Case Study: home-growing future managers through exceptional training opportunities

The team at Fifty Shades Greener
Red Carnation Hotel Collection

This collection of family-run hotels achieved an Award in 2017 and went on to gain a revalidation in 2020. Since then it has further developed its Graduate Management programme with 53 participants commencing the training in the 3 years following, leading to the programme being revalidated again in 2023.

Red Carnation Hotels (UK) Ltd
Year awarded 2017, 2020, 2023
Region London
Size 1000+ employees
Sector Hospitality

“The pandemic gave us time to think about how we wanted to evolve the programme and provide us with a pipeline of talented managers, capable and competent in running our hotels in the future.”

Liz McGivern, Vice President of People and Culture

Red Carnation Hotels can’t be accused of resting on its laurels. It is one of the few Princess Royal Training Award recipients which has had its programme successfully revalidated twice and it continues to deliver training that is having a fundamental impact on the business. Vice President of People and Culture at Red Carnation Hotels, Liz McGivern, attributes the success of the organisation’s training to a regular ‘stop and think’ approach and credits the Awards for providing the ideal framework for this.

Red Carnation initially received an Award in 2017 for its Graduate Management Programme which was established to create a talent pipeline to fill management roles in what can often be a fairly transient sector with a high turnover of staff. The knock on effect was impressive: the boutique hotel chain managed to reduce its external recruitment costs to zero and staff turnover decreased substantially to just 28% in 2016, which is way below the industry average.

Raquel Noboa Headshot

(L-R) Filipa Biquinha, Victoria Tollman, and Liz McGivern at St James’ Palace for the 2023 Award Ceremony

When the pandemic hit the hospitality sector particularly hard in 2020, Red Carnation continued to deliver their training programme, despite having to adapt it due to the sector almost coming to a standstill. They also used this time to make the programme even more tailored for participants. The upshot was that the business emerged from a hugely difficult two years in a stronger position than many others within the sector with a loyal, trained workforce ready and raring to go. As Liz confirms:

“The pandemic gave us time to think about how we wanted to evolve the programme and provide us with a pipeline of talented managers, capable and competent in running our hotels in the future. We now also recruit based on applicants having a genuine passion for the hotel industry and ideally some experience of working in it. We want our recruits to have hotel management ambitions. We are already seeing this in practice as our new MD for Southern Africa, who manages four hotels, came through the programme as did the current General Manager of the Ritz.”

Raquel Noboa Headshot

Victoria Tollman, Executive Director, collecting the organisation’s 2023 Princess Royal Training Award

Programme participants feel like they are able to make an impact from day one and spend time in various parts of the business including Food & Beverage, Room Division and Meetings and Events as well as working on special projects. Recent examples of these include the implementation of a new cocktail which has been rolled out across the London hotels and the revamping of the ‘guest bible’ at The Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel.

With Brexit having an impact on who applies for the hotel chain’s graduate management programme, Liz and her team have continued to focus on forging successful relationships with 79 universities, schools and colleges and through these relationships have created a talent pipeline by recruiting over 100 participants. This has been instrumental in future-proofing the long-term management structure for the organisation.

A second programme was created on the back of the success of upskilling graduates providing an opportunity for those without degrees to join Red Carnation Hotels. The organisation is also actively working with some of the more deprived London boroughs to open up opportunities more widely to people from different socio-economic backgrounds.

The biggest measure of success for Red Carnation is the number of participants moving into managerial roles in the organisation and there are currently 49 former participants working across the business. However Liz and the team are realistic that not everyone will stay with the organisation and they have learnt to celebrate this as another success measure of the programme and its positive impact on the wider industry. Liz explains:

“We are a tiny company compared to the industry giants and for some, we proved to be too small, or our hotels are not located in the countries people want to work in. Learning to be happy for those who have chosen to leave and staying in touch in case they want to come back one day (and many have!) has become a part of our culture and I am pleased we embrace this. Through our Programme we release people back into the industry who are more skilled, knowledgeable and enlightened than they were when they joined us.”

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