‘Our team members feel proud to be working in a company that has a sense of purpose’

Recognised as one of the best places to work in India, as an organisation Hilton takes great pride in its work culture. Sabu Raghavan, senior director HR, Human Resources – South East Asia & India, Hilton highlights the ethos of the company’s HR policies and the initiatives for creating an engaging work environment By Sudipta Dev

What defines the work culture of Hilton?

Sabu Raghavan

Our team members are the Heart of Hilton and every day we look for ways to thank them for their hard work, dedication and exceptional service that make our company one of the best places to work within India. Last year, Hilton has also been recognised among ‘India’s Best Companies to Work For 2016’ in the most prestigious workplaces list released by The Economic Times and Great Place to Work Institute. Hilton was also named one of the World’s 25 Best Multinational Workplaces in 2016.

Some of the initiatives taken to build an engaging work environment are as below:

  • Enhance/ improve ‘Heart of House’/ back-of-house team member areas: Better and more efficient work spaces; improved food offerings; and enhanced communications channels.
  • Hilton’s new India Regional Corporate Office in Gurgaon provides an inspiring, high-tech work environment.
  • There are initiatives underway to enhance back-of-house areas across all hotels as well as regional offices.

We also run several regional and hotel-level initiatives across the world as well as in India. These are:

  1. The introduction of flexible work arrangement for team members at the India Regional Office offering flexibility in hours and location of work this year.
  2. Five-day work week: Hilton will redefine work-life balance in the industry by being the first hospitality company in India to undertake this initiative at scale. Programme pilot is underway across most managed hotels.
  3. South East Asia & India F&B Masters: An internal competition that discovers and celebrates the extraordinary F&B talent at our portfolio of hotels across South East Asia and India. The objective is to identify, reward and develop talent, and the focus is on quality and innovation which translates into better dining experiences for our guests. Over 220 team members from our 12 managed hotels in India participated in the competition held in India in 2015.
  4. South East Asia & India Talent Show: An internal competition that celebrates the exceptional talent that our hotel team members have in singing, dancing and other performing arts across the region.
  5. Breakfast with the GM (general manager): To foster an environment that is conducive for greater engagement and accountability, several hotels have organised this initiative. For instance, about 20 team members across departments meet Parag Sawhney, GM, Hilton Bangalore Embassy GolfLinks, each week for breakfast. During these sessions, feedback from the team is recorded and any necessary action is taken within 24 hours.
  6. Fun Fridays: To celebrate the Heart of Hilton highlighting team members’ successes besides sharing business updates. This has been adopted by several hotels across India, including Hilton Chennai and Hilton Bangalore Embassy GolfLinks.
  7. Team Member Appreciation Week, a global initiative, is a unique and special way in which we celebrate and appreciate our team members and express our gratitude. During this week, thousands of appreciation events took place across Hilton, including Hilton’s birthday celebrations, team-building events, decorating projects, creative and delicious treat parties and more.
  8. In addition, Hilton also offers great awards such as the CEO Light & Warmth Award, which is the company’s highest form of team member recognition. This prestigious award spotlights select individuals who consistently go beyond expectations and embody our shared values. The Spirit Award is our individual brands’ highest level of team member recognition, rewarding those who go above and beyond to personify the respective brand’s values and culture.

Do you have a focused HR strategy for every local market?

We are committed to investing in developing our talent, thereby raising standards across region in order to stay true to our purpose. By creating meaningful opportunities for our team members who are truly the Heart of Hilton, we will attract, develop and retain the best-in-class people to deliver exceptional heartfelt experiences for our guests.

What kind of continuous training do you encourage in the organisation at various levels?

Comprehensive orientation for new joiners and continual training of the current team members are critical to making sure that they are well equipped for success in their roles. Therefore, in addition to courses that are conducted at the hotels, our team members can access our Hilton Worldwide University e-learning portal that collectively offers more than 2,500 courses across five colleges through classroom training, e-learning, webinars and e-books.

To ensure that we continue to attract the best talent in the industry, we have introduced the South East Asia & India Management Trainee Program and South East Asia & India Culinary Management Trainee Program. The management trainees in India will have the opportunity to go on overseas assignments for six months at one of our hotels in South East Asia.  This is probably one of the biggest perks for beginning your career with Hilton!

To support our team members and their careers aspirations to become general managers, we also have Asia Pacific Elevator Program, an accelerated career development programme for team members who are young in their hospitality careers and General Manager Development Program for seasoned directors.

Hilton is also committed to create opportunities for women in our workplace, focusing our efforts on programmes that prepare and develop women’s talents such as the recent South East Asia & India Women in Leadership Conference held in late November 2016 in Sri Lanka; challenge them professionally and enhance their knowledge base in ways that can help their personal and professional development.

What are the key parameters of your career development initiatives?

As discussed in the response above, we want to provide our team members with access to an array of meaningful opportunities so that they can enjoy a great environment, great careers and great rewards while working with Hilton. In addition, we are passionate about raising awareness of the opportunities the hospitality industry offers and we are delighted to be doing this through one of our biggest careers events across the globe. We introduced [email protected] Live: Youth in Hospitality Month in 2014 following our announcement on our Open Doors commitment. Each year in May, we celebrate the [email protected] Live: Youth in Hospitality Month and organise youth events and projects around the world that will help us meet this goal. Last year in India we engaged more than 850 young people through various initiatives by our team members. While Hilton Garden Inn Gurgaon Baani Square held a Summer Internship Program for five students; team members from DoubleTree by Hilton Gurgaon hosted 37 students and interacted with them about career opportunities in the industry and with Hilton. Meanwhile team members from several other hotels spent time with students from local Institutes of Hotel Management discussing their career goals and opportunities in the industry.

What is the greatest source of pride for a Hilton employee?

Through my interactions with team members across the region, I have received great feedback about the sense of pride they have working with Hilton. Our team members feel proud to be working in a company that has a sense of purpose. Guided by our Hilton values, they realise the company’s vision to fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality by being the most hospitable company in the world; creating heartfelt experiences for guests, meaningful opportunities for team members, high value for owners and a positive impact in our communities.


Our team members also feel that they have a voice and are heard; they also feel respected and valued by the leadership of our company. Through our Travel with Purpose Corporate Responsibility Programs, they feel positive about the opportunities they have to make a difference in the places where they work, live and play.

How do you engage your staff in CSR initiatives?

Travel with Purpose, our corporate responsibility strategy, has played an important role in bringing our vision and values to life by uniting our organisation around a set of global issues that connect our business to society – youth opportunity, environmental stewardship and community resiliency. In addition to the various hotel initiatives that our team members are participating in to create a positive impact in the communities that we operate in through the year, we also:

  • Participate in Soap Recycling: Hilton runs the largest soap recycling programme in the industry with more than 900 participating hotels across Hilton’s portfolio. In India, we work with Sundara Fund based in Mumbai to divert soap waste from the landfill and supporting vulnerable people in need. In addition, we recently expanded our recycling programme further by becoming the first in the industry to make recycling of discarded soap and amenity bottles a brand standard for our All Suites brands, adding 750 new hotels to its global soap recycling efforts.
  • Participate in the Global Month of Service, our annual celebration of the community engagement efforts throughout the year. Last year, team members from 93 countries had contributed more than 291,000 volunteer hours to 4,166 community projects around the world. Throughout October, Hilton collaborated with hundreds of organisations across the globe to participate in service projects from outdoor garden classrooms to mentorship programmes to youth workshops.
  • Partner with Room to Read, the global organisation seeking to transform the lives of children in the developing world by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. More specifically we support Room to Read’s initiatives in South and Southeast Asia – this includes the building of 30 libraries and four schools, publication of six original, local language children’s books, and the formalisation of a first-of-its-kind Job Shadowing Program to provide exposure to up to 300 girls on various career opportunities in the hospitality industry. To date, Hilton’s partnership support has impacted over 52,000 young people across Asia.
  • Partner with GOONJ, a non-profit organisation that runs a unique resource mobilisation initiative providing clothes and other basic amenities to millions in remote parts of India. We collect gently-used items from our hotels, team members and guests, and donate these to GOONJ. For instance, in celebrating Diwali in 2015, our hotels in India aligned their effort and dedicated the Global Month of Service to GOONJ by collecting and contributing gently-used items. The involvement of team members, guests and partners was overwhelming with a total collection of over 1,100 pounds of clothes, 1,900 note books, 25,000 sheets of one-side used paper and several other items like stationary, toys and books.
  • In June 2016, Hilton Shillim Estate Retreat & Spa, organised a very successful collection drive with participation from team members from five hotels in the India – Hilton Shillim Estate, Hilton Bangalore Embassy GolfLinks, DoubleTree Suites by Hilton Bangalore, Hilton Chennai, Hilton Garden Inn Gurgaon Baani Square and Conrad Pune. The outcome was exceptional – nearly 650 kilograms of new and gently used items and clothes were donated to GOONJ.

Related posts

People on the move

EF&H Staff-Mumbai

The new benchmark

EF&H Staff-Mumbai

Empowering the North East

EF&H Staff-Mumbai

This website uses cookies to improve your experience. We'll assume you're ok with this, but you can opt-out if you wish. Accept Read More