December 8, 2022
Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Hilton
President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, Senior Vice President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
The onset of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 led to significant disruptions in America’s workforce, the effects of which can still be felt nearly three years later. During “The Great Resignation” of 2021, over 47 million employees left their jobs, with many citing a desire for better work-life balance and a strong company culture.
As United States businesses grapple with the ongoing worker shortage crisis, businesses continue to seek out top talent from a limited labor pool. During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Talent Forward: The Future of Talent event, Laura Fuentes, Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer of Hilton, shared insights on the company’s approach to talent management.
A Values-Led Approach Transcends Any Crisis
The hospitality industry was particularly hard-hit by the pandemic, with many companies suspending operations and laying off or furloughing workers. Yet despite the logistics and stressors of the crisis, Hilton used the period to lean into its values.
“There’s a saying that goes, ‘Crisis doesn’t build character; it reveals it,’” she shared. “For us, this was a moment … not to take a pass because things [were] really hard, but [to] lead with our values more than ever.”
For Hilton, this meant donating room nights to first responders, as well as working to place laid-off employees at other companies that were in a hiring surge.
“That values-led approach transcends any crisis and continues to define our talent strategy,” Fuentes added.
Optimizing the Recruitment Process Helps Attract and Retain Employees
With pandemic restrictions largely eased across the United States, companies have returned their focus to attracting and retaining top talent. Fuentes says Hilton has found success by optimizing every step of the recruitment process — starting with speeding up time-to-hire.
“Many times, candidates have multiple offers [and] need to make decisions quickly,” explained Fuentes. “So we’ve scaled things like same-day career fairs, where we put people through interviews on-site, give them an offer at the end, and have them start the next day.”
Fuentes also recommends companies open up their talent pools to not only include those actively seeking a career in the industry, but also those with nontraditional backgrounds or traditionally underserved populations.
Once a new hire enters the company, a positive onboarding experience can help them feel supported and prepared in their role and within the company, making them more likely to stay.
“We are … going beyond the first day, the first hours — what does the first 90-day period look like? For our hourly team members, this is when we see the highest points of turnover,” Fuentes said. “We want to make sure … [employees] learn the skills to do their jobs well, but more importantly, they become part of the culture.”
Talent Management Serves a Higher Purpose
Bringing in and retaining employees is more than just a business imperative — it can also serve a higher purpose, according to Fuentes.
“Driving purpose, inclusion, and a sense of belonging is what motivates all of us [at Hilton] because we are here to help make [our employees’] dreams come true,” she emphasized. “When that occurs, they contribute back to their communities; they build the next generation of dreamers, of leaders, of business contributors.”
Fuentes added that even small actions, like offering flexible scheduling and pay access, can make a significant difference in helping employees reach their fullest potential inside and outside of work.
“I’m motivated by the purpose that connects us, and ultimately the impact of making people’s lives better,” she shared. “It’s a really extraordinary responsibility that I’m privileged to be a part of.”
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