Bed, board and breakfast: HR at Hilton Hotels

by 30 Nov 2011

Rapid growth challenges

Hilton is undergoing rapid growth in the Asia-Pacific region. China especially is booming: there are plans to open 122 additional Hilton hotels in China by the end of 2014; such growth requires significant input from HR.

Todd, who is a key business partner for the Hilton Australasian regional team, reports directly to the vice president of HR based in Singapore. Todd works closely with an HR admin assistant across the 12 Hilton hotels in Australasia, each of which has their own HRD, training manager and other HR support roles for recruitment, development, etc.

To support the growth strategy, the HR focus is on identification and growth of talent. Todd engages the GMs and HRDs of each business on a monthly basis (previously these conferences would occur quarterly or biannually) to discuss people issues: identifying talent and the skills gaps to grow talent – whether through internal cross-training, L&D activities, or short-term secondments. “The number of people required just to fill the roles in China over the next 2-3 years is huge,” says Todd. “122 GMs, 122 HRDs, and it cascades down. What we’re also doing is strategically partnering with hotel schools throughout the Asia-Pacific region – something we’ve not done previously – and arranging specific Hilton exclusive classes in some of those universities.”

While Hilton has one of the world’s most recognised brands – Todd says nine out of 10 people globally have heard of or stayed at a Hilton Hotel – the Asia-Pacific boom means the company needs to attract a high volume of hospitality professionals to help with the expansion plans. Todd says the company has been “very humble” in selling its uniqueness to external candidates in the past because the HR function has been so well equipped for developing people within the company up to senior ranks; it has therefore had limited need to go to the external market for talent.

“If you look on any recruitment sites or trade journals it’s rare you’ll see a Hilton management position,” he says. “Our challenge is now going more to market in regards to our brand and what’s available at Hilton. From my perspective, prior to joining, I really didn’t know much about Hilton. I’d worked in hospitality for almost 20 years and worked with most of the big players, and Hilton wasn’t one I’d considered. I didn’t know anything about them, but that’s based solely on the stability of the internal mechanisms to grow talent.”

 A new Hilton Worldwide careers site is also playing an attraction role and will form the centrepiece in Todd’s mandate to shift the focus from internal recruitment processes to external recruitment processes. He will be steering the implementation of a new candidate management system across Australasia – a key part of what Todd refers to as “streamlining the process”. “In terms of where HR is heading, this is important. From the hospitality perspective, HR has traditionally been a very administration based process. Now it’s about systemising a lot of that, particularly for recruitment and onboarding.

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