“I think in general in the UK, hospitality isn’t seen as a career. People tend to view it as a ‘stop-gap’, or something to do while they’re studying. In mainland Europe, hospitality is seen as a career path, you see that less often in the UK.” – Elsie Koopman, London EDITION.
On the site of the former Berners Hotel just off Oxford Street in the heart of London’s West End, the London EDITION elegantly fuses high-end luxury with accessible, friendly service. The hotel blends thoughtful design and intuitive service with excellent dining and nightlife in a space that boldly brings together the past with the present.
In this first part of our look at the hotel, we catch up with Elsie Koopman and Jose Ruiz from the London EDITION’s Human Resources department to find out about the hotel’s culture and the challenges they face recruiting, developing and retaining top talent in the heart of the city.
“The biggest challenges we face aren’t necessarily from other hospitality companies, they’re from other sectors,” said Jose Ruiz. “Law firms, agencies, corporates are all attracting people who might otherwise choose to work in restaurants and hotels. The offering is very appealing to them. Whether it’s because of pay or better hours, we’ve found that the talent we would usually meet are going elsewhere.”
Elsie Koopman agrees, “We go to a lot of schools and universities to tell young people who are starting out about the hospitality industry and maybe consider a career with us,” Elsie added. “A few years ago, it would only be hospitality companies doing this; now it’s all changed. Now, it’s a whole group of recruiters trying to attract from the same pool. It’s become a lot tougher.”
How does the industry change perceptions?
“That’s the ultimate question,” Jose said. “If I knew the answer, I’d package it and sell it. I think in hospitality, we can be our own worst enemies. Over the years I’ve heard the same thing again and again; low pay, long hours, and we don’t do anything to change that view. A waiter in this country can make a very good wage, comparable with a para-legal or a newly qualified solicitor. You can now manage your own hours to suit you and you can work your way up, quickly to a supervisory role. It can be done, we just need to tell people that all these things are possible.”
“Culture is very important to us,” said Elsie. “We started as a brand five years ago and our culture was created with that but has grown organically over time. No matter which EDITION you visit, you’ll still find that core ethos. Our employees live and breathe it. It’s part of our recruitment strategy, part of our engagement strategy and we want to hire candidates who share our values because this is what makes EDITION both successful and such a great place to work.”
“Edition is one of the few places I’ve worked where culture is the filter of all that happens,” Jose said. “We want people who can provide gracious, sophisticated service. We blend luxury and lifestyle. It’s a fine line and we want people who are able to tread that line confidently. If we go too much on the luxury element, we can alienate those guests who want to move away from the “traditional luxury”. Likewise, if we lean too heavily on lifestyle, we can lose those who seek excellence and a curated experience. I feel we deliver on this and the team we employ understands that and that’s why they enjoy working with us.”
Attraction and Interview
One of London EDITION biggest recruitment methods is word of mouth. Elsie explained that people enjoy working there and tell their friends. The HR team also visit hotel schools and sell the culture of EDITION. “It is unique and we’re looking for those unique individuals to join us,” she said.
“Our recruitment is very much driven by personality,” Jose said. “Cultural fit trumps everything. We’re trying to find that ‘pink unicorn’, so sometimes recruitment can take a bit longer. We may shortlist seven or eight applicants for a role, look at them and say, ‘can they do the job? Yes. Do they match against the job criteria? Yes. But something is missing, something does not quite fit. Often, this is the culture fit. When the right “EDITION” candidate comes along, you just know.
“Some people come in for interviews with scripted answers and say what they think we want to hear,” Elsie said. “We want to know the person. Can you hold a conversation? Can you engage with people naturally? These are things that can’t be easily taught.”
All candidates at London EDITION are introduced to the in-house guidance team and the executive team. “My final interview was with the hotel manager,” Elsie said. “From day one, I felt I had a connection with the senior leadership team. It breaks down barriers and makes the hotel a fun place to work.”
Meet some of the talented people at London EDITION
“Like anywhere, some candidates drop out before on-boarding,” said Jose, “but that just tells me that they’re not right for us. I would rather keep the position open and keep on searching for the right fit”
London EDITION does it’s best to keep in touch with candidates throughout the hiring process, with regular emails and if the process is taking longer than expected we aim to keep candidates informed.
On-boarding at EDITION is thorough. “Our hotel orientation for new joiners involves a night stay in the hotel,” Elsie said. “We want them to experience EDITION as a guest would. They have room service, a drink in the bar and we invite them in for breakfast,” Elsie explained. “We then hold a hotel wide induction, also attended by the senior management team where our newcomers learn about the brand and the culture. When they go off to their own departments, they get an in-depth departmental orientation. We also hold a second day orientation day after 10 days. New team members are appointed a buddy within their department so that they don’t feel like they’ve been thrown in at the deep-end. Support is crucial, and we have an open- door policy. If they have any questions or concerns, we do our utmost to address these.”
In part two, we talk about London EDITION’s Learning and Development programmes, Reward and Benefits and why quality is better than quantity.
Find out more about the fantastic opportunities at London Edition here