Employees at Four Seasons Will Give You the Shoes Off Their Feet

Considering that the employees at Four Seasons will in fact give you the shoes off their feet, be careful what you ask them.

I often hear
senior managers rant about how much they love their employees, their awesome
customer service and how much they value diversity and inclusion. And there are often times when I those words that I think, “blah,
blah blah,” because I know the actual practices of those organizations, and
their employees and customers are not very happy with the ways these companies
do business, nor do they leverage diversity and inclusion.


So I was very
happy to meet someone whose organization’s actions actually were in alignment
with his or her stated values of inclusion, caring for customers, and holding
their employees in the highest regard.

I recently met Isabel
Porzecanski, Director of Human Resources
for the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami, Florida when we both spoke at a human talent management conference in Bogota, Colombia. I was intrigued
by the way she talked about her hotel’s workplace culture and decided to learn

She told me that the workplace culture of the Four Seasons is
based on the belief that employees are the most important asset, and are respected
for the work they do, as individuals with diverse talents, skills and
experience. “We are a very
democratic organization, in that we treat each other as peers. People can come and talk to me anytime
without making an appointment. We actively practice the open door policy. I think
it’s clear to the employees that they pay my salary.”


I’ve worked in hotels where
employees were not allowed to taste the food they served, and what they were
allowed to eat, was some funky pasta, and wilted lettuce. Porzecanski said that the executive
chef in her hotel oversees the employee cafeteria, and takes pride in what is
served. “We want our employees to know that we care about what they eat, and
their well-being.

“If our employees feel cared
for and empowered, they will in turn care about our guests, and find creative
ways to meet and exceed their needs.”
Isabel shared a great example of this, “When one of our guests was
getting dressed for his wedding, he realized he had forgotten his shoes. He ran
downstairs and asked the doorman for the nearest shoe store. Knowing that the
wedding was starting in 30 minutes, and that the groom would never make it to
the store and back, the doorman asked him for his shoe size. Discovering that they both wore the
same size, the doorman switched shoes with the groom who was on time and
dressed appropriately for his wedding.”

Anyone who has ever been in
a restaurant or a store and heard some music they liked but didn’t know the
artist or name of the song will appreciate this next story she shared with me.


“A guest in one of our
restaurants, told the server how much she enjoyed the music that was being
played, during her meal, and asked the name of it. The server found out the title and artist of the CD, and
went one step further.

The next day, our guest was
surprised and happy, when the server presented her with the CD, so she could
listen to it any time. The server
had taken the time and used their own money to buy it for the appreciative guest.

I wonder what the response
would be if on my next stay at a Four Seasons, I tell them I like the bed or
the artwork on the walls. Hmmm


A key element of the Four
Seasons culture is personalization and building relationships. When employees
feel that are recognized as individuals, they in turn, pay special attention to
the individual needs of their guests

It takes four interviews to
get hired, of which the last one is with the general manager. This sends the
message, “you are important, and we don’t just hire anyone who applies.”

I have to say that in my
years of working for, and with, the hotel and restaurant industry, I have seen too many organizations where
not only did the employees not know the name of the general manager; they
didn’t even know what they looked like.


“We have a lengthy interview
process, to make sure there is a cultural fit, because we believe that we hire
for attitude and we can train for skills.” “After six months, employees can
apply for other jobs in the hotel and after working with us for one year, they
can apply for a transfer to another one of our hotels, in any other state or

As someone who loves to
travel, my ears perked up I heard that employees could stay for free at any of
the Four Seasons Hotels across the world.

For the past fourteen years, Four Seasons has been in the Fortune 100 Best Places to Work. After talking to Isabel Porzecanski, I can see why.