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Checking In: Inside Kimpton’s Best Places to Work Win

The hospitality industry is well known for its ability to support employees and grow their careers. From seemingly endless job options to travel discounts and perks, it’s no wonder the leisure and hospitality industry has seen some of the strongest job gains in the past year. However, it’s not just enough to rely on the industry’s good reputation to keep employees engaged and satisfied. Individual hotels must go the extra mile.

Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants goes the extra mile, and then some. While it promises guests “a different way to stay,” the chain of over 60 properties offers employees the opportunity to “be your best self.” Embracing the diverse and rich backgrounds of its team members is one of the ways that Kimpton has created a company culture that is just as unique as each hotel lobby. And it is the primary reason why Kimpton has earned Glassdoor’s Employees’ Choice award for Best Place to Work 2018.  Their win is thanks to thousands of Glassdoor reviews shared by U.S.-based employees.

One team member shared, “If you are looking for an organization who has your back, supports you, develops you and trusts your entrepreneurial spirit, then this is where you want to be. Many companies value average results and average experiences. At Kimpton, I am part of a culture that challenges me to be my best self, challenges me to be a leader in the industry and also surrounds my team and I with some of the best leaders in the industry.”

To get an insider’s perspective on Kimpton and what working there is really like, we reached out to Ginny Too, Kimpton’s VP of People + Culture. Here’s what she had to say about being named a Best Place to Work, what she looks for in amazing applicants and why you should apply to work there ASAP.

Glassdoor: Congratulations on winning Best Places to Work. This is your first win, and you’re the number one hospitality company on the list. What does a win like this mean to you?

Ginny Too: It’s an incredible honor to be recognized by our employees! At Kimpton, our people are always top of mind. It’s really rewarding to know that our employees, across all levels, feel the genuine heartfelt care that’s a strong cornerstone of our culture.

Glassdoor: Your employees love working here as we can see by the strong rating on Glassdoor. How do you make this a great place to work day in and day out?

Ginny Too: Every year, we interview several of our employees on what they love about our company. What came back were essentially three themes:

1.) They can bring their true selves to work, quirks and all, and we fully embrace who they are

2.) They feel empowered to act and do the right things for our guests and each other

3.) They work in an environment that allows them to make each touchpoint meaningful. We call these “ridiculously personal experiences,” thus our mantra: “Be Yourself, Lead Yourself, Make it Count.”

Glassdoor: How have you improved employee engagement over the past year? What strategies have worked and which have not?

Ginny Too: We’ve always had strong, organic employee engagement, but we can’t take our foot off the pedal. Role modeling is the most powerful tool — our leaders learn our culture, live it and teach it by example and storytelling.  Cultural cornerstone classes are taught by leadership, partnering with People + Culture, our human resources team. Transparent communication and taking a sincere interest in our employees’ perspectives are crucial to fueling employee engagement.

We also host open forums with an internal social network (Yammer) to Town Halls, roadshows and leadership and culture workshops to keep that dialogue alive and well.  

Kimpton Everly Team

Glassdoor: Reviews on Glassdoor reveal that employees love the supportive and transparent senior & mid-management. How do you work with your management teams to make sure employees have great leadership here?

Ginny Too: Servant leadership (the ability to both serve and lead) is a celebrated model with Kimpton’s leadership team. This approach was inspired by our founder Bill Kimpton who was firm in the belief that our leaders are here to work for our employees, not the other way around. Our CEO Mike DeFrino often says, “we’re here to have your back, not be on your back.” Our leaders walk the talk and talk the walk. When it comes to leadership, we really value that level of authenticity. There’s a level of trust and honesty that goes both ways, creating stronger teams and relationships throughout the business.

Glassdoor: If you were talking to job seekers, why should people start or grow their career at Kimpton?

Ginny Too: We truly do put ourselves in the employees’ shoes and think about what experiences will enrich and motivate them at every touchpoint in their journey with us — it’s very similar to how we approach a guest journey. We invest in our people with everything from self-insights tools to employee-led Kimpton University classes. We also hire for attitude and personality. For many roles, we don’t require a certain level of education or certification.

Not only that, there’s a strong track record of promoting from within. Our senior vice president of hotel operations started as a doorman with us 26 years ago. One of my direct reports initially joined us as a cocktail server, put in her hours learning the ins and outs of HR, completed her education and moved up within our People & Culture team — she’s now a senior director. I believe Kimpton is a place that values thinking outside the box and charting your own path — all qualities we admire in our leaders.

Overall, Kimpton is a place where you can stay for a long time but never get bored. There are endless opportunities as we grow on a global scale and continue to evolve.

Glassdoor: What do you look for in informed candidates who apply to Kimpton?

Ginny Too: If you’re a self-starter, motivated, compassionate, have a great sense of humor and a passion for hospitality, we’re the right place for you. I can’t emphasize how important it is to get to know our candidates as individuals. We’ve always been very purposeful about hiring for heart and intuition. Those are innate characteristics that translate to our industry. We can teach someone how to make a bed or improve their Excel skills and everything in between, but we can’t teach someone to have heart. There’s an unscripted nature in how we do our business and it’s that level of empowerment that allows our people to continue to flourish in their roles.

We also love when people do a little extra homework to learn not only about our hotels and restaurants, but also our culture and core values such as wellness, the environment, diversity and inclusion. Those who have a 360-degree view of their role will be set up for success and can hit the ground running.

Glassdoor: What are some of your best practices when it comes to recruiting?

Ginny Too: When it comes to recruiting, it’s as unique as our hotels and restaurants are from each other. Depending on the city and neighborhood, it could be a more casual BBQ and brats luncheon versus a job fair with team-building lawn games. Depending on the position, we may also break bread with a candidate to see how they interact with a restaurant’s wait staff. Given the nature of our business, that’s a great litmus test to how they may behave in a similar workplace. We mix it up and rely heavily on word-of-mouth as well to build up awareness for our available opportunities.  We also get great referrals from people who have previously worked with us — you never truly leave Kimpton … we call it Kimpton for life!

We also do things a little differently here at Kimpton. Our managers are responsible for their own hiring, instead of a centralized HR/Recruiting team. We love this model, since they know best who will be the right fit for their property and team. We offer support from our local People + Culture and Home Office Talent Attraction teams, but the manager is in the driver’s seat.

Glassdoor: How does Kimpton retain talent — what are some of your best practices?

Ginny Too: We recognize the individual as much as we do the team. While we celebrate company accomplishments, we also celebrate each individual’s success story. One of our time-honored awards is something called a Kimpton Moment. A Kimpton Moment is born from an employee going above and beyond for another colleague or for a guest. All year round, there are countless submissions from employees nominating one another. Every month, we celebrate these winners and also award an annual “Ultimate Kimpton Moment Winner” at our annual Chef/General Manager meeting with a hefty $10,000 prize.

In terms of performance reviews, we’ve introduced a new process that’s more focused on regular performance check-ins, versus a performance evaluation. These are for manager-level and above positions. Instead of a traditional model where there is a meeting once/year and the focus is primarily on what the employee needs to improve and looking back, this process is forward-looking and focuses on skills and development that the employee and manager jointly agree on.  We’re finding that this process takes away the stress of being “evaluated” and allows the opportunity for our employees to focus on future growth.

Glassdoor: What are two of the biggest misconceptions people have about working at Kimpton? How would you challenge those?

Ginny Too: Misconception number one:  Hotel and restaurant companies are boring, stuffy and corporate. We have an unscripted approach to hospitality and our employees are encouraged to act with heart and intuition. Misconception number two: Kimpton only has hotel-based jobs. Our Home Office employs marketing, finance, people and culture, technology, administration, legal and design. Across the country and globally, we have amazing restaurants and bars that compete with the best independent restaurant groups in the country. So, there are plenty of opportunities in the kitchen, on the floor and behind the bar as well.

Glassdoor: Lastly, what are the best perks and benefits offered at Kimpton? Anything you love in particular?

Ginny Too: There’s too many to count here but speaking for myself, I love that we’ve partnered with a company that’s developed a robust self-insights program for our employees. The program allows us to identify our strengths and areas of opportunity both on a personal level and within a team setting.

We also have tuition reimbursement, a month-long sabbatical for directors who have been with the company for seven years, an employee care fund to provide support after tragedies or disasters, backup childcare and fun perks like Bill’s Honor Roll to celebrate employees’ children with good grades.

Oh, and the hotel, restaurant and spa discounts don’t hurt!

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