When Employees Thrive, Organizations Thrive: The Hilton Story

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How does a business serving people, serve it's own employees?

At the 2019 HR Tech Conference, Ajla Elian, Senior Director, Talent & Leadership Development at Hilton, joined Shonna Waters, Vice President of Behavioral Solutions at BetterUp, for a timely discussion on the organizational benefits of investing in your talent by making work more meaningful.

Employees want more

In an era when the battle for talent is at an all-time high, employees are now asking for what they have always wanted: truly meaningful work

Employees are increasingly choosing companies that strive to create a meaning-rich workplace. And if the company doesn’t? Employees leave. When you consider that turnover replacement costs from 20% of an employee’s annual salary to upwards of 200% for managers and highly-skilled workers, creating meaningful work moves from a nice-to-have to a business imperative. 

Employers that are committed to creating enriching professional opportunities for meaning are gaining a competitive edge. They’re not only attracting, engaging, and retaining today’s brightest and best talent, but they’re also recognizing significant bottom-line benefits across the organization. And it’s not just about meaning. Workers are looking for companies that provide the total employee experience.

When Employees Thrive, Organizations Thrive: The Hilton Story

When Conrad Hilton purchased his first hotel in 1919, the idea was simple: create “a business of people serving people.” Now, 100 years later, not only has Hilton become a leading hospitality brand, but it’s also a place people want to work. And that’s because the company believes the idea of people serving people begins by creating an unmatched employee experience for its Team Members.

Ranked as the #2 World’s Best Workplace by Fortune and Great Place to Work® and the #1 Best Company to Work for in the U.S., Hilton has made cultivating employee experience a company-wide priority. Hilton’s people leaders understand that when the workforce thrives, so does the organization. Or, more simply, happier employees equal happier guests.

“When you thrive, so do we”

Today’s employees want to work for companies that allow them to bring their full selves to the job. They want an environment that helps them grow and thrive, and connect to what’s most important to them.

In 2017, BetterUp conducted a nationwide survey of 2,285 professionals across 26 industries. The goal? To analyze and quantify the value of meaningful work. The findings show that individuals whose work feels meaningful:

  • increase productivity, which creates $9,078 per year in additional labor output gains
  • work an extra hour per week, which translates to $5,437 in additional output on average per worker, per year,
  • take two fewer paid leave days per year

Thrive at Hilton, a comprehensive ecosystem of HR programs, was designed to help  employees find this exact kind of meaning. Company leaders knew that, when employees feel supported and are given meaningful opportunities to thrive, they will want to come to work, they will create exceptional guest experiences, and they will remain for years to come, helping the organization fulfill its vision of being the most hospitable company in the world. 

“If you could give a dream or live a dream, what would you do?”

Hilton’s innovative programming includes a wide spectrum of support, and the Thrive Sabbatical, a program wherein employees are given four weeks of paid time off and $5,000 to give or live a dream, stands out. 

Employees have used the opportunity to clean up the oceans, learn sign language, become soccer coaches, help high-risk kids, train Special Olympics athletes, and more—all demonstrating what can happen when you support the career and life goals of your employees.

The company’s investment in its people is paying off: Team Member engagement has grown 11% since 2012, and year-over-year turnover has reduced by 1% globally. This is significant—every 1% decline in employee turnover creates $5 million in annual cost savings for the company.

Partnering for the win

Recently, as part of its ongoing commitment to helping its employees flourish, Hilton turned to BetterUp to provide dedicated 1:1 coaching to develop leaders across its global organization, and early results are promising. 

Focusing on executive development participants, high potential corporate employees, and hotel managers on the fast track, BetterUp coaches provide personalized development support to help build the skills necessary to be Hilton’s leaders of the future. 

In the first 3-4 months of coaching, participants experienced more than 10% improvements in leadership skills like feedback, taking ownership, and encouraging the participation of their Team Members. 

Additionally, Team Members saw significant reductions in stress and burnout, and 65% of employees ranked the coaching experience as “life changing or amazing.”

The employee experience matters

In 1919, Conrad Hilton started a business of people serving people. A century later, the organization’s continued commitment to the growth and betterment of its own employees—and the resulting improvements in companywide engagement, performance, and retention—continue to pay dividends.

At a time when, on average, employees say their work is half as meaningful as it could be, Hilton is proving that when you help your people become the best versions of themselves good things will happen. 

We look forward to seeing what the next 100 years will bring.