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A Culture of Consistent, Genuine Care at Kempinski Hotels

Employee Opening the Door to an Amazing Hotel Room

Every aspect of Kempinski Hotels is geared toward serving clients who expect excellence -- consistent excellence -- no matter where they are in the world. Naturally, Europe's oldest luxury hotel group finds that a reliably exceptional customer experience is predicated on a first-rate employee experience, one that develops engaged, committed, high-performing employees who successfully serve luxury clientele.

To create such a remarkable employee experience, Kempinski dedicated itself to building a workplace culture where employees come first, employee engagement takes priority and the employee voice carries weight, no matter the circumstance.

With a prestigious history spanning almost 125 years, Kempinski operates 81 hotels, residences and resorts in 35 countries, counting more than 19,000 employees, giving their employee experience a truly multi-national importance.

125 years of prestigious history

19,000+ employees

81 hotels

35 countries

The Goal

To Be the Employer of Choice in Luxury Hospitality

Kempinski Hotels' people vision is to be the employer of choice in their market and to drive business performance through superior people management, empowering employees to consistently craft unique -- even artistic -- luxury experiences for guests. To deliver on these goals, Kempinski fosters an environment in which employees feel genuinely heard and authentically cared for.
Two Kempinski Company Woman employees

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The Approach

Embrace a Culture Where Employees Come First

Start with employee engagement.

The hotel business isn't easy. It never stops. Turnover can be high. To retain and develop star employees, hoteliers need an employee experience that's simply exceptional. The foundation of such an experience is employee engagement, of which Kempinski has been a longtime proponent.

Knowing the power of engagement -- how it enriches employees' lives, reduces turnover and improves almost every business metric that matters -- Kempinski leaders partnered with Gallup to enhance their existing engagement program and give their employees an even stronger, clearer voice.

Keep engagement simple.

Kempinski intentionally resists the temptation to overengineer employee engagement.

"Bringing it back to the basics is actually the magic … People just want to know that you care for them and that they can come to you for anything."-- Melissa Salibi, Chief Human Resources Officer, Member of the Management Board, Kempinski Hotels

They keep it simple and straightforward, with a few key strategic steps, according to Melissa Salibi, Kempinski's Chief Human Resources Officer, Member of the Management Board:

Welcome employees' feedback.

"We cannot improve our engagement if we are not ready to take in constructive feedback from our colleagues."

Communicate.

"We always communicate. We share the results. We organize groups to discuss results and gain further insight. Then we communicate action plans to all colleagues."

Act.

"Engagement must be more than a 'paper exercise.' Our properties and managers showcase what has been done so that employees understand there is an active approach to engagement."

Celebrate!

"We like to celebrate a lot and have many activities for our teams … We encourage a culture of recognition and reward and do not miss the opportunity to celebrate our colleagues and their achievements."

Embrace feedback, no matter what.

Too many organizations shy away from gathering employee feedback when disruption hits or when they suspect feedback will be critical. Not so with Kempinski. When COVID-19 hit, the company boldly welcomed employee feedback, intentionally creating opportunities for the employee voice to be heard.

The pandemic gave employees reason to criticize, or so it seemed at the time to Kempinski leaders. Workers faced serious challenges: Many couldn't do their job remotely, putting them daily on the front lines of the pandemic, and there was the stress of seeing coworkers leave for remote positions, not to mention the fear of layoffs.

Faced with a choice of either tightening the budget in a difficult environment or giving employees a voice, Kempinski leaders took a courageous stance: Continue the engagement surveys -- despite the pandemic's toll, despite knowing that employees have experienced hardship and turmoil, and despite the pressure on the company's finances.

Amid this decision, it became clear that Kempinski's mission was to focus, more than ever, on employees' wellbeing. Through employee surveys, Kempinski asked strategic questions about life at work during the pandemic, questions that provided invaluable insights into their employees' daily experiences, enabling the company to take effective action and directly address employee needs.

"Despite a crisis, and despite whatever is happening in the world, [engagement] is not something we should give up on."-- Melissa Salibi, Chief Human Resources Officer, Member of the Management Board, Kempinski Hotels

Ultimately, insisting on hearing the employee voice is what helped Kempinski sustain a high-performing, engaged culture even during the height of the pandemic.

Leaders support each other and cascade engagement to their teams.

Salibi notes, "For us, engagement starts at the top." The company has found that "it is simply not possible to have highly engaged teams led by disengaged leaders, and this has been proven over and over to us in our annual engagement surveys."

Because leaders at Kempinski not only set the tone for engagement but indeed make or break employee engagement throughout the organization, the first step is for leaders to be engaged. When they're engaged, leaders show up at work with contagious energy and drive, cascading their engagement to their employees, inspiring team members to be better and do better.

Leaders set the tone for engagement with simple acts of caring, such as asking employees, "How are you today?" And it's this -- genuinely caring -- that Kempinski believes is at the heart of employee engagement.

The spirit of genuinely caring doesn't stop with the relationship between leaders and employees. Leaders look out for each other to help hotels succeed, as illustrated by an experience Salibi recounted from 2019. It was the company's general managers' meeting during which general managers from all over the world converge in a single Kempinski hotel. This year it was in Cuba. One day, amid the scheduled activities, the general managers sat around a table talking. This discussion revealed that one among them was woefully short staffed. According to Salibi:

"The GM of the hotel that was hosting this delegation said, 'I need bellboys, I need butlers, I need these other positions,' and within 20 minutes, he had a whole list of people who could just go there without question … The amazing connections that these leaders have with each other is really something that we're so proud of because within minutes, he had a full task force. They were on the plane the next day to go help this hotel. That's what we stand for."

The Outcome

Committed Global Employees Who Take Pride in Their Job

Delivering on a brand promise on a global scale.

The strong culture and employee focus at Kempinski allow the hoteliers to do what seems impossible for many global organizations: Deliver a unified brand promise -- with the quality that is undeniably Kempinski -- while embracing and celebrating regional cultures.

Kempinski properties can be a world apart, geographically and culturally, in locations like Beijing, Berlin, Nairobi and Havana. The company is rightfully proud of the diversity within their brand, and Salibi connects it back to caring -- employees have a universal need to be cared for, and attending to this need is part of Kempinski Hotels' recipe for success.

"Caring about your employees speaks to all cultures."-- Melissa Salibi, Chief Human Resources Officer, Member of the Management Board, Kempinski Hotels

Yet with all its diversity, Kempinski sports a highly stable employee experience -- leaders want employees to feel the same consistency as Kempinski customers. Salibi notes, "No matter where you are, you will be treated as a Kempinski employee."

A workplace employees are proud of.

Kempinski's relentless focus on the employee has earned the company elite awards.

In 2021, Kempinski was included in Forbes' World's Best Employers list, ranking 63rd among all industries and an astounding No. 1 among the travel and leisure industry.

In 2022, the company won Gallup's prestigious Gallup Exceptional Workplace Award, an accolade with a rigorous application process that recognizes workplaces that excel at engaging and developing their employees to reach their full potential.

But more than anything, the effect of their success is felt within the organization, where it's not uncommon to find employees -- at all levels -- who have been with the company for decades and are prouder than ever to call Kempinski their employer.

"We had a Supervisor and Golden Tea Master in the Lobby of our hotel in Munich," recalls Salibi. "He worked with the company for 47 years, which is almost half a century! He was proud of what he was doing and had a strong emotional connection with the brand. He actually retired last year and will always be cherished and remembered. You have these individuals all across the world, in different regions, in different countries, who live and breathe Kempinski and what this company embodies."

And from this place of employee pride, truly great customer experiences are born -- wherever a Kempinski hotel is found.