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Getting a Firmdale grip on Candidate Experience


With an impressive increase in candidate on-boarding and employee retention, Firmdale Hotels won the Candidate Experience award at the 2016 People Awards. “Winning this award has really changed things for us,” said Jessica Berry, Head of Talent at Firmdale Hotels. “We’ve had other companies knocking on our door asking what we’re doing right. We’ve been asked to talk at conferences about our programmes. We shout about our win in all our communications. It’s been a wonderful year.”

Entering the 2017 People Awards is free and easy to complete online. Deadline for entries is 3rd July 2017.

Firmdale Hotels told us more about their winning approach…

“Candidate no-show” is a constant and costly pain for hospitality employers. Applicants dropping out before interview, or accepting a role then failing to turn up on day one is an all too common occurrence.

So, one of the biggest challenges facing any recruitment team is positively engaging with talent from application to on-boarding and beyond. In a skills-short, candidate led market, hospitality employers who can connect with top candidates throughout the process will engage and retain them, before their competitors. By focusing on employer branding, strong use of social channels and a close look at their hiring and on-boarding processes, Firmdale Hotels achieved exciting results.

The challenges Firmdale faced were recruiting in a competitive market, promoting the company name to a wider talent pool and engaging people from the start is what Firmdale is all about. “You may have somebody amazing in front of you,” Jessica explained, “but two days later they get a call from a competitor with another job offer. We wanted to engage with this talent and make them excited about working with us from the very beginning. There is immense competition out there; we’re all fighting for the same great people. Having a brand that people can really buy into and engage with is super-important.”

Creating that strong brand awareness is an important first step in recruitment. “We feel it’s important to align Firmdale’s external brand with our internal one.” Jessica said. Firmdale created the ‘Love What You Do’ campaign which worked to highlight their employer brand. An online video was created in which several Firmdale employees were interviewed to showcase life at the company. The initial video was so popular that it took on a life of its own and served to highlight Firmdale’s five values: Relationships, enthusiasm, attention to detail, resilience and passion. ‘Love What You Do’ has become the core of their recruitment strategy. The video is displayed on Firmdale’s adverts, social channels and their careers website.

To reduce the percentage of candidates who drop out after accepting roles, but before induction and on-boarding, Firmdale endeavoured to increase engagement from the beginning. They redesigned their People and Development office to reflect a Firmdale suite complete with bespoke mannequin to create a ‘Firmdale first impression’.

The recruitment team encouraged the Department Heads themselves to make the call offering successful candidates work, thus building a connection with a new Manager from the very beginning. What is on offer at Firmdale, from its benefits, perks, incentives to the rewards and recognition schemes are communicated at the interview stage with the In-house Recruitment team and the Head of Department on site. Managers also now get in touch with new starters to personally welcome them to the team and arrange their uniform ready for their first day in the department.

Firmdale’s company induction is an immersive experience and is held within one of the Firmdale hotels. The day includes lunch, a show-around, introduction to the culture and values of the company, an explanation of rewards & benefits and a look at the history of Firmdale. The first induction day ends with a one-to-one meeting to discuss any questions and to complete new starter information with a member of the People and Development team.

Firmdale is passionate about building and developing their teams, as Jessica Berry explains, “Our Learning Directory, which is accessible from day one for all team members, details over 100 courses. There are 10 sections, including operational skills and knowledge, service skills, supervisor skills, management development programmes and people management. Last year we launched a Firmdale English language programme for those team members with English as a second language this year developed the programme to provide the team with an accredited language qualification.”

There are 26 Firmdale Managers who deliver departmental inductions for Concierge, Front Office, Housekeeping and Food & Beverage. In addition, 60 department trainers across the group complete new starters’ induction checklists to ensure they are set up for success and receive a quarterly bonus to recognise the impact of their on-job training. The induction process continues throughout the first three months and each inductee is paired with an on-shift buddy. There are four week and three month reviews, providing open and constructive conversations to ensure that they are fully equipped in their roles.

The results have been impressive. On average 80% of candidates seen by in-house recruiters were offered roles by the hotels, last year 96% of those offered roles attended induction and on-boarding with 87% retention year 2015-16. Jessica said that candidate reaction has been overwhelmingly positive. She said, “We are really proud to hear ‘Love What You Do’ being used in conversation and hash-tagged. This has come from the heart of Firmdale’s culture and incorporating our values just shows how much it is the focus of what we do. Being perceived as a great place to work has enhanced our recruitment process and probably made recruiting a little bit easier.”

Entering the 2017 People Awards couldn’t be easier. It’s free and you can enter as many categories as you wish. Make sure your entries reach us by 3rd July 2017. The shortlist will be announced in August. The glamorous awards ceremony will take place on 5th October 2017 at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge.

Don’t hesitate to contact our People Awards team with any questions at