Hilton recently ranked No. 3 on Forbes‘ 2021 “Great Place to Work for Millennials” list. To celebrate that recognition, Hilton recently sat down with the company’s Director of Lifestyle & New Brands, Jennifer McCardell, who talked about the value of millennial team members but also how the company is going forward with marketing to one of the largest and emerging customer segments driving business decisions within the hospitality sector: millennial travelers.
Hilton: How did you get into hospitality?
McCardell: “My journey to hospitality was a fairly non-traditional one. After undergrad, I spent just over three years in strategy consulting, where I focused on customer experience, new product development, go-to-market strategy, and HR transformation projects for Federal clients. Through these client engagements, I developed a passion for improving the customer and employee experience, as well as identifying new market opportunities and building new products. I wanted to shift into a more consumer-facing strategy or brand management role, so I pursued an MBA. During my time in business school, I had the opportunity to do both a local internship and a global strategy consulting project in Hong Kong for two major hospitality companies. Not only did I have a strong personal passion for travel, but I also fell in love with the industry through these experiences. Right after graduation, I had the opportunity to join Hilton on the Global Brand Strategy Team – our internal strategy consulting team focused on our family of brands. This role was a perfect blend of my consulting background and passion for brands and experiences.”
Hilton: What is your current role at Hilton and what do you love most about it?
McCardell: “I am a Director on the Lifestyle and New Brands Team. In this role, I am focused on developing and launching Tempo by Hilton, our new approachable Lifestyle brand, as well as driving the performance, guest experience, and growth of our other Lifestyle brands – Canopy by Hilton and Motto by Hilton. I am biased, but I think I’m on the coolest team at Hilton – we’re an incubator for design-driven, experiential, and aspirational Lifestyle brands. I love my role because I have a hand in all aspects of the brands, from consumer research, design, and food and beverage to wellness, partnerships, and Team Member culture.”
Hilton: Why are Millennials an important generation to focus on – not only from a Team Member perspective but also from the consumer?
McCardell: “As the largest generation in U.S. history, Millennials are a vital cohort for Hilton to focus on, particularly for the Lifestyle brands. Millennials are now entering their prime spending and working years, and in general, they travel more frequently than other generations. This makes them a high priority and high potential segment of both business and leisure travelers – they are the next generation of Honors members. They place a high value on experiences over things, have a larger focus on wellness, are more socially and environmentally conscious, and are the first true digitally native generation. As a result, my team is strategically focused on ensuring we have the right brand experiences, brand personalities, partnerships, marketing strategies, and locations to fit this segment’s lifestyles and needs – whether traveling solo for business, or with friends or family for a vacation.”
Hilton: How are Millennials at Hilton influencing business decisions and design?
McCardell: “Millennials at Hilton play a strong role in influencing business decisions and design. We are – of course – embedded throughout every department, but beyond that, we are Hilton customers. As we’re building new brands, we often look to the millennials at Hilton for their opinions because they are future potential guests. One of my favorite examples was in 2017, when we were developing Motto by Hilton, our urban micro-hotel lifestyle brand. We built out mock full-size cardboard rooms at the McLean office. We spent an afternoon with the Millennial Team Member Resource Group touring them through the space to get their feedback and thoughts on the design – how they would use the various zones, where they would put their luggage, etc. It was essentially a mini-focus group, that we then repeated later with additional consumers. We also discussed the idea of connecting rooms with them – the ability to book multiple rooms in a row – when traveling in a group. It’s exciting to see that we recently launched this industry-pioneering functionality across the full Hilton enterprise.”
Hilton: As a brand strategist, what’s the most exciting part about working for Hilton?
McCardell: “As a brand strategist, I love working at Hilton because I know I am making an impact. The brands I’ve helped build will (ultimately) welcome hundreds of thousands of guests, create jobs for thousands of Team Members, drive value for our owners, and contribute to the growth of local communities. I smile thinking about the great memories our guests will have on property – they could be celebrating an engagement, promotion, wedding, birthday, or a fun night with friends. This motivates me to continuously think and innovate…how else can we improve and differentiate the guest experience…how can we make our Team Members’ jobs easier…how else can we drive value for our owners?”
Hilton: In your opinion, why is Hilton a Great Place To Work for Millennials?
McCardell: “Hilton is a phenomenal place to work for millennials for many reasons – the top three for me being our culture, professional development opportunities, and of course travel perks!
Hilton is a world-class hospitality company and that is also felt within our culture. I feel incredibly lucky to be on my team – my leaders are phenomenal, flexible, and empowering. I feel valued and supported, and they care about me as a person, not just as an employee. At age 30, I never would have thought I’d have a hand in building two Hilton brands from the ground up. From identifying new market opportunities and presenting to the Executive Committee to pitching to 75+ potential owners and planning a 200+ attendee launch event, I have had so many incredible opportunities over the past four years. I have also had the opportunity to travel extensively and meet tons of people at various industry conferences, ownership meetings, and site and research visits. While there are too many to list, some of my favorite work trips have been to Paris, New Orleans, Orlando, Las Vegas, LA, and Phoenix. I cherish these memories and can’t wait for future travel opportunities as a part of #TeamHilton!”