With new diversity & inclusion post, Hilton sets global goals

MCLEAN, VA—Hilton in May appointed Jon Muñoz to VP of global diversity and inclusion, and the seasoned hospitality leader has plans to build upon the hotel group’s diversity management practice by focusing on culture, talent and marketplace strategies.

“As a global hospitality company, it’s increasingly important to leverage the benefits of an intentional diversity and inclusion management practice to drive sustainable engagement and company performance,” said Muñoz.

Hired by Hilton’s chief diversity officer at the time, Muñoz joined the hospitality company in 2011 as senior director of diversity and inclusion after leaving Sprint, where he worked for more than five years. Prior to Sprint, he held diversity roles and multicultural marketing roles for Nextel Communications, Bank One and NationsBank.

On getting into the hospitality space, he said: “It’s a very welcoming atmosphere. It’s very friendly, very open. I love the culture [at Hilton], even from the very beginning.”

Hilton has come a long way in its diversity and inclusion journey since Muñoz’s hiring. In 2011, the hotel group established the Hilton Executive Inclusion Council (EIC), which Chris Nassetta, the company’s president and CEO, chairs. Composed of Hilton’s most senior leaders, the EIC provides oversight of Hilton’s diversity and inclusion programs and initiatives. The following year, Hilton created Team Member Resource Groups (TMRGs), made up of more than 7,500 team members from diverse backgrounds, to advance company goals and more (total TMRG membership has increased by 448% since 2012). In 2013, Hilton launched Operation: Opportunity, its veteran hiring initiative; and in 2014, the hotel group for the first time achieved 100% on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index. Hilton then updated its global employment policies to reflect best practices in diversity and inclusion in 2015 and signed the White House’s Equal Pay Pledge the year after. In addition to many other achievements in diversity and inclusion in 2017, the hotel group launched TMRGs for women worldwide.

Hilton has built many of its diversity successes upon its diversity and inclusion framework, which the hotel group established officially on a global scale back in 2010. “It was really championed by Chris Nassetta,” Muñoz said. “He’s an outspoken advocate and true believer in diversity and inclusion.”

The hotel group’s framework includes several pillars: culture, talent and marketplace initiatives. Hilton’s diversity and inclusion definition spans three categories: cultures, perspectives and lifestyles.

Now, nearly a decade after beginning his tenure at Hilton, Muñoz is part of a two-person team, again. (Back in 2011, the two-person team was just him and the chief diversity officer, a role Hilton no longer has; Muñoz reports directly to Matt Schuyler, the company’s chief human resources officer). “I have a person who reports to me who really focuses on the HR integration pieces around recruitment and scholarships, and those kinds of activities, in addition to all the TMRGs,” Muñoz said. Since his team is limited to two members, he relies a lot on internal stakeholder groups.

And, certainly, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to creating a more welcoming workplace filled with people who have unique experiences and backgrounds, particularly these days, as this has become a larger part of the ongoing national and global conversation. “I think there’s a lot of energy around this space,” he said. “I think there’s a lot to do. I think we’ve come a long way.”

Some of Hilton’s focus revolves around “helping people understand the business case for diversity and why it’s important,” Muñoz said. In his opinion, a successful diversity and inclusion program can positively impact business performance.

Of course, he’s not alone. Published in January 2018, a McKinsey & Company report found the following: “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile. For ethnic/cultural diversity, top-quartile companies were 33% more likely to outperform on profitability.”

As for the evolution of his role, he’s focusing efforts on a more global approach to diversity and inclusion. “I’ll start to leverage regional inclusion councils—which we just launched this year—to look for ways that we can look at our global framework for diversity and inclusion around culture, talent and marketplace and make it meaningful for each region—the Americas, APAC and EMEA,” he said.

This initiative is no easy feat, however, especially with varying interests at play. “Diversity and inclusion are different around the world, so we need to be sensitive to that,” Muñoz said. “The framework that we developed around culture, talent and marketplace was developed in a way that could be interpreted in different ways. From a culture perspective, celebrate our differences; from an inclusion perspective, bring those differences together to help us be more innovative as a company; and from a belonging perspective, allow people to be themselves and celebrate that within the company that we work at.”

Muñoz is highly active with numerous nonprofits focused on diversity and inclusion, serving in leadership capacities at the following organizations: The Conference Board; Friends of the American Latino Museum; International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA); League of United Latin American Citizens Corporate Alliance; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); National LGBT Chamber of Commerce; and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

He also co-founded the National Hispanic Corporate Council Corporate Executive Development Program (CEDP), currently being offered in partnership with Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business. The program is designed to help identify emerging Hispanic leaders and prepare them to represent the Hispanic community.

“I see that our regional inclusion councils are going to be doing some good work regionally to build on what we’ve done here,” Muñoz  said. “We’ll have a robust training program that will talk about not only diversity, inclusion and unconscious bias, but will look at things like inclusive leadership. We’ll look at engaging with differences—that could be culturally, that could be from a sexual orientation or a gender identifying perspective, even from people with disabilities—so we have a robust training program that allows people to feel like they can be themselves at work.

“Then we have programs that build leaders within our company from whatever standpoint you’re coming at it,” he continued. “I would say that we have a robust external engagement strategy, not only in the U.S. but around the world, and that we’re actively pursuing opportunities to support things like women-related issues and LGBT issues selectively around the world.” HB