Kay Harriman: How to develop your employees’ potential and engage future recruits

Hospitality is one of the largest employers in the world. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, travel and tourism accounts for nearly 10 per cent of all employment in the UK. Hilton has nearly 50 pipeline properties in the UK, and our modelling suggests that more than 4,000 new jobs could be created in the next three-five years as a result of our rapid growth.

It’s more important than ever for us to not only retain and nurture our talented workforce, but also attract new recruits through our doors. With diverse roles available in every area from management and engineering to front of house and event planning, there’s no doubt that hospitality is an industry full of opportunity.

Any business is only as good as its people, and our Team Members are our greatest asset. We’ve continuously adapted to the changing needs of our workforce over the last 100 years to create an environment where every Team Member can thrive – and we’re proud to be recognised as the #3 Great Place to Work in the UK for our efforts. But how do we make sure we continue to attract the brightest and the best, and don’t lose momentum as we enter our second century?

Embrace workplace diversity to achieve business success

As a hospitality company serving guests in 113 countries and territories, diversity is critical to our success. Our inclusive workforce reflects the many different cultures, backgrounds and viewpoints of our diverse guests, helping us better respond to their needs, whilst also fostering a culture of innovation.

One important element to consider is gender equality. Research by the Royal Statistical Society (2019) finds that women still face a massive gender bias in the workplace and that little progress has been made to improve women’s representation in leadership positions. Increased diversity at a leadership level significantly improves a company’s performance. In fact, The Peterson Institute for International Economics found that having women at the C-Suite level significantly increases net margins.

To build a truly diverse workforce, companies need to move from good intentions to action. For our industry in particular, it’s been critical to find ways to remove perceived barriers to progression. For example, we’ve increased the number of flexible working opportunities available for senior operational roles. We’ve also created a mentoring programme – Coaching on Call – specifically for women earlier on in their career. The programme is designed to help them overcome any potential challenges as early as possible by providing tailored support. Earlier this year, we also signed the Women in Hospitality 2020 (WiH2020) charter, a ten-point plan that highlights our commitment to driving the diversity agenda forward. Patricia Page-Champion, our SVP & Global Commercial Director, sits on the WiH2020 board, ensuring we are working closely with other industry players to share best practice and inspire action.

Create an engaging employee experience through learning and development

For an employee to have a long and meaningful career with a single company, they need to continually feel engaged, excited and challenged by their work. In fact, many people don’t even want a linear career anymore and want to be able to explore different paths throughout their working life. A survey by Investec found that more than half of UK employees plan to change career in the next five years, so in order to retain talent, it’s really important to allow them to diversify their skills and explore different routes within the company.

We have a great advantage here, because there are so many different career routes available in the hospitality industry. We need to capitalise on this by equipping Team Members with the right training and resources to drive their career in the right direction.

It sounds simple, but training and development have never been more important. Regardless of whether an employee wants to stay on a career path or move to a new area of the business, they are always going to want to grow and learn new skills. That’s why we’ve created a range of programmes to support the development of Team Members at all levels.

Our fast-track Elevator Programme, for example, prepares ambitious graduates to take on a general manager position within five to eight years through a series of rotations within different parts of the business. Meanwhile we have a number of apprenticeship programmes to provide structured training – not just for school leavers, but for Team Members who want to advance their skills and progress to the next level. We also provide more informal training through Hilton University (HU), which offers more than 2,500 online courses in 18 languages.

Adapt your organisational approach to attract the next generation

Generation Z – those born between the mid-90s and mid-2000s – will soon overtake the millennial generation as the largest cohort in the workplace. Almost one-third of the world’s 7.7 billion people were born since 2001 (United Nations, 2018) and are now heading to university or starting their careers. HR directors need a comprehensive understanding of how this generation thinks and operates to engage and motivate them.

Gen Z workers are tech savvy and never knew a world without social media. They are true digital natives, which means that using our own social platforms to engage with potential recruits is more important than ever. The vast majority of current students use Instagram, so we use our @Hilton_Careers platform to provide a real insight into life at Hilton. This has proven to be an effective tool to attracting a wide variety of candidates. Different Team Members take it in turns to run the channel so followers can get a real picture of what working in hospitality is like. For potential apprentices, we also have our @thehiltonapprentice channel.

Despite the rise of digital channels, I still firmly believe that engaging face-to-face with Gen Z is also critical to show them why they should consider a career in hospitality – and to hear from them about what they want from the workplace. That’s why each year, we run [email protected] events – experience days designed to give young people a taste of the industry.

As we enter our second century, we must continue to adapt to the ever-changing needs of our workforce, creating a working environment fit for the next 100 years. Only by staying one step ahead of the next generation workforce can businesses attract the brightest and the best – and ultimately stay relevant.