Case Study: Fairmont Stands Out with Employee Recognition Programs

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts extends its extraordinary service standard to its own staff.

Amanda O’Brien, former HR Manager, Fairmont Waterfront

The company’s “Service Plus” tenet includes a commitment to recognizing employee performance. In its “Star of the Month” program, each Fairmont property acknowledges three employees per month for outstanding service. Winners are chosen in three separate categories: front-of-house, heart-of-house (departments without immediate guest contact) and manager.

Each property’s Star program is run by a committee that meets monthly to put forth nominations. Committee members vote and submit a list of semi-finalists to management for final judging. While the committee includes managers and one executive, most of the group is made up of staff from the hotel’s different operational departments.

“It’s really important not to rely solely on guest comments for employee recognition,” says Amanda O’Brien, former HR Manager at Vancouver’s Fairmont Waterfront. “We also want to recognize those consistently hard-working individuals our guests don’t always meet but whose efforts are witnessed by their colleagues”

“When you’re entrenched in operations,that’s when you have opportunities to see that someone really went above and beyond the call of duty,” she explains. “Sometimes peers can attest to a person’s job performance even better than a manager can.”

Winners are honoured monthly at a formal reception, where the property’s General Manager and Director of HR present the awards. Stars of the Month receive an awards package that includes a thank-you letter from the General Manager, an inscribed plaque, a “Service Plus” pin, a watch and a gift. All award items carry the Service Plus logo, further publicizing the recognition program among staff.

“The Star program is so comprehensive; people feel really special because of all the attention they get,” O’Brien says. “It’s great to hear all the enthusiasm in our committee’s selection meetings. It’s fun and even a bit competitive to sell your nominee to the rest of the group.”

It’s no wonder the program is popular: monthly winners are in the running to be chosen as the hotel’s Star of the Year. The prize for this ultimate honour includes a week’s paid vacation at any Fairmont site.

With many properties, Fairmont has the resources to coordinate an extensive employee reward program. However, O’Brien says you can implement recognition programs no matter what the size of your operation.

“You need to make sure colleagues are engaged at work,” she says. “The more you can do, the better, as long as the program is genuine and fair.

“Each program can make a difference,” she continues. “Every day, we find someone who’s doing a great job and we congratulate them – immediately – by sending them what we call a ‘Bravo-gram.’ We’ve also created an award we call ‘Nurturing our Spirit,’ which we present spontaneously to an employee who has focused on caring for fellow colleagues.

“You have to attend to the needs of your employees as well as your customers. It’s important to recognize people who nurture each other and make the work environment better for everyone.”

Conde Nast Traveler magazine’s readers include The Fairmont Waterfront in its Gold list of Canadian hotels in 2013. Canadian Business magazine recently recognized Fairmont Hotels & Resorts for having one of “Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures,” and Maclean’s magazine has named the company one of “Canada’s Top 100 Employers” for four consecutive years. It’s easy to see that focusing on its employees has helped Fairmont build great success inside and out.