Diversity, Equity & Inclusion: Driving Business Excellence

October 17, 2023 thehrobserver-hrobserver-diversity-equity-inclusion

At Hilton, we are in a business of people serving people. We lead with culture and are fiercely committed to creating the world’s best work environment. We know that when we invest in our Team Members, our owners, guests and communities also benefit. This is precisely why we are committed to providing a great place to work for all.

The Role of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in Hospitality 

With 7,295 hotels across 123 countries globally, our operating environments are naturally diverse – however, how we embrace that diversity is key. Beyond the conventional benchmark of educational background, our business is about creating exceptional guest experiences driven by the right attitude, attention, awareness, passion – and most importantly, Purpose. Our company was based on our founder Conrad Hilton’s vision to fill the Earth with the light and warmth of hospitality. This service-oriented mindset can be cultivated through years of experience, regardless of age, gender, nationality, or ability. 

Prioritising diversity is especially critical in our industry because of the inherent diversity of our guests. The significance of this lies in the profound impact when guests encounter Team Members who authentically reflect their unique backgrounds – whether it is speaking the same language or coming from similar cultures. Meaningful connections are formed when teams share similarities with guests. 

There is certainly no limit to attracting young talent. In hospitality, we have a fantastic opportunity to offer a career, and a home away from home, for so many individuals. Almost anyone with an interest and passion for creating exceptional guest experiences can build a future in hospitality.

Top Considerations for Driving DEI in Hospitality 

Diversity is a broad concept, extending beyond gender. In hospitality, we consider other factors such as age, nationality, experience, gender, and ability, among others, as integral components of our comprehensive approach to diversity. For example, we proudly employ nearly 500 Team Members with a known disability, across the Middle East & Africa region and we have set targets for our hotels to continue welcoming new Team Members with varied abilities across the properties; what gets measured gets done.

Engaging individuals early in their careers is crucial. We thus collaborate with hospitality schools and academic institutions to attract talent coming from all walks of life. Our annual ‘Careers at Hilton’ campaign connects with more than 150 events in the region to reach diverse talent. Other training and internship programmes such as those with the Dubai College of Tourism (UAE) or Bunyan for Training (KSA), a Saudi affiliate of the renowned Swiss Hospitality Management School Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne, often lead to permanent employment, providing students with a taste of hospitality and supporting government efforts to nurture homegrown talent. 

We are also the founding partner of the “Future Leaders Challenge” where students from hospitality schools around the region partake in a programme and competition to solve challenges in the industry. The second edition of the competition launched in September 2023 and finals will take place in Dubai in January 2024 with close to 100 students attending.

In the UAE, Hilton’s ongoing partnership with SEDRA Foundation has resulted in the recruitment and training of more than 30 Team Members with disabilities at local Hilton properties, with roles ranging from F&B to engineering. These numbers continue to rise, as we work to ensure that the proper support systems and infrastructures are in place to support the long-term career growth, empowerment, and diversification of our employees.

As a business, Hilton is diverse by nature but inclusive by choice. Beyond just identifying, training and recruiting diverse talent, we make sure their differences are embraced and they feel welcome and included in the workplace. We do this in a number of ways – for example, as part of our work with SEDRA, the Foundation trained approximately 500 Hilton Team Members offering consultancy in accessibility in both the built and digital environment. We also have a number of Team Member Resource Groups, globally, which represent the diverse segments of our workforce and create a platform for meaningful dialogue and discussion. A sustainable DEI strategy goes beyond diversity targets and equally prioritises a culture of inclusivity.

Gender Diversity and Leadership

Gender split in leadership positions remains an important objective for us. Recently, we trained nearly 70 internal facilitators across the region to run our “Women in Leadership” programme and we are committed to identifying and nurturing the next generation of hotel General Managers. In 2023, we also connected with over 100 of our UAE-based leaders for a session on sharing experiences and powerful career stories to empower other female colleagues and leaders. 

Today, nearly a quarter of our General Managers are women, an 18% growth compared to just two years ago, but we recognise that we still have a way to go. Strategic alignment plays a pivotal role in our approach. With around 400 Team Members in our HR community across the region, we co-designed our “5 Big Bold Targets” supported by 24 key actions committed over a two-year period. Our overarching diversity goal, aptly named 50-50, acknowledges that achieving this balance will take time, but with concerted efforts, we are poised for success. Globally, we are committed to achieving gender parity at our corporate leadership levels by 2027.

Understanding the significance of diversity, equity and inclusion, we must persist in sharing impactful experiences and insights on actions that make substantial impact. Courageously pushing forward, we can collectively contribute to meaningful change.

Marie-Louise Ek

Vice President, Human Resources Middle East & Africa at Hilton

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