In a nutshell A hospitality management company founded in 2014. Part of a US company, this European arm now has 20 hotels in the UK comprising seven Holiday Inns, three Crowne Plazas, three DoubleTree by Hiltons, three Hilton Garden Inns, one Best Western Plus, one Hotel Indigo and two Ramada Worldwides

Location Across the UK with plans to grow to 50 sites in the next five years

Employees 1,700

Average labour turnover 38%

Annual turnover Undisclosed

In 2015, a year after launching its European division, Valor took managers on a roadshow across the UK to introduce employees to the Purple Cubed digital communications hub, Talent Toolbox. This hub has become a one-stop-shop for intranet, news, communications, engagement surveys and performance reviews. The company went from an old intranet system that had fewer than 5,000 views in a year to an engaging platform that generated 259,367 hits in 2015.

Valor did it because the company believes there is a tangible link between employee engagement and sales. Commenting on the decision, managing director Brian McCarthy said: “Lots of companies measure engagement, but we prioritise engagement as a precursor to sales. I know that if team engagement is strong and I can see it living and breathing in the business, it tells me our sales results in three months’ time will be equally as strong.”

Engagement has certainly spawned a number of positive results. These include moving from the bottom of the InterContinental Hotels Group performance league table to the number one spot; a reduction in labour turnover; a rise in employee engagement of more than 5%; a 100% boost in internal promotions; and improved sales and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation performance as well as improved customer satisfaction.

The boost in reputation means the hotel management company is now launching the first AC Hotels by Marriott property in the UK.

Cafe in the Park

Shortlisted for the Best Employer Catey

In a nutshell Set up in 2005 by Carly and Ian Trisk-Grove

Location The Aquadrome, Rickmansworth

Employees 14 full-time

Average labour turnover People stay for a year on average. Four members of staff have been there for more than two years, one for over three and two for over four

Annual turnover £740,000 (2015)

It’s not just the staff who are close-knit at this family-owned café, it is also the customers. In fact, in February it was shortlisted for the People’s Favourite category in the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s Food Made Good Awards. You just have to watch the website video to see how much the friendliness of this cheerful venue means to the people who go there.

When forced to pick out a few examples of what makes this café such a great place to work, there are two that stand out. First, the owners pay their staff a salary so they know what they will take home each month. They never give out zero-hour contracts and all staff get the same starting salary – £17,500 – because they all do the same job.

Second, they also work with a number of adults with learning difficulties, who volunteer from two to 10 hours a week. This has many benefits. The volunteers have an opportunity to gain work experience and to mix with adults without learning difficulties, and the full-timers gain an understanding of what life is like for people with a learning difficulty. 

In recognition of its all-round best-practice, this café has been awarded three stars by the Sustainable Restaurant Association for its commitment to society, sourcing and the environment.

Firmdale Hotels

Shortlisted for the Best Employer Catey

In a nutshell Tim and Kit Kemp’s collection of uber-cool, unstuffy, luxurious boutique hotels

Locations Five hotels and three townhouse hotels in London; one hotel in New York

Employees 1,200 

Average labour turnover 28% 

Annual turnover £105m

Several recognition initiatives have been introduced at this cutting-edge company to promote communication, engagement and employee involvement. The aim is to build employee retention, reduce turnover and also to reward and celebrate success.

It’s clearly doing plenty of things right. Last year, employee retention was 87%, while its loyalty awards, which recognise long service with additional holidays, reveal that just over 20% of employees have more than five years’ service.

Breakfast clubs bring employees together every quarter to give feedback on what it is like to work at Firmdale. Over the past year, this has revealed that staff want more development and internal succession. This has triggered the implementation of a bespoke performance review and communications system (namely Purple Cubed’s Talent Toolbox). The result is that some 23.5% of the team have been promoted or transferred within the company in the past year.

Staff Appreciation Weeks take place twice a year in every hotel where managers organise film clubs, bowling and lunch. This is in addition to afternoon teas every Friday so the team can kick-back and celebrate the week.

Training certificate presentations are held quarterly where those involved celebrate with Champagne and canapés. Some 20.5% of employees are trained every quarter, with more than 120 employees attending each event.

And last but not least, there is the annual company-wide incentive, where staff are invited to put forward a suggestion, spurred on by the fact they will receive a reward if it is implemented.

The Roof Gardens

Shortlisted for the Best Employer Catey

In a nutshell Set 100ft above London, the Roof Gardens comprises 1.5 acres of gardens, a private members’ club and the Babylon restaurant. It is owned by Virgin Limited Edition

Location Kensington, London

Employees 100 full-time/permanent and 100 casual/part-time

Average labour turnover 29%

Annual turnover Undisclosed

This is a business that has bought into the belief that its people are its greatest asset. Key to the people-retention strategy is respect for staff – looking after them and allowing them the freedom to be themselves and flourish.

Several initiatives reinforce this message to staff. Staff welfare days do what they say on the tin. Arranged throughout the year, these days are structured around giving staff healthcare and nutritional advice, massages, nail treatments and pilates classes. For personal welfare, there is also a confidential helpline that staff can call.

Staff are also encouraged to sign up for charitable initiatives which in turn boosts their general sense of wellbeing. This May, some of the team will be bonding while they raise money for charity during a three-day mountain trek.

Back at work, there is a strong focus on mentoring and cross-training to enable staff to learn from the more experienced team members around them.

Should there be any work-related issues, they can air them at the monthly staff consultative committee meetings. There is also a an email channel for suggestions so staff can send ideas on improving the workplace direct to the decision-makers.

To help fresh faces to settle in – and create a direct communication line – the people development manager and general manager invite them for a coffee and a chat.

But perhaps the best staff perk is getting a day off on birthdays and dinner with a guest at Babylon to help them celebrate.

Gibbon Bridge Hotel

Shortlisted for the Best Employer Catey

In a nutshell A 30-bedroom hotel owned and run by Janet Simpson

Location Forest of Bowland, Lancashire

Employees 35 to 40, seasonal

Average labour turnover 25%, which refers to transient EU labour employed on temporary 12-month contracts

Annual turnover £2m

Gibbon Bridge is a family affair. It opened as a hotel in 1982 when Janet Simpson and her mother decided to diversify from farming. They started with six bedrooms and a bar, but as the business grew, so did the hotel. There are now 30 bedrooms, a restaurant and conference and events facilities set in 23 acres.

As a family-run business, the focus has always been on work-life balance, fair pay and career progression for staff. As Simpson says: “One of the most important aspects of staffing is ensuring that everyone feels valued at all levels. Our ethos has been to create a community and family feel throughout the team.”

Thought, for instance, has been given to the staff living accommodation, which is located in the beautiful grounds around a picturesque pond in a peaceful part of the estate. The addition of a park bench means staff can sit and enjoy the stunning rural views. 

All the amenities they need are provided, along with gym facilities and bikes. Three meals a day and laundry facilities are available at a minimal charge – even when staff are on days off.

To maintain service standards, everyone is given in-house training and the opportunity to learn new skills through taking NVQs. Also, all employees are paid by the hour, so they are not expected to work hours that they are not paid for.

As the Purple Cubed survey reveals, the result is a loyal and happy team. Gibbon Bridge scored a performance rating of 87.5% on being a company that respects work-life balance against a benchmark of 69.94%, and 90.63% against a benchmark of 78.73% on creating an environment where staff work together to produce good results. Some 60% of staff would recommend it as a ‘best place to work’.

EGO Restaurants

Shortlisted for the Best Employer Catey

In a nutshell A collection of individually designed Mediterranean restaurants and bars

Location 10 restaurants across the north

Employees 250

Average labour turnover 20%

Annual turnover £10m

There’s a lot going on at Ego. Starting at the top, all of its general managers are given bonuses relating to performance as well as a percentage of net profit every month. This gives the managers more responsibility over their profit and loss, provides uncapped earnings and creates ownership. More specifically, it keeps managers engaged and motivated about leading their team towards sales growth.

Head chefs are also on bonus schemes. These are related to a monthly kitchen audit to ensure environmental health standards are consistently exceeded and kitchen stock is maintained correctly. The chefs receive a bonus if they pass their audit and if they meet their monthly food gross profit percentage.

As for the rest of the team, they are recognised in a number of ways. One canny incentive is linked to the mystery guest scheme, whereby staff who help generate a 100% report get £100. Unsurprisingly, this has seen a general rise in standards and enthusiasm for training. In fact, there are training plans for all new starters and full-time staff.

In addition to each restaurant recognising an employee of the week, there is also a company-wide employee of the week, who receives a bottle of Champagne and a voucher.

To keep staff in the loop, the company’s weekly newsletter shows financial updates and includes a message from the chief executive recognising hard work. General managers also add comments on trading and add congratulations to the named employee of the week. Staff perks include meals during shifts from the menu at no cost, plus staff discounts across the Ego portfolio.

7. The London Edition

In a nutshell Part of Edition Hotels, a slick, uber-cool hotel with 173 Ian Schrager-designed rooms and Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton overseeing the restaurant

Location Berners Street, London W1

Employees 350

Average labour turnover 5% a month

Annual turnover Undisclosed

The London Edition arrived in 2013, launching a new-generation luxury hotel in the UK created by Ian Schrager working with Marriott International. This city-slick luxury hotel in the heart of Fitzrovia combines innovative design and modern dining and entertainment with personal, friendly service.

To keep it like that, there’s a concerted effort to maintain high employee engagement. The challenge is that the HR policy is to recruit employees on personality and attitude, so many staff have never previously worked in hospitality. To ensure standards remain high, they therefore have to use cutting-edge recruitment, training and engagement strategies.

A simple but fun one that catches the attention is the hotel’s social agenda. As most staff rarely get the chance to experience five-star service themselves, the hotel arranges monthly events to help connect them with the cool Edition culture. These include private cinema viewings, art competitions, pub quizzes, boat parties with on-board DJs, family barbecues and parties in VIP venues.

This is a switched-on company, so the HR team also arranges pop-up employee parties on the hotel’s private rooftop. That way managers and staff can get to know each other in more relaxed surroundings.

8. Lovely Pubs

In a nutshell A group of eight pubs

Location In the heart of the Warwickshire countryside, convenient for the NEC and the ICC

Employees 325

Annual turnover £15.132m (net of VAT)

Direct wages cost (including NIC) £4.094m

Here’s a business where staff can really shimmy up the ladder – one senior manager has recently become a working partner within the business, for instance.

To make sure everyone has a chance to find their potential, the company recently introduced an online training system to ensure all training and standards are high. This not only develops staff in all areas of the business, it also enables them to work in other Lovely Pubs.

There’s an inclusive culture of management, borne out by the fact 92.4% of respondents said they trusted their manager. To keep them engaged, the teams are taken to meet suppliers and see how the produce is made. One group recently went to the Purity Brewery, while another went to Rioja in Spain with Bibendum Wines. The managers have also taken kitchen staff to London to experience a range of restaurants and inspire new menus.

Lovely Pubs is also working with three local colleges to encourage students to consider a career in catering. It takes students on visits to various suppliers, including its butcher (Farm to Fork) and a brewery (Grain to Glass). The youngsters then help to cook and serve the produce at one of the pubs to understand how a busy catering establishment works. Occasionally, catering students are invited to take over a pub for an evening so they can design a menu, cook, serve and interact with guests.


In a nutshell A temporary employment agency for chefs, set up in September 2014 by Phillip Houlihan

Location Based in London

Employees Approximately 200 

Average labour turnover Approximately 8% – this varies due to chefs leaving the country and returning or taking up permanent positions

Annual turnover Predicted £550,000

This relatively newly-fledged agency manages a broad book of temporary chefs for clients as diverse as Michelin-starred restaurants, sporting events and gastropubs. The company also sets out to ensure that its chefs get the right opportunities to enhance their career.

To build camaraderie and loyalty, the company recently offered an incentive scheme that rewards employees with the chance to let their hair down and enjoy a meal and drinks at a top destination in central London. This also gave managers the opportunity to socialise with employees in a non-work environment.

As an employer, it seems to have hit the ground running. According to the Purple Cubed survey of staff, 92.31% of employees said they feel they are part of a team that respects each other and nearly 85% said everything was in place to do their job well.

This comment from a chef sums it up: “Great environment to work in, feel part of a family, which is important to me.”

10. Accent Catering

In a nutshell A specialist independent caterer serving the business and education sectors

Location Across more than 50 contracts and a headquarters in Staines

Employees 450 

Average labour turnover 16% 

Annual turnover £12m 

The reward and recognition of staff is a cornerstone of Accent’s HR policy. To that end, it has started a ‘Shining Stars’ employee programme that runs every quarter to acknowledge outstanding service by employees at all levels. Those who go the extra mile are congratulated by the company directors and receive a bonus.

Their achievements are also highlighted in the Shining Stars newsletter, which is distributed throughout the company every quarter and pinned to the staff noticeboard. This noticeboard is a useful tool. It works not only to recognise the winners of the award, it also creates a sense of cohesion and community. Through it, employees can keep in touch with each other’s news, or share recipes or ideas.

The reward and recognition scheme links personal performance to the overall company goal and is successful in motivating employees, with 90.79% saying they feel part of a team that respects itself and nearly 90% saying the team works well to produce results.

11. Bennet Hay

In a nutshell Bespoke hospitality services provider run by Anthony Bennett and Robin Hay

Location Based in London

Number of employees 123 

Average labour turnover 25%

Annual turnover Undisclosed 

One comment in Purple Cubed’s survey from a member of staff sums up the culture at Bennett Hay: “The management are fair, approachable and I feel as if I am part of the same team as them. Pay is always on time and questions are answered quickly. They have really helped out my workmates with personal issues too.”

In May 2015, the company launched a Health Cash Plan benefit, an annual allowance that employees can spend on their health and wellbeing. The broad choices include physiotherapy and chiropractic treatments, podiatry and chiropodist treatments, dental treatments, a health assessment, gym membership, hospital cover and access to a counselling service.

The decision to focus on health was driven by the recognition that jobs can be physically demanding, so this was a means to encourage people to take care of themselves. As it enters its second year, it reckons the plan has had a positive impact and feedback is good.

In February, it’s also invited all staff to its second annual dinner at the five-star Berkeley hotel in London to celebrate the Guest First Awards. The winners were those staff who had gone the extra mile to “delight and anticipate the needs” of the client or guests.

Perhaps most surprisingly, this company gives shares to its top performers every September – and then buys them back at a multiple based on the growth of the business in five years’ time.

12. Redefine BDL Hotels

In a nutshell An independent hotel management company working with 64 hotels under brands such as Holiday Inn, Crowne Plaza, Doubletree by Hilton and Aloft

Location There are two offices – one in Glasgow and another in Brentford, London

Employees 140 

Average labour turnover 20.16%

Annual turnover £12m 

An increase in the global travel market and a rise in the number of hotels being opened fuelled Redefine BDL’s bumper 2014. Continuing rapid expansion saw the addition of 22 hotels and consolidated its ambition to enter Europe. None of which would be possible without its strong team.

Indeed, Redefine BDL has been focusing hard on its internal communications strategy to ensure that staff are kept informed. Collaborations across HR, IT and marketing resulted in a combination of innovative communication methods to keep all employees up to date with changes, as well as providing a forum for networking and to share best practice.

The company used social media groups on Facebook and LinkedIn to share documents and photos informally. A particular breakthrough has been embracing Skype for business meetings, which has resulted in reduced travel costs.

13. The Grand Hotel

In a nutshell A five-star 152-bedroom property, which has been in Elite Hotel’s five-strong portfolio since 1998

Location Eastbourne, East Sussex

Employees 170 

Average labour turnover 20% (most recently 16%)

Latest annual turnover Undisclosed 

Staff at the Grand Hotel seem a happy bunch, as shown by the fact labour turnover has recently reduced from an average of 20% to 16%. Their good mood is no doubt helped by the fact the company is successfully developing talent – with more than 30 internal promotions since April 2015.

As a member of Investors in People, this hotel has worked hard to engage staff. But some of its initiatives are surprisingly simple. Last year, for instance, it implemented a “virtual staff noticeboard” in light of the fact most staff didn’t have access to email, nor did they read noticeboards. The result is a closed Facebook page called the Grand People Page. This lively communication tool is used to post photographs of training days and of winners of GEM awards, employee of the year and so on. It is also used for urgent messages, as well as internal vacancies and to announce new starters or celebrate promotions.

About two-thirds of staff have joined the group and it is proving to be a nifty means of getting information out quickly.

14.The Headline Hotel

In a nutshell A 96-bedroom, four-star hotel with an award-winning spa, luxury cottages and surf school

Location Newquay, Cornwall

Employees 154

Average labour turnover In 2014/15, average number of employees 149.75 with 97 leavers

Annual turnover £7.1m

Last year, saw the pilot of the Headland Talent Development Plan (TDP), schooling employees and external candidates in the knowledge, skills and confidence they need to become a future manager. The programme gives an understanding of core hotel operations and provides credibility and a good foundation for candidates to build on. It’s open to employees and external candidates, including students who want to put their academic knowledge into practice. For those with experience, the programme can be accelerated through external qualifications such as apprenticeships.

The TDP creates structured, hands-on learning using outcomes, assessment and feedback to help staff achieve their potential and deliver competent individuals equipped to become managers and leaders.

Some 10 months after implementation, the first candidate has completed the “accelerated” programme and joined the team as a junior duty manager. Having been with the company for 10 years, this was just the opportunity they needed to progress. This success has spurred the hotel on to begin a second rotation of the TDP, with enrolment taking place this spring.

15. The Georgian House

In a nutshell Built in 1851, this four-star hotel has 62 chic rooms and is still run by the original family

Location St George’s Drive, London SW1

Employees 38

Average labour turnover 10%

Annual turnover £2.4m

This four-star business is run by Serena von der Heyde, the great-great-granddaughter of the man who first bought the beautiful Georgian property. Her belief is that the best service comes from staff who are happy, healthy, have a good work-life balance and are empowered in the workplace.

One of the latest initiatives to this end is the staff committee, which has been created to give ownership of staff welfare to the team and to provide an additional line of communication between staff and managers. The members of the committee have been elected by the whole team to act as representatives. They have total ownership of staff welfare and events and have taken on the hotel’s corporate social responsibility policy, too. From the new financial year, it will manage its own budget.

The committee is a natural development from the original Improvement Project, which started out with meetings of the whole team to brainstorm ideas that would enhance the hotel and its services. These have included better laundry storage, how the phone is answered and the location of a staff smoking area. The project has helped to develop a spirit of collaboration, so many decisions are now taken within the departments.

These simple initiatives help not only to improve the running of the business, they also empower the team, develop their strategic and leadership skills, and improve cross-departmental communication.

16. The Ampersand Hotel

​In a nutshell Privately owned stylish 111-bedroom hotel opened in 2012

Location Harrington Road, London SW7

Employees 60-65

Average labour turnover 4% a month or below

Annual turnover About £8m 

This chic, non-stuffy five-star hotel with a remit to push the boundaries opened to great excitement three-and-a-half years ago. To maintain momentum, it holds regular away-days for the senior team where agendas and meetings are banned in favour of “team bonding time”.

The bonding in question involves anything from go-karting and paintballing to Go Ape. The main purpose of these days is to bring new energy by creating a buzz that will naturally filter down through the teams to result in great guest service. The hotel’s consistently strong TripAdvisor reviews speak for themselves.

To ensure the team are engaged, there is also a push on continual professional development. Forming the backbone of its strategy are the training courses on demand, which offer everything from revenue management and online IT courses to NVQs in skills such as housekeeping and hospitality management. 

17. Dishoom

​In a nutshell Founded in 2010 by cousins Shamil and Kavi Thakrar to emulate the Irani cafes of Bombay

Location Four restaurants across London

Employees 470 staff 

Dishoom is clearly a bit of a party animal. As a thank you to staff for all their hard work, it organises an annual Dishoom Family Mela.

What is the Mela, you may ask? It’s a day in the summer where the company shuts down its restaurants and invites the team and their families to come for a big party at Mudchute Park and Farm. There is entertainment, from a Ferris wheel and bucking bronco to massage angels and a live band. Food vendors cook up a storm for everyone and there are plenty of drinks to get everyone into the mood.

So, why would shutting down your business for a day pay dividends? Well, this occasion is seen as a great chance for the teams to hang out, meet each other’s families and bond. In fact, it’s so successful that the company also invites staff from the four outlets for drinks every second Tuesday. Anyone who isn’t working can go for a drink on the company and some quality time with their Dishoom family.

This sense of family is backed up by many of the supporting comments in the Purple Cubed survey. One employee wrote: “All the managers are promoted from within the team which I think is amazing. People can have such amazing careers here with a company that genuinely cares about the team.”

Another wrote: “The parties are insane, the benefits are great and we all really know why we’re here and what we’re working for.”

18. Rapport Guest Services

In a nutshell launched in 2012, this is the guest services arm of foodservice giant Compass 

Location A strong London presence in corporate headquarters, but also across key UK cities

Employees 310

Average labour turnover 19% (excludes implications of new contract gains)

Annual turnover Undisclosed

As we so often see, staff engagement is not just down to giving staff perks. To really engage staff it is also important to recognise and reward their hard work.

In 2015, with this in mind, Rapport formed a partnership with the Wow! Awards – independent national awards that recognise excellent customer service based on customer, client and colleague nominations. These awards are all about catching employees when they are doing things right, enabling Rapport to highlight staff who provide intuitive service. And this recognition has, unsurprisingly, had a knock-on effect in improving employee engagement.

The company launched a dedicated website with the Wow! Awards so guests can nominate high-performing staff online quickly and easily. To point the way, the reception team’s business cards are printed with QR codes and a website link. All the nominations are assessed by Wow! and each month Rapport hosts an event to present the winners with certificates. It also gives them a chance to share their stories of best practice with the rest of the team.

It’s simple, but effective. Managing director Greg Mace says: “Empowering our teams to delight our guests has always been at the heart of Rapport, and introducing the Wow! Awards has helped to highlight the amazing stories of brilliant service and inspire all of our teams.”

19. The Midland

In a nutshell This 312-bedroom four-star property has been an iconic hotel for over 100 years and is currently owned by QHotels Group

Location Manchester

Employees 571 (275 casual, 296 permanent)

Average labour turnover 41.48% (47.70% casual, 30.54% permanent)

Annual turnover £21.8m (for 2015)

The fun-sounding Purple Pay Day is a great example of how a staff perk can break down barriers across departments and pay grades.

Every four weeks, on pay day, the heads of departments at the Midland reward their team by greeting them as they arrive at work with coffee and Danish pastries. And they continue to express their appreciation to staff in a number of ways during the day, such as doling out chocolate Easter eggs or rhubarb and custard cupcakes baked by hotel chefs.

In a separate initiative, the department heads also host quarterly lunches and dinners where they serve staff a two-course meal in one of the banqueting rooms. As well as the obvious benefits, it provides a less formal environment where staff can ask the senior team any questions they may have.

Comments on the Purple Cubed survey show that staff appreciate this. “It’s a fantastic place to work which has kept some staff since the 1950s. A real family atmosphere, never before experienced,” said one.


In a nutshell Launched in 2000, this trio of pubs-with-rooms is run by Charles and Edmund Inkin

Location The Old Coastguard in Mousehole; the Gurnard’s Head in St Ives; and the Felin Fach Griffin, Hay-on-Wye 

Employees 100-125 (seasonal)

Average labour turnover Not measured

Annual turnover £3.5m-plus

According to co-founder Edmund Inkin, the Best Places to Work competition triggered a change of approach for the company, highlighting areas it could improve. Both he and brother Charles have always been good at making top-down decisions for the good of the team, but for the first time they recognised that it was time to listen to their staff instead.

As a result, they approached the team for suggestions on how to improve their working environment and the team culture. Some great ideas have come out of the responses, many of which are forming the groundwork for a major new initiative to be unveiled in 2016.

They are already on the right track, according to staff comments. One employee said: “It’s a pleasure working within a company that has passionate owners who are willing to drive money into a business to attribute the development of staff and allow constant progression.”

21. Red Carnation

In a nutshell A collection of 17 five- and four-star boutique luxury hotels, along with a gastropub and a South African-inspired London restaurant

Location Africa, the USA and Europe

Employees Worldwide: 1,642; UK and Guernsey: 887 

Average labour turnover 21% in 2015 

Annual turnover £90m (UK and Guernsey £52m; overseas £38m)

Red Carnation has taken the welfare of its staff to a new level, having developed a programme that incorporates physical and mental well- being. The idea behind it is to offer suggestions to employees that are not only helpful in their work life, but in their personal life, too.

The programme includes training sessions on stress awareness, explaining how to recognise it and how to tackle it in the workplace.

The company also encourages staff to actively improve their own health. It has established walking and running groups, as well as a company football team and a cycle-to-work scheme. There is a healthcare scheme that rewards staff for being healthy, a chiropodist, flu jabs, health checks and discounted gym membership. There’s also an employee assistance programme, run by charity Hospitality Action.

But there’s fun stuff, too, with everything from free theatre shows to boat trips, picnics, massages, healthy welcome-to-work breakfasts and Frozen Yogurt Mondays.

The results are tangible, as HR director Claire Golden explains: “We have many employees who have adopted a healthy lifestyle. We have also seen a significant drop in sickness and in absenteeism overall and an uptake in our volunteer days. It has created a general awareness of wellbeing.” 

22. Northumberland Events

In a nutshell An events and hospitality business that also operates Boyds Grill & Wine Bar

Location Central London

Employees 63 permanent 

Average labour turnover Three people have left in the past financial year

Annual turnover £6.3m

Two of this operator’s key initiatives are linked and form part of an ongoing programme of training and development. First up, it has established core values to unify employees in a shared understanding of how to interact and behave, thus creating a co-operative, respectful and productive working environment. This culture helps employees feel part of the business and motivates them to deliver great service.

Each department worked together to come up with the values, captured in a framework called the 31 Practices. A representative from each division was an ambassador for the values, which include: “We cheer each other on and remember to say thank you,” and “We use positive body language and words.”

The other initiative is the company’s investment in Insights Discovery Profiling. This is a tool designed to improve self-awareness and development and to support interaction among colleagues.

Considering it is such a small organisation, it is impressive that it has invested in a Share Incentive Plan, which allows employees to acquire company shares. The company says it is aware people spend a lot of time at work and it is “committed to creating the best environment for employees to enable them to love what they do and in turn deliver excellence”.

23. Exclusive Hotels and Views

In a nutshell A collection of four luxury hotels, two venues and two golf clubs

Location South of England

Employees 700 full-time

Exclusive’s latest initiative to develop its people is well under way. The first two-year Chefs’ Academy programme, launched in July 2014, is on its final leg, with the first graduates completing this July. Insiders say the company is proud of the growth displayed by the candidates. The proof is in the pudding, as the recruitment process for the third intake is seeing a noticeable increase in applicants.

Far from resting on its laurels, the hotel group is this year reviewing its food and beverage development programme, looking at ways of building skills and product knowledge – both on and off the job. Educational trips to visit suppliers will continue, as will the encouragement of team members to gain nationally recognised qualifications. But some lucky high-performers will be sent on a trip to Chile to learn more about the country’s wines.

Indeed, the past year has been busy. Proving just how much it wants the best opportunities for its skilled employees, the business has introduced a dedicated recruitment team to assist with sourcing talent and facilitating transfer opportunities. In addition, it has expanded its relationships with colleges and universities to offer a graduate management programme.

24. Marlin Apartments

Location Six sites in London

Employees 100

With its first aparthotel opening near London Waterloo next year and a robust expansion plan in the pipeline, Marlin Apartments understands the importance of putting employees at the heart of its business.

Marlin’s newest staff initiative addresses this. ‘Open Hour’ is designed to foster healthy communication between senior management and employees through 90-minute weekly session where staff can put forward any questions, concerns and suggestions they may have to their managers.

When it comes to driving success, its Development Track programme, launched in 2014, continues to enable all employees to explore their interests and potential through cross-training across departments. This gives staff an understanding of the facets of the company, plus a deeper insight into the industry as a whole. Armed with this, they can identify their own interests and strengths.

25. Langdale Leisure

In a nutshell A four-star hotel, spa and timeshare self-catering cottages

Location Ambleside, Cumbria

Employees 215

Average labour turnover 33% turnover and 69% employed for more than one year in 2014-15

Annual turnover £8.5m

Some companies might pay lip-service to the mantra “people are at the heart of everything,” but not Langdale. This business knows that to give excellent customer service its teams need to be happy and healthy. To achieve this, they look after staff in the same way they would look after a family member – in fact, a lot of employees describe Langdale as “a family.”

The company’s work-life balance policy is a no-brainer. Located in a beautiful valley, they simply give staff the chance to enjoy the countryside. Pursuing the belief that a healthy team makes a happy team, they are also given access to professionals where needed, whether that is a physiotherapist, a pilates teacher, or somebody to help with mental health.

Everyone also gets a complimentary stay in the hotel each year and can enter their name in a draw to win an extra stay. If a guest nominates them for great service, they have the chance of winning £100. Last but not least, the staff party is always well attended with a bundle of prizes, from holidays to vouchers, to be won.

As with any successful hospitality business, the team work hard, but there is recognition for those who shine bright. Managers actively nurture and seek out talent, leading to five internal promotions in the past six months. 

26. Morgans Hotel Group

In a nutshell Recognised as being at the vanguard of the boutique sector, it operates, owns and has acquired 11 hotels

Location Brands include Delano in South Beach; Mondrian in Los Angeles, South Beach and London; Hudson in New York; Morgans and Royalton in New York; Clift in San Francisco; Shore Club in South Beach; and Sanderson and St Martins Lane in London

Employees 717

Average labour turnover 32.6%

Annual turnover Undisclosed 

Morgans made a point of excelling at communication last year. First, it invited employees to attend training at other properties, allowing staff to forge relationships across the portfolio and hear the stories of each hotel through a show-round referred to as the Ethos tour.

Next, it has introduced ‘Rub a Dub’ – cockney rhyming slang for pub – where everyone gets invited to a local pub once a month. One attraction is undoubtedly that the first drink is free, but it’s mostly embraced as a chance to meet people from other hotels and departments.

Then there are its Big Mouth meetings, where staff can have their say. The aim is to generate continual communication and nurture the freedom to give feedback.

Not to neglect body, mind and spirit, there are healthy smoothies on tap at Welcome to Work events, Mocktail Masterclasses and Fabulous Fruit Fridays. It’s a company that really lives its core values of fun and friendly.

27. Just Hospitality 

In a nutshell A contract caterer focused on providing fresh, healthy, sustainable food in workplaces

Location Based in central London

Employees 59

Average labour turnover 2.8%

Annual turnover £3m

As a small company, Just Hospitality looks for creative ways to make staff feel valued and to reward great work. It introduced its Staff Happiness Programme to maintain the family culture of the company as it steadily grows.

A key pillar of the programme has been the introduction of an employee perk package, which provides a number of free benefits to the team. In addition, the introduction of the Employee of the Year Award rewards one outstanding team member with a £500 bonus.

This company is agile enough to adapt its approach to staff development according to which area they work in. Chef development, for instance, includes visits to suppliers and specialist skills workshops. For the front-of-house team it means helping them to engage creatively with events and display, and making sure each new idea gets a chance to be tested. 

At the centre of all this is the company’s continuing commitment to openness. This means that every member of the team can contribute their ideas and see their effect on the business, and it also means cultivating individual talents and interests. As part of this commitment to transparency, the company invites staff to its annual general meeting to share future plans, review the year and invite feedback from the team.

28. The Idle Rocks and St Mawes Hotels

In a nutshell The two hotels are owned by David Richards, previously chairman of Aston Martin. Paul Goodwin is general manager of the Idle Rocks and Ben Bass is general manager of the St Mawes hotel 

Location The 19-bedroom Idle Rocks boutique hotel and the seven-bedroom St Mawes hotel are in St Mawes, Cornwall

Employees 61

Average labour turnover 21% in their third year of trading

Annual turnover £2.2m

The business introduced the Stage Initiative in 2015 to motivate, inspire and reward members of the team who demonstrate an outstanding commitment to enhancing the guest experience. This gives the selected individual – from any department – the opportunity to spend time working in another aspirational establishment to learn and develop their skills. 

This opportunity recognises high-performing employees and their positive impact on the business. This motivates both the individual and their colleagues, who in turn have something to aspire to.

This has driven the personal development of staff, who bring new skills back to the workplace. Most powerfully of all, it shows they are recognised as a valued member of the team.

For example, pastry chef Matt Walker went to Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in London for three days, working under the guidance of head chef Clare Smyth. Matt returned full of enthusiasm, motivated and more confident in his technical ability. 

29. Drake & Morgan

In a nutshell Founded by Jillian MacLean in south London in 2008. Its first bar and restaurant was the Refinery at Southwark and there are now seven venues

Location Across London

Employees 425

Average labour turnover 80%

Annual turnover £28m 

This collection of bar-restaurants offers contemporary menus and innovative cocktails in a cool space.

‘Love to Work’ is a collection of initiatives designed to engage the team through developing their understanding of all the company’s shared values. An example of this company-wide ethos is the new company induction, which is called Smile. This one-day top-to-bottom introduction to Drake & Morgan is designed simply around how staff can make guests and colleagues smile.

This good working atmosphere shines through in the Purple Cubed survey: “Fantastic company to work for – like most catering and hospitality [companies], it has its up and down moments, but that never deters from everyone getting along. The managers are helpful and the working environment is excellent,” commented one employee.

30. Cheval Residences

In a nutshell A collection of serviced apartments and residences

Location Eight sites around London

Employees 246

Average labour turnover 16.5% (for 2015)

Annual turnover Undisclosed

Cheval has many usual initiatives – a housekeeping NVQ, Cheval Management and Supervisory Academies and the implementation of Purple Cubed’s Talent Toolbox programme. But it deserves points for originality for its staff recognition programme called ‘You Rock’.

This recognises staff who go the extra mile, and links with the engagement strategy to provide a formal ‘pat on the back’ for a job well done. These might be exceeding standards; assisting with job responsibilities of an absent colleague; providing a sales lead; or receiving a guest compliment.

To make the recipient feel valued and motivated, they are given a You Rock cheque. It works like this: all staff are issued with a You Rock chequebook and managers get a golden You Rock cheque book. Both staff and managers can then give out a cheque when they recognise that a colleague has performed well. When staff achieve five cheques they are given vouchers worth £10. The senior managers’ golden cheques can provide instant rewards – anything from a bottle of wine to dinner.

Each quarter, the colleague with the most cheques is put forward by their department head as the ‘Rock Star’ and their name is put in a hall of fame at Cheval’s head office. The ultimate Cheval Rock Star is then chosen and presented with an award at the annual awards ceremony that involves dressing as a rock idol.