and developing their 100,000 “team members”. Hilton invest a lot of time and effort both in recruitment and skills development through “Hilton University” and other initiatives.
The Grove (5 star hotel near Watford). This luxury hotel recruits mainly for attitude, since they believe that everything else can be trained. They also focus a lot on staff retention and provide their people with benefits and facilities that will make them say “wow”.
Malmaison (4 star boutique chain). They aim to recruit people with a sense of fun and with potential for rapid advancement. The CEO believes in fast-tracking “stars” and in providing the best training in the industry. They invest a lot in their graduate scheme. Do check out our Malmaison London review.
The Lanesborough (ultra-deluxe 5 star London hotel near Hyde Park). They recruit butlers whose sole role is to serve customers and to “create work for themselves”. The hotel’s Managing Director Mr Gelardi told me that this is an unusual attitude requiring very special qualities. He also believes strongly in highlighting staff behind the scenes, the people who often work hardest at a hotel whom the guest may never see.
We hope the above helps you decide on the profile of the staff you would like to have serving you on your next visit to London. It’s also our aim to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of hotel staff in London.
Please let us know if you’ve noticed particularly good staff or service in visiting a London hotel and we’ll try to feature it on the blog.