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How top London hotels train and retain staff.

by Rajul on July 31, 2009

It's surprising how many differences there are between various London hotels' human resource management policies There are big differences between various London hotels’ people management policies

In an earlier article we compared how leading London hotels recruit talented staff.

In this follow-up, we share research on how the same hospitality leaders go about training, motivating and retaining their best people.

Here’s a review of findings from a set of personal interviews with hoteliers:

Rocco Forte Collection (Brown’s in London).  Sir Rocco Forte’s hotels have good staff retention but he told me there’s “no magic answer” to explain this.  The emphasis is on good training, direct communication, making jobs interesting, providing good remuneration and fostering a sense of belonging as well as a pleasant working environment.

Intercontinental Hotels Group.  This company follows some creative approaches e.g. “Learning Maps” to encourage staff to make a journey through the hotel in the customer’s shoes.  Since staff must follow each brand’s tone and style, training (like recruitment) is very brand-driven.  Their global scale allows them to offer international career opportunities.  They have an “Employee Room Benefit Programme” to allow staff to stay at any of their hotels worldwide at heavily-discounted rates.

InterContinental Hotels Group aims to instil a group-wide set of behaviours called “Winning Ways” which builds on the individual's natural personality InterContinental Hotels Group instils a universal set of behaviours called “Winning Ways” which build on the individual’s natural personality

Claridge’s (Maybourne Hotel Group).  Their competitive edge is the ability to recognise returning guests and provide personalised service.  A lot of hard work and preparation goes into this.  Staff feel motivated to nurture a bond with regular guests and are expected to have “the ability to create a magical experience” as the company puts it.  Training is often based on feedback from mystery shopping.  Exceptional team members are used as “role models” to mentor new recruits.  A Claridge’s employee told me that working there is a little bit like performing in a top London show.

Hilton.  A large part of Hilton’s famous consistency springs from a global approach to training – with the online “Hilton University” a prime example.  This promotes a set of shared values which in turn creates a feeling of pride in working for the company.  A lot of emphasis is placed on coaching General Managers to act as good role models for their staff.  Further evidence is provided in our review of the best Hiltons in London.

The Lanesborough (exclusive luxury hotel with free hi-tech amenities).  Managing Director Geoffrey Gelardi puts emphasis on “leadership by example” and says “training has to be something people do every day”.  This pragmatic approach is reinforced by regular meetings where all are encouraged to come up with new ideas.  Mr Gelardi has been in the job for a remarkable 18 years: no wonder there is strong loyalty among his staff.

Red Carnation Hotel Collection (independent chain).  This group runs half a dozen luxury London hotels with an impressive 4 hotels in the current top 6 on TripAdvisor.  Guest comments consistently highlight the friendly and enthusiastic staff.  The Group’s CEO recently told me they recruit individuals with a certain flair and then train them tirelessly.  On the first day of induction for example, each staff member is served their favourite drink at lunch having only revealed this nugget an hour or two earlier – these are just few of the pleasant surprises they like to spring on guests.  The core management team is very stable, itself setting a great example to staff.

With most of its London hotels in TripAdvisor's top 10, Red Carnation is clearly doing something right With most of its London hotels in TripAdvisor’s top 10, Red Carnation Hotel Collection is clearly doing something right in how it trains and motivates its staff


Malmaison (4 star boutique chain).  A cheeky sense of fun is strongly emphasised at Malmaison.  As the CEO himself puts it: “If it’s not fun we’ll make it fun!”  This is reflected in the service experience delivered to guests and also creates a culture in which staff are encouraged to enjoy their everyday jobs.  The company strongly emphasises product-oriented training in partnership with suppliers (e.g. bar staff might go to the Macallan Distillery in Scotland to learn about malt whiskey): an innovative approach.

The Grove (5 star hotel near Watford).  This hotel encourages technical excellence to promote a sense of pride at work.  They believe that good guest service comes from treating staff well and instilling a common set of values.  I’ve visited the hotel a number of times and saw first-hand its outstanding work environment (helped by the fact that it’s surrounded by lovely green space).  The company has invested significantly to go the extra mile in accommodating staff concerns like housing, wellbeing and childcare.

One Aldwych (iconic 5 star hotel).  Founder Gordon Campbell-Gray believes that the key to running a good hotel is: “love your staff”.  Staff are encouraged to serve in their own natural way with “kindness” and “from the heart”.  There are no stale service scripts at One Aldwych.  Another bedrock of their philosophy is to encourage open communication between team members.  There’s also an overriding ethos of equality at the hotel.  This translates into an informal and unpretentious style of service or as Mr Campbell-Gray himself puts it: “a snob-free zone”.  There’s a great anecdote about “silent ice” in our earlier blog feature on One Aldwych.

One Aldwych’s staff are trained to deeply empathise with guests and work in a beautiful hotel often described as a “modern classic” Staff at One Aldwych’s are trained to empathise with guests and get to work in a beautiful hotel, often called a “modern classic”

It’s clear from the above that there’s no single “formula” for retaining hotel staff and keeping them happy and motivated.

Indeed it is these distinctive people management policies and staff profiles which give each hotel its own very individual “DNA”.

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Photo credits: One Aldwych, InterContinental Hotels Group, Red Carnation Hotel Collection.

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