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James Goulding's accomplishments are well-known in the world of HR and phrases such as "this is James's year," and "he's achieved an incredible amount," were banded around on the judging day. Goulding's remit includes 2,150 employees across 10 hotels under PPHE Hotel Group, including at Battersea Power Station under the art'otel brand, opening in 2023.
Goulding leads a team of 35 HR professionals in the UK and has rebuilt this team from one of nine in January 2021. Having foreseen the difficult labour market conditions after Covid and Brexit, he developed new strategies and reorganised his team to be able to meet these demands.
The journey began with a new approach to recruitment and the creation of a new recruitment team as the first point of contact with candidates. This was intended to improve the candidate experience and ensure that anyone not suitable for one job is considered for another. A focus on proactive searches and events mitigated a decline in average numbers of applications per vacancy, while also saving agency and advertising costs. Recruiters were created from hotel specialists, lending them credibility. Goulding then moved the recruitment team into a dedicated recruitment centre, enabling walk-ins and a job centre-style brokerage service. While managers still have a final say on who they hire, the recruiters are now averaging around 50 hires per month.
To support the centralised recruitment strategy and to avoid internal competition, rates of pay were standardised for all common job roles. Holiday entitlements were increased by two days per employee, and a retention bonus was also introduced for those who remained for 12 months. To improve the retention of new hires, the onboarding process was completely redesigned, with the term ‘probation period' replaced with ‘onboarding' as part of an initiative to use more positive wording.
During the onboarding process, a centralised session was created for all London locations running twice a week with a third session on Saturdays to accommodate the growing numbers of students being recruited. The entire morning of the first day is spent with the line manager, who can personalise how the time is spent to suit the specific needs of the new team member. The introduction of a learning management system has also meant a classroom-based session can be about the company and culture, and compliance training has gone online. A survey is now completed at the end of the onboarding period, which has shown 93% employee satisfaction with the process. Retention at three months has improved by 20%.
In the space of 12 months, how PPHE finds, recruits, onboards, rewards, and trains its people has changed, all led by Goulding.
What the judges said
"This was an exceptional entry with James showing tremendous leadership alongside a highly impressive approach. His relentless dedication sets a benchmark, and his passion and commitment has had an impact at both corporate and operational level. James epitomises hospitality in everything he does."
Danielle Dasselaar, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – the Caledonian
James Goulding, PPHE Hotel Group
Sarah Powell, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons
Kirsten Price, the Belfry Hotel & Resort
2021 Caroline Harrison, Luxury Family Hotels
2019 Anita Bower, Iconic Luxury Hotels
2018 Lindsay Southward, Malmaison & Hotel du Vin Group
2017 David Morison, Jumeirah Carlton Tower and Jumeirah Lowndes hotels, London
2016 Tristan Knight, Rosewood London
2015 Aideen Whelehan, Lancaster London
2014 Mike Williams, De Vere Hotels & Village Urban Resorts
2013 Julia Murrell, Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons, Great Milton, Oxfordshire
2012 Sarah Banner, the Cavendish London
2011 Ros Young, ABode Hotels
2010 Della Fanning, the Marylebone, London
2009 Liz McGivern, Red Carnation Hotels
2008 Sean Wheeler, Malmaison and Hotel du Vin
2007 Helen Kalyan, Novotel London West