Although there is notoriously high staff turnover in hospitality companies (industry average is in excess of 39%), at Hilton it’s 28.9%. The reason, Todd says, is due to their efforts in recruiting from those hotel schools to fill part-time and casual roles, and then converting them to full-time.
Crucial to that conversion rate is the focus on learning – a topic that is evidently close to Todd’s heart. Early in his career, as restaurant manager at the Renaissance Hotel Sydney (now Sydney Harbour Marriott), Todd recognised a disconnect between what was being delivered to frontline staff in terms of skills development, and what the reality on the job required. He also found a lot of confusion in any team sent for in-house face-to-face training and their ability to apply the knowledge in the business. He says he became something of a “control freak” during this period, and became heavily involved in training and development. It planted a seed of interest in people management and being able to develop capability in business.
The Hilton Online University contains over 2,000 individual learning programs suitable for positions at all levels of the organisation, and a blended learning approach includes classroom training, mentoring and online. Todd says the learning approach is “very focused”, with new employees required to complete three online courses within their first three months of employment. “The online component is usually followed up by face to face classroom-based learning to share those experiences with others,” he explains. “It’s rigorously audited. We have internal auditors checking that each team member is up to date. It’s just to encourage people to grow with the organisation.”
The importance of the HR function, too, is growing in companies like Hilton as the hospitality sector starts to shift away from viewing HR as administrators or ‘personnel’. “I think now it’s shifting in towards true business partnering,” says Todd. “Moving forward I can see that in companies like Hilton the decisions are based around sound knowledge and information in regards to the capability of people. HR will drive the process heavily in change management and project-based discussions. I think there will be a lot more putting together of ROI and business cases in relation to what we’ll need to invest in order to build the capability of our people.”