How Hilton improved the employee experience


Erica Cary

Creating digital destinations

When Hilton developed a cross-functional team to reshape the company’s employee experience, they knew that experience would have to work for an array of different workers, from frontline guest services to corporate leadership. Find out where they landed and what they learned along the way.

When Hilton developed a cross-functional team to reshape the company’s employee experience, they knew that experience would have to work for an array of different workers, from frontline guest services to corporate leadership. Find out where they landed and what they learned along the way.

Video Transcript

Hi. Hello. Welcome to Attune. I’m excited to be here with you today, to share with you my digital employee experience journey.

I’m Erica Cary, Vice President of Digital HR Product and Services at Hilton. In 2019, Hilton celebrated its 100-year anniversary, and has been named the number one company to work for in the US by Forbes Magazine, not once, but twice in the last three years. Hilton continues to be one of the world’s largest, fast growing hospitality companies. We have over 18 brands in a 119 countries with over 400,000 team members, and more than 6,400 properties. That is a lot of people, but we are also challenged with a very unique workforce. 95% of our team members are desk-less, geographically dispersed, and have widely varying communication needs.

In my role at Hilton, I serve in the HR product space, and that is the epicenter of where employees and technology intersect. My team at Hilton is dedicated to applying a product mindset and approach that is grounded in exceptional user experience, scalable and integrated platforms, to deliver innovative solutions. Our Hilton digital HR team is aggressively ambitious about leveraging the landscape that promotes rapid expansion and accelerated growth of these digital capabilities. All with the intention of connecting people like you, and transforming technology and elevating experiences.

So let’s begin our journey before COVID-19. Can we call it BC? As in the before times? To be honest, in my very own workplace, I found that leaders were distracted. Transformation and digitalization at scale was being deprioritized for newer, shinier ambitions, and strategic goals. But most of the Fortune 50 companies had indeed, did the deed and transformed its most critical consumer facing and corporate functions. But there were still some functions as with most hotels just left by the wayside. Those functions not truly transformed, were seen as their strategic plans getting defunded. We were embarking on this land of good as well enough for our corporate functions left behind. Dare I say most were not okay with being fully attuned in the work place.

Meanwhile, myself and a team of leaders and communications, brands, and technology stayed the course, we banded together. We started a grassroots initiative that we token the digital destination. We were there to provide a purpose platform, drive momentum, and collaboratively embark upon the digital frontier. So slow and steady our cross-functional team executed on a deliberate and methodical strategy that was committed to consolidate in our communication engagement platforms, optimizing our content and publishing operations, delivering mobile first technology to employees, so that we can not only connect our knowledge workers in the corporate offices, but ensure equally so that desk-less workers, their properties were connected, informed, and engaged. In our efforts, we found that we were truly better together.

But despite all those efforts, employees still felt the burden of digital clutter, which often led to disconnected and duplicate platforms, operational inefficiencies, and pure digital fatigue. While our efforts were getting some small praises and accolades in the workplace, it took a global pandemic to really shine light on the impact and the necessity of the work that we knew had to be done.

Overnight, the world was in crisis. The global pandemic hit hard and fast, pushing us out of our offices and our kids out of their schools. Overnight, mothers and fathers also became teachers,, lunch, attendance and playmates between the hours of nine to five PM while still expected to complete their normal work duties. Plus, the additional fact that kids and caretakers and spouses and pets were now all being featured regularly on our work calls. Overnight, millions of employees were displaced from the workforce, either furloughed, terminated, or unable to work because of familial duties Overnight, we started to live very blended lives, combining this physical and digital into a very digital reality, along with the expectation to design highly interactive crossover experiences between both of those worlds

Overnight, our personal and professional lives collided to create this new professional state of being. Coworkers and strangers were suddenly seeing into my kitchen, my bedroom, my home office, and this concept of a traditional workday faded.

Yet, and still, quiet disparities and inequities amongst our neighbors and coworkers now became front and center in ways we could not have imagined there were social unrest, racial injustice, and unequivocal loss. It has transformed a generation of people. Overnight, we had to reckon and reconcile with how we were going to communicate, connect, and engage a desk-less workforce. Did we have the right tools and solutions to and prevail the crisis at hand? The short answer was yes. And literally there was no time to waste. In reflection, we accomplished what would ordinarily take years in mere months. At Hilton, we were able to create a lifeline with our furloughed employees. We communicated with them effectively throughout the crisis. We accelerated our digital strategies and understood the importance of finishing what we started. We will continue to invest heavily in our transformation and integrate platforms to create these seamless, frictionless digital experiences for employees.

We have optimized our content operations, leveraging a cope strategy that creates content once, but publishes it everywhere. We have a furious focus on providing solutions to frontline desk-less workers that will keep them connected, informed, and engaged. We will continue to leverage these platforms internally and externally to promote stories that share and reflect our culture and commitment to create inclusive environments for our team members and guests, and inclusive environments are safe for our guests. This ability to communicate with frontline employees was a driving force and critical to Hilton, introducing and executing new marketplace initiatives, such as clean stay and event, ready with clean stay, setting, new standards for cleanliness and customer service. Elements of Hilton’s clean, stay greet guests from the moment they enter the hotel and is present throughout every aspect of the experience, ensuring the wellbeing of guests and team members without compromising the hospitality Hilton is known for.

I am confident that we will find harmony once again and be attuned to our new digital and professional existences. When you attune to something, you adjust to it, and become aware of the way it works. Similar to how a new parent has to tune to a baby schedule and personality. Similar to how preschool teachers attune to their students, various needs and interests. Similar to how when you visit a foreign country is important to attune to the unfamiliar culture so you’re both comfortable and respectful. I asked that you leverage the following digital workplace foundations, consider them building blocks for technology, collaboration, communication, and security that will aid you in staying attuned. Build for purpose, scale and security. Build for consumer behavior. Build for exceptional experiences. I challenge you not to let a good crisis go to waste, for in times like these let’s consider a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. “Greatness is not in where we stand, but in what direction we are moving, we must sell sometimes with the wind. And sometimes we must sell against it, but sail we must and not drift nor lie at anchor.”

I realize this pandemic has launched many of us into crisis mode and sent us down a path of transformation we were not prepared to travel. Forbes magazine stated recently in 2020, for these businesses, even if transformation wasn’t on their radar before the pandemic, the journey has already begun. The pandemic has triggered a need for change. If you’re a leader in this situation, you no longer need to ask the question of how will I get the rest of leadership team is decoders agree that transformation is needed? The world has answered the question for you. Everyone is already looking to you for an understanding about what needs to change, and how you will lead them through it. On the other side of this crisis lies tremendous opportunity. In this situation, you must seize the moment transition well, transform with urgency. To do that, build an exceptional employee experience. Activate a strategy that is engaging and inclusive.

Expedite the journey to systems, to people, to systems for people. Migrate away from silo applications to integrate it productivity platforms, to enable communication, collaboration, and the exchange of information. Transformational leadership can be uncomfortable. I know it requires motivating and delegating and applying and advocating and convincing and mobilizing the masses, but more than ever, it is necessary. To be successful, develop an actual strategy. Design for the modern workplace. Execute with confidence, and measure your impact. Because the last thing that we want to do is let a good crisis go to waste. Once again, I’m Erica Cary. It has been a pleasure sharing with you my digital employee experience, journey, and best practices. I would love to chat more. Please don’t hesitate to reach out. I am confident that we can continue to learn from each other. Thank you.

Collapse Transcript Expand Transcript