Cateys 2020: Best Employer Award – Firmdale Hotels

22 November 2020
Cateys 2020: Best Employer Award – Firmdale Hotels

Sponsored by Nescafé

Firmdale Hotels is a collection of boutique hotels based in London and New York, including the Ham Yard and Charlotte Street hotels, owned by Tim and Kit Kemp.

This is the fifth consecutive year that Firmdale Hotels has been featured in the top six employers within the hospitality industry, and the second time it has won. The group says it is committed to the personal and professional development of its 1,300 employees in the knowledge that, "if we get this right, everything else will follow when it comes to business success".

When it comes to recruitment, referrals remain Firmdale's biggest recruitment method, with 25% of all hires made this way; while monthly open days with an average attendance of 100 candidates have seen around a 20% conversion to hires.

Last year Firmdale made significant developments to its induction and on-boarding of new team members to ensure that the Firmdale culture and values are central from day one. The company-wide ‘Love What You Do' people brand encourages managers to recognise members of their team for demonstrating one of the five Firmdale values (attention to detail, enthusiasm, relationships, resilience and passion) or one of the four culture values (bright ideas, environmental initiatives, guest comments, learning success). Last year the group also introduced peer-to-peer recognition, with every team member able to award a colleague.

Staff development programmes provide employees with the opportunity to create and develop project proposals for possible implementation into operational practice.

The business also opened its Firmdale Village last year, including a Firmdale Training Academy, bakery, central production kitchen and Firmdale coffee shop, just one of its multitudinous initiatives to train and develop staff. The purpose-built, state-of-the-art training academy was a major financial investment consisting of three training and breakout rooms with full IT and front office set-up, a bedroom, bar and restaurant and an industry-leading training kitchen for up 16 to chefs, providing immersive learning for team members.

Meanwhile, Firmdale's 2019 wellbeing strategy started with training 24 mental health first aiders and working with the Elephant in the Room mental health organisation to develop a company wellbeing policy.

Other staff initiatives include a partnership with Thrive Tribe to help employees stop smoking, and with Wagestream and Safestream, allowing staff to withdraw accrued salary in advance of payday and access financial advice. Over a quarter of employees had enrolled on the apps in the first three months of launch.

Throughout 2019, 84% of employees stated that Firmdale was more than meeting their needs and expectations and upholding the company values, with 92% of employees stating they ‘Love What They Do'.

What the judges said

"When the bar is set so high already, how do you go about raising it even higher? It's clear an extraordinary amount of effort has gone into doing just this! The boundaries have certainly been stretched with an impressive amount of additional innovative initiatives to continue to enhance the employee experience." – Andi Hirons

"This team did not rest on its laurels or past practices. They looked for opportunities to take it to another level and, over the past year, introduced new initiatives to elevate not only their brand but the industry as a whole." – Eugenio Pirri

The shortlist

  • Amba Hotel Grosvenor, London
  • Cheval Collection
  • Cycas Hospitality UK
  • Firmdale Hotels
  • Red Carnation Hotels
  • Valor Hospitality Europe

The judges

  • Julia Edmonds, managing director, Lexington Catering
  • Jo Harley, director, Purple Cubed
  • Andi Hirons, people director, the Grand Brighton
  • Tim Jones, chairman, CH&Co
  • Eugenio Pirri, chief people and culture officer, Dorchester Collection
  • Steve Rockey, people director, Home Grown Hotels and Lime Wood Group
  • Kevin Watson, managing director, NEC Group (Amadeus)
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The highest official awards for UK businesses since being established by royal warrant in 1965. Read more.


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