Hilton helps team members thrive with new initiative


MCLEAN, VA—The face of a hotel is its staff—from the front-desk clerks and management team to the housekeeping and maintenance crews. An unhappy and stressed front- and back-of-house could turn off guests, who could then post bad reviews or vow never to come back to that property.

Keeping workers happy and at their optimal capacity is not an easy task. Those manning the front desk are on their feet all day; housekeeping shifts are long; and chefs in the kitchens of F&B establishments may work by hot ovens all day.

That’s especially true for a company as large as Hilton, which has more than 360,000 team members working at 5,200-plus properties around the world.

Since last July, Hilton has partnered with Thrive Global, founded by former Huffington Post CEO Arianna Huffington, to create the Thrive@Hilton program to “help our team members understand our people programs and flourish in every area of the business, from corporate to hourly, from the front desk to back-of-house,” as CEO Chris Nassetta noted in a public statement at its launch.

According to Thrive Global, its mission is to end the stress and burnout epidemic by offering companies and individuals sustainable, science-based solutions to enhance well-being, performance and purpose, and create a healthier relationship with technology.

And, that’s what Hilton is trying to do with Thrive@Hilton. “We want to be as hospitable to our team members as we are to our guests,” said Laura Fuentes, SVP, talent & rewards, Hilton. “Knowing that our employees’ lives are increasingly hectic, we felt it was important to create space for them to flourish in mind, body and spirit. Thrive helps us do that by driving more mindful leadership and evolving the way we think about work.”

It’s a policy that began a couple of years earlier with some programs aimed at helping team members with their lives off property.

“In just two years, we have launched benefits like industry-leading parental leave and adoption assistance, boosted our team member travel perks, and doubled-down on our continuing education and career development programs,” said Fuentes. “These investments have paid off. Increases in resources and benefits for our staff have corresponded with rising guest satisfaction scores and parallel growth in our most loyal customer base. In 2015, we welcomed six million new members to our Hilton Honors program, and an additional nine million guests joined last year. The point being, greater guest satisfaction and loyalty have led to market expansion across the globe; providing team members the resources to thrive at work and at home leads to sustainable high-performance across our portfolio. It just makes good business sense.”

She continued, “Building on our existing benefits, Thrive@Hilton was designed to enable our employees to focus on what is important to them; help us attract and retain the best talent; and highlight our position as a great place to work around the world. Thrive@Hilton is our value proposition that is offered to all team members at all levels in the 105 countries and territories where we operate. Thrive@Hilton was born not out of a place of crisis, but because we wanted to enable sustainable high performance.”

The idea of Thrive Global was hatched more than 10 years ago, noted Huffington, who left the namesake website she co-founded to build the wellness company.

“It really goes back to 2007, when I collapsed from exhaustion,” she said. “After that, I became more and more passionate about the connection between well-being, success and productivity. And that led me to write my two books, Thrive and The Sleep Revolution. As I went around the world speaking about them, and the issues of stress, burnout and sleep deprivation, I saw how deeply people wanted to change their lives. So, I wanted to go beyond just speaking out and raising awareness. I felt the need to turn this passion into something real and tangible that would begin to help people change their daily lives. It was a call to action I just couldn’t ignore, and so I founded Thrive Global.”

Huffington pointed out why Hilton is a company that can thrive with Thrive. “With more than 360,000 employees—and only around 8,000 of whom are corporate—the majority of the company works on the front lines of taking care of others,” she said. “Part of Thrive Global’s core philosophy is based on the science that shows we’re more effective in taking care of others when we take care of ourselves.”

Hilton staff members learn all about what is involved with the program through a 40-page Thrive@Hilton Team Member Guide. “It serves as a one-stop shop for their Thrive needs,” said Fuentes. “Each section is backed by data and science, emphasizing why each of these topics is a critical component of total well-being and ‘rechargement.’ In addition, the guide emphasizes microsteps they can incorporate into their daily routines to help build good habits. The guide has been translated into 15 different languages to support team members around the world.”

Huffington described microsteps as “small, actionable steps people can take to make immediate changes in their daily lives. Microsteps help you go from knowing what to do to actually doing it.”

Thrive@Hilton focuses on three pillars that “together help our team members be at their best every day, both in and outside of work,” noted Fuentes, who pointed out examples of each:

• Body—“We build a strong foundation for health and well-being by enhancing our employees’ work environment; promoting physical wellness with tips for sleep, nutrition, exercise and stress management; and supporting their financial wellness. Well-being is a foundation for thriving leadership and team members.”

• Mind—“We seek lifelong learning and mindful leadership focused on helping our team members communicate; work flexibly; manage their energy; embrace diversity and inclusion; demonstrate resilience and agility; and pursue continuous learning and development opportunities. Clear and resilient leadership is a mindset, not a to-do.”

• Spirit—“We dare to dream and connect with purpose through recognizing great work; setting bold goals; creating space to innovate; giving back to our team members and communities; expanding professional networks; and finding inspiration at work and at home. Spirit fosters innovation and connections.”

Hilton team members also have access to Thrive Global’s six-week online course with Huffington, which, according to the company, uses scientifically proven methods to decrease stress and burnout and improve overall health, happiness and well-being. Guest teachers include former NBA superstar Kobe Bryant; Adam Grant, a professor at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania; and Warby Parker CEO Dave Gilboa.

“The topics of the course include how to realize you’re burning out before you crash; creating a healthier relationship with technology; setting priorities; finding your purpose in your life and work; the importance of wonder; and how to use the power of giving in your daily life,” noted Huffington, who said that Thrive Global is also working with other companies, such as JPMorgan Chase, Accenture, SAP, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America. It recently launched in India through a partnership with Times Bridge.

Another aspect of Thrive@Hilton is Thrive Sabbatical: Give a Dream, Live a Dream, which “offers the chance for team members to take a month-long paid sabbatical in which they can enrich the lives of others through a volunteer activity or take the time to pursue their own personal goal or adventure,” said Fuentes. “They are undertaking a wide range of projects such as volunteering with the Uganda Bikeathon project; setting up eye health clinics in rural Mexico; and exploring the gastronomic history of Europe.”

Hilton employees so far have been really engaged with Thrive@Hilton, noted Fuentes. “Our tool kits have been downloaded more than 20,000 times, and we have seen great examples of Thrive in action across the company,” she said. “Our team members are constantly coming up with and implementing new ways to Thrive—from quiet rooms to Zumba dance classes to mindfulness coaching to sessions where team members share their appreciation for each other.”

She added some other examples of how Thrive@Hilton has caught on with team members and properties. “One hotel committed to refraining from sending internal emails on Fridays. Instead, they will spend quality time connecting with one another in person or, as they put it, ‘Talk First,’” she said. “They have found that issues are dealt with faster and there is less room for misunderstanding by engaging in person.

“Other properties have added programs to improve the use, understanding and impact of body language; provided time management tips; and created relaxation rooms offering quiet music, magazines, refreshments, board games and candles to team members between shifts,” she continued. “And still other hotels offer fresh fruit and juices to team members, in addition to organizing simple, energizing workouts throughout the day.

“We are also teaching about Thrive@Hilton through e-learnings, leadership development programs, webinars, multichannel communications, digital lobby and regional conferences to ensure that we can drive this to all team members, properties and owners,” said Fuentes. “Through evolving the way we work and offering these great new tools and resources, we hope to help our team members continue to grow and to flourish.” HB