From Careers@Hilton to Team Member Appreciation Week, Brendan Toomey, VP-HR for Asia Pacific, Hilton outlines the pro-people policies the hotel chain practices to ensure employee satisfaction
By Vinita Bhatia
Two generations ago, most people held just one job throughout their entire career. A generation later, people would change jobs every decade or so, after gaining what they thought was sufficient experience.
However, in contemporary times, millennials switch jobs frequently. In a people-intensive industry, like hospitality, this changing nature of work aspirations is forcing hotels to rethink their human resource strategies as well â€“ whether it has to do with hiring, training, retraining or retaining.
Realising this, Hilton created various programmes for the young generation, including one that helps youngsters to elevate and engage and excel, across all levels of the company. Brendan Toomey, VP, HR for Asia Pacific, Hilton outlines the evolving workplace trends in the company to better accommodate millennials, who currently comprise 81% of the Indian team.
What is Hiltonâ€™s workforce globally and in APAC?
Globally, we have around 3,65,000 people and in Asia Pacific we have about 34,000.
What about India?
That would be about 2,500.
Isnâ€™t that very low?
Yes, but then we have only 15 operational hotels in India currently, with 18 in the pipeline. We operate in the 11 different cities across India and but a major areas to focus out the key gateways Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Pune.
Globally, we have 14 brands, but five of those exist across Asia Pacific, not just in India. Our two focus brands are DoubleTree and Hilton and we introduced our first luxury brand into India, the Conrad in Pune last year.
Is there any reason to focus on only five brands in one of the fastest growing regions in the world? Why havenâ€™t brands like Tru by Hilton been introduced here?
We have some US-specific brands
that we donâ€™t feel fit the market here. There are the brands that we might introduce in Asia Pacific in the future. For instance, no decision has been made when Embassy Suites or Tru by Hilton might be launched in India or China though we think the latter may resonate well in Asia Pacific.
Is there a timeframe for the 18 hotels in the pipeline?
We will shortly open Hilton Garden Inn in Lucknow and Conrad in Bangalore.
As you expand your footprint, will you also double your workforce too?
Yes, but the total number will depend on the size of the hotels that open. This sort of grab for talent is a fundamental focus for us. Since everybody is fishing in the same pond, there has to be significant difference in our offering to team members. This could include benefits that they receive whilst working at Hilton versus our competitors. We think these are the points of difference that will minimise attrition, provide stability and also attract the additional talent as we grow the pipeline to roughly 25 hotels a year in Asia Pacific.
And how is Hilton creating these points of distinction?
Well, we are committed to touching the lives of a million youth across the world by 2019, and so far, we have touched about half a million. When I said touched, it includes connecting with them in some way and making them understand about our business, the opportunities in this industry, the variety of that could be of interest to them, etc.
Globally, we use the Careers@Hilton week every year, letting them see how a kitchen operates, what a laundry looks like, what a housekeeper really does. This opens their eyes to new career possibilities and it helps us to find fresh talent too.
Another annual programme is the Team Member Appreciation Week, where we find various ways to thank our associates for their hard work. We spend a week acknowledging the importance of our people who are responsible for delivering memorable experiences for our guests.
From a learning perspective, we have designed a range of programmes to support different levels of our force. Since we are a fairly young business in India, 81 percent of our team comprises millennials. In Asia Pacific, it’s about 58 percent and by 2020 it might be about 70 percent globally for us. So, we need to design programmes that meet the needs of millennials, which is a digitally connected generation. They want to work in organisations that follow sustainable practices and give them plenty of opportunities â€“ be it to travel, learn or grow. Hence, we designed the 3D programme at different levels, which focuses on three things â€“ Elevate, Engage and Excel. We spend the maximum energy at the Elevate level, for instance with our management trainee program that runs across Southeast Asia, including India.
Candidates have to spend six months of this 18-month programme outside their native country to gain better experience about different cultures. This helps our team members become more worldly, knowledgeable, understanding and inclusive.
Are there any other interesting elements to the Elevate programme?
Oh, yes! Millennials often focus on their area of expertise or whatever they studied â€“ be it finance, HR or business development. While we offer them these opportunities, we have a 18-month fast-track Management Trainee program. This is split into two nine-month stints and both of these are done outside their native country. For instance, an Indian employee might spenf nine months in China and nine months in Myanmar.
During each of those nine-month periods, they can focus on two disciplines â€“ be it operations, finance, housekeeping, etc. This was, they get a substantial experience into these functions. After completing the programme, we can fast track them into general management roles. Thus, this programme tries to cover different ways that millennials are thinking about career progression.
What about the Engage and Excel components?
Those are mid-management development training programmes for those coming off the Elevate programme. We call it Shine leadership development programme and a general manager development program.
We are constantly trying to feed team members into different levels of the workforce and then on top of that we have Hilton University, which is our online learning platform with around 2500 modules that members can access. For instance, if somebody wants to learn about project management, they can grow their knowledge and skills through Hilton University as we have built specific modules for it. We use a lot of online material from Harvard and Cornell for creating specific learning programs.
This development matrix is incredibly important because it gives people the ability to grow at their own pace and sometimes they can do training programs. There are not necessarily related to their existing role but something they might be interested in doing further down the track.
For e.g., if an F&B manager might want to be in the rooms division and work in front office, how can he get the transfer from this department to the other. He can complete an online program through Hilton University, which will help him understand all the processes related to the domain. So the next time, there is an opening, he can apply saying he has the requisite knowledge, but not the experience, which can be taught.
Has a lot of this cross-pollination actually taken place in Hilton?
Yes, we really encourage it. After all, it is all about improving productivity and using the human capital we already have in the business.