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Cateys 2018: Best Employer Award – Cycas Hospitality

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Cateys 2018: Best Employer Award – Cycas Hospitality

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Cycas Hospitality doesn’t measure labour turnover, it measures retention. When it comes to looking after its people, the hotel management company has some impressive statistics, having achieved a retention figure of 98% for the past 12 months.

The business has no public-facing brand of its own – it operates recognised hospitality brands such as Staybridge Suites, Holiday Inn and Crown Plaza – but despite this, Cycas Hospitality has cultivated a distinctive culture centred around the mantra: “our job is not over until we get a smile”.

Co-founder John Wagner, who brought the extended-stay concept over from North America in 2008, has developed a cultural approach that means the 55 Cycas employees and 320 hotel ‘Cycadettes’ genuinely and enthusiastically believe the philosophy that they have just two tasks: to make guests happy, then to make them very happy.

He introduced the idea of recruiting on personality rather than experience and although it’s a strategy that’s now widely employed elsewhere in hospitality, Cycas took it to new levels when it staged audition days, where the chemistry of their interactions was assessed to identify the most dynamic individuals.

Cycas’ culture team focuses on building talent internally through one-on-one training. Their mission is to embed “positively outrageous service” into every stay and ensure employee satisfaction translates into happy, loyal guests.

This engagement stretches beyond the guest into all areas of the business, with the same service expectations and energy put into relationships with stakeholders, suppliers and investors.

There is a focus on engagement when it comes to promoting talent, too. In 2016, Cycas banished the standard annual one-to-one, and now, every three months, career progression and training needs are discussed, with a six-monthly conversation on personal development plans. Managers’ objectives are linked to bonuses and they have an 80% say in setting them. When polled, 90% felt the approach was motivating and encouraging.

Internally, much of the company communication takes place on Facebook; using a private group on a channel already favoured by employees has led to high levels of participation. On the Cycas Hub, hotels and teams share success stories, while the co-founder posts a quarterly business update video. This summer Cycas will roll out an ‘engagement app’, encouraging two-way discussion.

The Cycas team has recognised that employee health includes physical and mental wellbeing and it offers ‘guest of the day’ surprises; superhero, long-service and WOW of the week awards; praise boxes and thank you boards; as well as Christmas gifts, birthday and team celebration days.

All these measures, combined with an impressive employee engagement score through the Best Places to Work in Hospitality awards, make Cycas a stand-out employer.

What the judges said

“Cycas has a different way of looking at people development and how to approach the roles and responsibilities of those leading the way – a clear differentiator in the wider UK market.”
Eugenio Pirri

“A strong nomination with the Cycadettes at the heart of the business. Energetic and different.”
Stephanie Hamilton

“Cycas took brave steps to create a modern approach with a great sense of engagement.”
Moira Laird


The shortlist

City District

Cycas Hospitality

Firmdale Hotels

Red Carnation Hotels

The judges

Julia Edmonds Managing director, Lexington Catering

Stephanie Hamilton Managing director, ISS Facilities Sources

Jo Harley Managing director, Purple Cubed

Tim Jones Managing chairman, CH&Co Group

Moira Laird HR director, Valor Hospitality

Eugenio Pirri Vice-president, people and organisational development, Dorchester Collection

Steve Rockey People director, Home Grown Hotels and Lime Wood Group

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