Kimpton's VP of people and culture: LGBTQ commitment runs through our DNA

Our culture is built on the belief that heartfelt human connections make peoples' lives better

Kimpton's VP of people and culture: LGBTQ commitment runs through our DNA

For Kimpton, a commitment to people and purpose runs through the lifeblood of their hospitality empire. With 68 hotels across the US, Kimpton employees over 8,000 employees – facilitating a top-down, empathetic, and, above all, compassionate culture.

“At Kimpton our culture is built on the belief that heartfelt human connections make peoples’ lives better,” Will McKnight, VP of people and culture, told HRD. “We also believe that embracing diversity makes life extraordinary and experiences more meaningful. And it is only when people feel comfortable to be themselves that they can truly impact, enrich and connect more deeply and more compassionately with those around them.

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“We take pride in our culture of empowerment by encouraging our employees to deliver on our promise of heartfelt care in their own unique way. It’s our passionate employees who make our hotel and restaurant experiences unique and special. And we create this environment by hiring for heart, focusing on really getting to know each employee and understanding what truly drives them to be the very best versions of themselves. We always say that you can teach skills, but you can’t teach heart.”

One of their most important commitments at Kimpton is an alliance with LGBTQIA+. Kimpton’s support of the LGBTQIA+ community began in their hometown of San Francisco in the late 80s and early 90s as the AIDS crisis affected so many of their employees. As Kimpton’s portfolio grew, supporting pro-LGBTQIA+ groups and organizations throughout the US, including The Mautner Project, National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, The National Center for Lesbian Rights, The Transgender Law Center, The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and The Trevor Project, became an organic part of their culture.

“Our goal is to make any and every employee and guest feel welcomed and taken care of – it’s part of the Kimpton DNA,” added McKinght. “Our longstanding support of LGBTQIA+ rights and the community started organically with our founder, Bill Kimpton. Bill believed everyone should be treated fairly regardless of sexual or gender identity, and his vision for the company was to embody and mirror the diversity of its guests.

“With a bottoms-up approach to corporate social responsibility (CSR), Kimpton employees are empowered to support the causes closest to their hearts, and the brand’s longstanding national partnership with The Trevor Project was employee-driven,” McKinght told HRD. “The program helps foster awareness of the issues facing LGBTQIA+ youth and the availability of life-saving resources available through The Trevor Project.

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“We live and breathe the philosophy that all individuals deserve the same opportunities and rights. We remain committed to creating a culture that reflects the diversity of our hotel and restaurant guests and treats everyone with respect and fairness. We welcome and embrace people of all races, ethnicities, ages, religion, physical abilities, sexual identities, gender identities and genders as guests, employees and partners.”

But it’s not all plain sailing. The past two years have wreaked havoc on the hospitality sector – so much so that many businesses were forced to close for good. With employees being laid off and HR leaders seeking to keep morale up, it’s been a rocky few months. However, with COVID seemingly on the out, it’s bright skies ahead for the hotel world.

“Like the rest of the hospitality industry, the pandemic continues to challenge us in ways both big and small, and it has absolutely taken a toll on our people,” added McKnight. “From staffing shortages to the burden of upholding robust safety protocols, and ultimately, the stress that affects all those who have continued to work on site throughout the pandemic while also balancing their personal and professional responsibilities. That’s why we’re proud to be partnering with Talkspace, a leading online behavioural healthcare company, to provide our 4,000+ employees with a year-long complimentary subscription to Talkspace’s mental health services. From the beginning, both physical and mental health have been important to us as a company, especially given our founder Bill Kimpton’s personal struggle with mental health. To struggle is to be human, and our culture of heartfelt care has always been about a deep consideration for what people really need.”

And looking ahead to the rest of 2022, McKnight believes that a focus on authentic benefits and transparent communication will take the lead. At Kimpton, he’s certain that mental health will be an overriding priority for HR.

“We’re continuing our commitment to creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace and also continuing to focus on providing meaningful support and benefits to our people,” he told HRD. “Kimpton has always taken pride in our progressive perks and best-in-class benefits. This Talkspace partnership is just one example of how we are continuing to evolve our employee offerings to continue to meet the needs of our people.”

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