Last week Radisson Edwardian Hotels celebrated the completion of a £75m refurbishment of its flagship hotel, the May Fair in London. As well as constantly upgrading its estate, London's largest privately owned hotel group has an impressive array of HR policies that made it a 2006 winner in Caterer‘s Best Places to Work in Hospitality Awards. Ben Walker reports
Jasminder Singh, founder and chairman of Radisson Edwardian Hotels (REH), is worth £350m and regularly appears in the Sunday Times Rich List; but that doesn't stop him being accessible to his employees at any time via the chairman's hotline. Any of REH's 1,600 staff can contact him in confidence with a point of view or complaint.
Between 5.30 and 8.30am early bird Singh leaves his home in Ascot, Surrey, and visits the group's Heathrow hotel before heading to the rest of the group's central London hotels. Human resources director Beverley Stewart comments: "Primarily, it's to meet the night and morning staff and to find out what's happening for the day ahead. From an HR perspective it's great, because the workers are in direct contact with the founder every day. It's a ritual. He has his bowl of porridge with the same kitchen staff each day."
REH operates an employee recognition programme whereby colleagues nominate each other on a daily basis for doing a great job and receive £1 per nomination from the company. Stewart says that the system is not abused by employees, and the HR department administers the entries. Top scorers are nominated for Employee of the Month and also the company's annual awards, the Edwards.
Three monthly awards of £300, £200 and £100 are deposited into staff social funds, and annual awards of £10,000, £5,000 and £2,500 are shared by eligible employees at the top three hotels at the end of the year.
All pay grids are transparent to all employees. Benchmarking shows Radisson Edwardian is in the top quartile of employers for the majority of its positions (see panel, below).
The company introduced pay grids in October 2004 in order to reward employees by upward progress on the basis of performance, character and competence rather than length of service. Employees are aware of what is on offer and what is required of them to qualify for promotion and pay increases.
"If you have reached the maximum pay for your position in the hotel where you work, the pay grid will show you where you can go to the next level at another hotel," explains Stewart.
In addition, the company's intranet allows all staff to see key hotel and company performance data, such as budgets and operating profit. "The portal prevents the tendency in some companies for senior management to withhold information in order to use it as a source of power," says Stewart.
Training and Education
On average, each employee benefits from 32 hours of training per year. The company also supports employees in external educational programmes up to MBA level. Each year eight employees attend the advanced management programme at Templeton College, Oxford.
As a result of the investment in training and education, 95% of managers have been promoted internally, often starting in frontline positions in one discipline and emerging to lead a team in another.
Iype Abraham, head of IT, says: "In 1990, when REH bought the Marlborough hotel, I was working in accounts. When the takeover was complete I was appointed financial controller. After only 18 months I was promoted to financial controller at the May Fair hotel, followed by another promotion to work alongside the company secretary, sharing responsibility for managing the group's financial affairs. Today, I am head of IT for the group and am also currently doing an MBA at Thames Valley University supported by the company."
REH's profit-share scheme means that every hotel receives a percentage of additional operating profit in excess of the published results of the previous financial period. The award is calculated quarterly and goes to people who have worked at the hotel for a minimum of six months. Each employee gets between 2% and 6% of any additional operating profit, paid directly into their wages.
Stewart says: "Our portal allows any employee to see budgets, profitability, rooms sold and targets for any hotel in the group. We are extremely transparent. Each month there will be a poster in the staff room that will say, ‘This is what we made, this was the target, and this is the share-out.'"
REH's benefits package also includes lifestyle and tax-efficient benefits, such as childcare vouchers, home-based computers and bicycles.
Health and Wellbeing
Singh takes a personal interest in the development of REH's employees. He benefited from reading The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, a self-help book by Stephen Covey, and a course based on the book has been at the core of company culture for 15 years, with more than 1,000 employees attending.
The principles taught on the three-day course promote total wellbeing and balance in an individual's life. The core principle of Seven Habits is that a private victory precedes public victory and is the key to adopting a positive work-life balance.
Stewart says: "It is a course that does reach deep down emotionally. It is not compulsory, but is definitely popular and in heavy demand."
The company also offers subsidised gym membership and staff discounts at the group's health spas, restaurants and bars. The staff social committee organises regular events such as pub nights, bowling competitions and five-a-side football.
With each new hotel development REH makes financial contributions to local community facilities and prioritises employment opportunities for locals. Next year REH is due to open a new four-star hotel in London's Canary Wharf under a management contract with developer Ballymore. Stewart explains that, as part of the Olympic Games-related regeneration of the area, the contract stipulates that REH must employ local people rather than transferring staff from its other hotels.
The group was a major sponsor of London's bid to host the games. REH has the same contractual commitment to the local community regarding a 154-bedroom hotel under development on the Syon Estate in the London borough of Hounslow.
REH celebrates cultural diversity, and the make-up of its 1,600 workers reflects this: 45% are female; 36% are aged 36 or older; 46% are from an ethnic background; 55% of supervisory positions are held by employees from ethnic backgrounds; and 20% have worked for REH for more than nine years.
In the past four years 147 frontline employees have been promoted to supervisory or management positions, of whom nearly half are from an ethnic background.
Housekeepers' hourly pay rates
The Dorchester, London £8.29
Landmark London hotel (assistant executive) £12.85
Rembrandt hotel, London £6.45
Royal Garden hotel, London £7.64
Radisson Edwardian hotels (five-star) £8.75
Radisson Edwardian Hotels
A privately owned company that operates 12 four- and five-star hotels, 11 in London and one in Manchester.
Owned by Edwardian Group but operated under the Radisson Edwardian banner since signing a marketing alliance with US-based Radisson Hotels Worldwide in 1992.
Annual turnover of £90m and a net worth in excess of £250m.
All of the hotels are owned, apart from the Manchester property, which is managed.
Two further management projects are in the pipeline: next year a four-star, 169-bedroom riverside hotel in London's Canary Wharf is due to open for developer Ballymore; and a 154-bedroom hotel with extensive conference facilities on the Syon Estate in west London is planned for the 7th Duke of Northumberland.