What does it take to develop outstanding talent in the service industry? We spoke to Brendan Toomey, vice president of human resources, Asia Pacific, Hilton about their award-winning approach to employee learning and development across cultures – and oceans.
Managing a global workforce comes with a unique set of challenges. Add to this the high-paced nature of the service industry and you’re faced with the demands of a diverse and multicultural workforce with varying levels of knowledge and expertise.
How does Hilton HR approach training and development?
At our core, we are a business of people serving people: our team members are truly at the heart of our success. They are integral to providing exceptional experiences to our guests; therefore it is important for us to create a winning team culture.
The hospitality industry is a diverse and exciting environment, as no two days are ever the same. We have to keep growing and sustaining our talent pool within a multinational, multicultural setting.
In Asia Pacific, where levels of education and development still vary significantly from one country to the next, this task requires us to invest not just in recruitment, but also flexible training and development which unlocks meaningful opportunities for our employees.
What programs do you oversee in order to recruit, develop and retain top talent?
Firstly, recognition, wellbeing and workplace flexibility is critical in making Hilton a great place to work; this remains our focus for the next 12-18 months.
We are also committed to working towards addressing the global crisis of 71 million unemployed youth by connecting, preparing and employing at least one million youth by 2019. In 2016, we created 20,000 new jobs worldwide, and are projected to add 25,000 jobs in 2017. Specifically in Asia Pacific, we are expecting to see even more career opportunities become available.
To this end, Hilton has developed several initiatives.
Youths who aspire to be people leaders but do not have any hospitality experience can join our 12-month Management Trainee Program in China, or our 18-month program in south-east Asia, Japan or India. And those with exceptional potential – and who aspire to become hotel general managers – can put themselves on the fast track with our Asia Pacific Elevator Program. This accelerated career development program deploys millennials to the operations, commercial, finance and human resources functions and ensures they are rotated to properties in two countries to give them exposure to different cultures and ways of working.
In addition, the E3 Leadership Development Curriculum is our globally harmonised framework for leadership development with three distinct tracks – elevate, engage and excel, aligned with different career stages for our team members.
As a global company, many of our team members choose to grow with the organisation. For example, in south-east Asia and India, 70 per cent of senior leadership appointments (e.g. general manager and head of department) come from our internal talent pool, either through transfers or promotions. This emphasis on promoting-from-within is integral to supporting our growth across the brand portfolio around the world. We believe that in giving our team members a first shot at available jobs, they will stay with us longer because they will achieve more professional satisfaction.
To further motivate and inspire our teams, we offer industry-leading benefits such as the Go Hilton travel program for family and friends. With this program, employees can earn points that can be used towards free stays at Hilton venues as well as perks such as food and beverage discounts for friends and family and access to member-only promotions.
How do you manage a diverse workforce with different work cultures?
Our success depends on our understanding and celebrating the unique global cultures that reflect our Hilton team members – as well as our guests. At the same time, we do seek to assess and address human rights issues across our operations and supply chain in order to better evaluate the progress and gaps that may be present.
Your workforce is enormous. How do you develop talent across oceans?
Finding talent with the right skills is a critical challenge for a people-centered business like ours – especially as we grow rapidly in the region. It’s why we provide a range of strategic incentives for career progress, growth and development.
Since 2012, for example, we have tripled our female leadership in our hotels across the Asia Pacific region and we aim to have women leaders make up 30 per cent of our GM population by 2019. In 2016, Hilton signed up as a pioneering Singapore IMPACT champion in support of HeForShe, the UN women-led solidarity movement for gender equality.
In certain emerging markets, this commitment has also meant taking the lead by investing directly in training and development to contribute to the growth of the travel, tourism and hospitality industry in the region.
In 2015, we set up the Hilton vocational training centre at Hilton Naypyitaw in Myanmar’s capital city, with the aim of developing the next generation of hotel operations leaders – and to grow the pool of talent for Myanmar’s booming hospitality and travel industry. This 24-month program offers training in the areas of food and beverage operations, front office operations, culinary skills and housekeeping. Upon completion of the program, graduates earn a Ministry of Hotels and Tourism-certified Diploma and are offered employment with Hilton properties in various locations.