Four Fundamental Pillars Behind the World’s No. 1 Best Workplace, Hilton

December 12, 2023 thehrobserver-hrobserver-2024-hilton

For the first time, Hilton has been named the No. 1 World’s Best Workplace by Fortune magazine and Great Place to Work. This recognition – the culmination of eight consecutive appearances on the ‘World’s Best’ list – also marks the first time a hospitality company has achieved the top honour in this best-in-class programme. So, what makes Hilton such a great workplace? Let me share my experience since joining Hilton in September 2022.

Hilton has a global presence with 460,000 team members around the world, dedicated to making nearly 7,400 hotels a welcoming place for all our guests. Founded over a century ago, Hilton’s legacy lives on as we continue to build our strong culture through an unwavering focus to create an inclusive workplace, offers strong growth opportunities, is driven by purpose, and provides the kind of support that empowers team members around the world to thrive every day. We therefore focus on a framework of these four pillars to build a fully human experience at work. 

Embracing a Shared Purpose for All

For more than a century, team members have helped fulfill Conrad Hilton’s founding vision to fill the Earth with the light and warmth of hospitality and today this vision is thriving. Hilton colleagues never lost sight of that purpose as they continue to deliver exceptional experiences for our guests and have a positive impact on the communities in which we operate. 

In the Middle East and Africa region alone, we have more than 30,000 team members and as vice president of HR, my role, like every other leader, is to be an ambassador for these remarkable individuals, encouraging them throughout their careers, embracing their diversity, and igniting their passion. It is these team members who help bring moments of joy and memorable experiences to life for our guests, and it is our responsibility to build a positive, meaningful, and inclusive workplace for everyone. In my first year here, I have already witnessed several inspiring moments of senior executives and leaders paying tribute to and recognise their team members.

We engage with the team via a yearly calendar filled with special moments and celebrations. Whether it’s recognising lifeguards, the engineering team, or those who enroll the most guests into our Hilton Honors loyalty programme, we always find reasons to celebrate.

Every year, we rally all the Hilton troops around celebrating each other during team member appreciation week. Another initiative is “Catch Me at My Best” through which guests, managers, and coworkers are encouraged to “catch” hotel employees at their best by filling out a recognition card, called a catch. The eCatch now allows guests to catch employees online. We believe that to provide a great guest experience, we have to recognise the individuals who make those experiences possible. We believe in recognition and celebration, and doing this in a fun and engaging way to express our gratitude to our Team Members for bringing our vision and purpose to life.

Most recently, Hilton announced the winners of the CEO Light & Warmth Award – the company’s highest honour celebrating team members around the world who bring Hilton’s values to life through their inspiring leadership and passion for providing exceptional hospitality.  In 2023, more than 700 team members globally were nominated by their colleagues. 

Creating Continuous Growth Opportunities

Hilton prides itself in providing opportunities where team members come for a job but stay for a career. We provide numerous growth opportunities for our team members, enabling cross-exposures and moves across functions, hotels, and countries. The hospitality industry is very diverse and our roles offer transferable skills – it’s fascinating to see how many Team Members have worked across different Hilton hotels and functions. 

It is thus crucial to provide team members with educational opportunities and we do this via our on-demand learning platform Hilton University. The platform includes complimentary courses for all levels across various departments, subjects and skills. Celebrating our top learners is another way we recognise and appreciate our team members.

Lead@Hilton offers leadership and development programmes for team members; from first-time managers to established leaders, while Hilton’s mentorship programme connects mentors with mentees to guide, develop and inspire each other. The most recent edition saw over 300 leaders participating in the programme to mentor up-and-coming and bright talent. Across our hotels, Hilton provides an internal pathway to reach leadership roles, including general managers. 

Prioritising Wellbeing 

Hilton is dedicated to building an inclusive culture that supports team members at every stage of their personal and professional journey and empowers each of them to bring their true, authentic self to work.  We are in a business of people serving people and we believe that when our team members are at their best personally and professionally, they can better care for our guests and one another. That philosophy, or what we refer to as Thrive@Hilton, underpins everything we do for our team members to enable them to thrive in body, mind, and spirit across the 125 hotels we operate in Middle East, Africa (and 7,400 globally).

As part of our Thrive@Hilton philosophy, Hilton proactively supports team members in caring not only for themselves, but also for those closest to them. In 2022, Hilton launched its industry-leading ‘Care for All’ initiative, a robust platform of tools and resources to support the mental wellness and caregiving needs of team members. The Thrive Mental Wellness Hub provides training and coaching for managers and leaders globally. In addition, we’ve worked with our partners at Thrive Global to provide an app-based experience offering additional resources created in partnership with Stanford University, practical micro steps for addressing mental wellness, and tools to track progress. Meanwhile, our Employee Assistance Programme continues to give team members around-the-clock access to a qualified counsellor on a strictly confidential basis across several of our markets.

Another great initiative is the “Thrive Sabbatical”, enabling team members to apply for funded time off to pursue something meaningful to them. Meanwhile, the Go Hilton programme offers exciting travel benefits for Team Members.

Together with our team, we are also working to ensure all team members across our hotels can take two days off per week in the MEA region. 

Welcoming Diverse Talent 

Hilton is committed to an equitable and welcoming workforce that represents a broad range of cultures, backgrounds, and viewpoints representative of the guests and communities it serves. 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.

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.

Through our collaborations with hospitality schools and academic institutions, we aim 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. In 2023 alone, we participated in over 350 activities and events across the EMEA region. 

We also continue to partner with local academic and vocational institutions, such as the Dubai College of Tourism in the UAE and Bunyan for Training in Saudi Arabia (an affiliate of the renowned Swiss Hospitality Business School, Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne), providing students with first-hand hospitality experience and supporting government efforts to nurture homegrown talent. Many of these training and internship opportunities evolve into permanent employment opportunities for young 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. 

With a strong focus on inclusivity, we work to ensure that we have a broad representation for all team members. One of the many ways we do this work is through our eight Team Member Resource Groups (TMRG). We activate around the common principles of networking, professional development and creating educational opportunities that drive collaboration; however, we also look to all of our TMRGs to bolster team member engagement, provide upward feedback on critical issues and help us drive our business strategies and how we’re solving for the needs of our diverse community of guests.

Regardless of industry, it is the team, leadership, and culture that make a company a great place to work. As employers, we have the responsibility of bringing that culture to life and making it a reality for our team members across all aspects of their career journey. At Hilton, we are committed to delivering on our promise to our team members, and we will continue to place that at the forefront of everything we do. 

Marie-Louise Ek

Vice President, Human Resources Middle East & Africa at Hilton

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