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How Hilton Increased Women Representation in its Leadership Pipelines

Hilton catapulted into the DiversityInc Top 10 for the first time in 2018, moving up an impressive 20 spots from No. 30 in 2017. The company was on the DiversityInc Noteworthy list in 2014. How did Hilton make that kind of progress in just four years? A big reason was its focus on developing, preparing and moving women into its executive pipeline. Six of nine people promoted into one level below the CEO and direct reports in 2017 were women. Promotions for women into two levels below the CEO and his direct reports increased by 57 percent from 2016.

The progress was driven by CEO Chris Nassetta and his direct reports. Below chronicles their journey—a journey of engagement, accountability and execution.

Read more about Chris Nassetta: Hilton President & CEO: Resource Groups, Customer Service Keys to Our Success

Laying the Foundation

When Hilton first stood up its executive diversity council (EDC) some years ago, it went from talking the talk about the importance of diversity and inclusion (D&I) to walking the walk. The EDC involved Hilton’s highest levels of management, including the Executive Committee (EC) and the company’s board of directors. With engagement from the EC and help from the board, the council set standards on how it would communicate D&I, establish goals, monitor, measure and reward for progress.

Matt Schuyler, Chief Human Resources Officer, says that accountability was very important to the company in managing D&I successfully. It was so important, the company decided to measure it in two ways:

  • Leadership Index: Annually, as part of their Team Member survey, Hilton Team Members rate their leaders across a variety of dimensions, such as how inclusive of an environment they create, how they talk about diversity and equality and how they show up in the D&I space. Combined, these questions create a Leadership Index score for each leader, and ten percent of a leader’s bonus is tied to this index.
  • Talent Management: In addition to leadership index, Hilton established aggressive goals around talent management, including succession and various measures of diversity including ethnic, gender, veterans, disability, sexual orientation, etc.

The Human Resources department enforces this by measuring talent results and analyzing if progress was made. Schuyler added, “We set bold goals and hold our leaders accountable through specific measurements.”

Read more about Matt Schuyler: Baseball Strike, Tech Turmoil, Financial Collapse: Lessons in Diversity of Thinking

Bold Strategy, Goals, Implementation and Execution

One of those bold goals was to significantly increase women representation in its senior leadership pipelines. To do so, Hilton implemented a two-pronged strategy, approaching the opportunity from both bottom-up and top-down perspectives.

For the bottom-up approach, Hilton’s Women Team Member Resource Group (TMRG) was the catalyst for awareness and substantial insight that drove action around attraction, recruitment, hiring, development and retention of women. Schuyler attested that this was the company’s preference, saying “The efforts were grassroots; we wanted it to be that way, to empower our female leaders and to ensure it was representative of all pockets around the company.”

These efforts gave way to the company’s top-down approach. In 2012, Hilton started the Executive Committee Networking Program to elevate its mentorship, sponsorship, and networking. Laura Fuentes, SVP, Total Rewards, People Analytics & Global D&I explained, “We were very careful in how we selected participants. We wanted to enable relationships where they may not naturally occur, and we focused first on women exclusively.” The EC, including Nassetta and Schuyler, paired with two mentees each. The objective was for EC members to get to know these individuals better and support their growth.

The matchmaking served as a catalyst for a lot of movement around the company. Women who otherwise would not have had an opportunity to network with certain leaders, had the opportunity to do so. Schuyler noted, “Leaders would say, ‘you know what, I know of a great opportunity for you.’ And they looked to see if they had a match, and if the mentee was interested, they were connected to the appropriate business unit or department.”

One of Schuyler’s mentees was promoted to Vice President within Human Resources, but came from an IT background. “I got to know her through the program, realized she had an interest in HR. This connection helped – we worked to support her on that journey. For us, it was a testament that great talent can move quickly in our organization,” said Schuyler.

Capitalizing on Momentum

The success of the program further engaged the EC. “When we all share talent and share the development of that talent, that brings a different level of collaboration between the EC members,” Fuentes said. Hilton expanded the program given its success. The EC members were so engaged, they welcomed doubling the number of mentees for each of them to four.

Hilton also capitalized on the opportunity by integrating its Executive Development Program (EDP) with the Executive Committee Networking Program. As part of the program, the company had 20 people mentored by the EC and various leaders. Fuentes explained, “We expanded the scope to broaden that impact. We believe some of the responsibility should be below the EC as well. This allows us to extend our support to new populations that are hungry for that leadership.”

Jon Muñoz, Vice President, Global Diversity and Inclusion added, “The EC members are also sponsors of the TMRGs so that is another layer of leadership where they are providing guidance. The TMRG chairs and co-chairs are provided these stretch opportunities to grow and develop leadership skills.”

Hilton also took a new approach with expanded mentor/mentee pairing by asking the mentees who they wanted to be paired with, instead of choosing for them. The mentees gave their top three choices and the company did its best to match them. The company wanted more cross-pollination and did not want to fall victim to its own biases of who might be a great fit for someone else. The company got interesting match ups and found the best people leaders were the ones that people wanted to have as mentors.

In addition to delivering higher promotion rates for women, better connectivity and two-way learning, Fuentes explained that the Executive Committee Networking Program continues to build great leaders that then cascade and spread the wealth. “Those leaders that are EC mentored are now rising through the organization and pulling people up with them. And that’s exactly what we were hoping. We’ve really built this into a high ROI investment and we’ll continue to scale.”

Fuentes herself participated in the EC networking program. New to hospitality, Fuentes was mentored by Nassetta (CEO), and the two have worked on a number of business projects, strategies and talent initiatives over that time. “Working with Chris has helped stretch my thinking and connect with other parts of the organization, which has been a great source of learning” Fuentes said.

Hilton is far from done. The company continues to find ways of leveraging engagement of its EC members, talent-development programs and TMRGs to drive talent results. Schuyler summed it up perfectly, “You’re never done. There’s no mission accomplished with respect to inclusiveness. You can always get better and have an even more inclusive work environment. But, you know you’re making progress when D&I starts to become part of the fabric of the culture. It’s part of the lexicon of our company and it’s taking root everywhere. That means it’s only going to get better. Our leaders are saying they want half of their sourcing pool to be diverse and the next half of their hires to be diverse. We’re hearing that now without HR having to drive it. That’s good progress.”

More on Hilton:

Best Practices for Moving Women into Senior Leadership Roles 

Mentoring – Keeping New Managers Engaged

Hilton’s Operation: Opportunity Exceeds Veteran Hiring Goal

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