A Business Case for Diversity and Inclusion

Building diversity is more about nurturing ideas than it is about meeting quotas. The fact is, we live in an increasingly global industry that’s dependent on new ways of thinking to remain successful. Just ask Hilton.

With 300,000 team members in 4,000 owned and franchised hotel properties across 90 countries, speaking 40 languages, Hilton is a veritable melting pot. While many companies turned their attention away from diversity initiatives during recent economic turbulence, Hilton built up programs that tap into multicultural strategies to better understand a diverse, growing market of travelers and employees.

“Since we’re in the business of making people feel special, of providing guests with exceptional experiences, we strive to leverage all our diversity toward achieving this,” says Michael Ford, Hilton’s VP of global diversity and inclusion. “Diversity and a work environment of inclusiveness drive innovation and that’s key to performance, to being competitive.”


(Learn more about diversity and inclusion by attending the Lodging HR and Diversity Summit, Oct. 29-30 at the Georgetown Hotel and Convention Center in Washington, D.C.)

As globalization spreads and a large multicultural, domestic consumer base continues to grow, diversity and inclusion practices draw nearer to the forefront of business consciousness. By 2020, the population of women (which spent $307.5 billion as a group in 2010) is expected to increase by 9.9 percent, the LGBT population (which spent $63 billion) by 10 percent, African Americans (who spent $48.6 billion) by 13.8 percent, Asian Americans (who spent $62.2 billion) by 31.1 percent, and Hispanics (who spent $70.9 billion) by 33.5 percent, according to the U.S. Travel Association, as reported by AH&LA.

These growing populations are becoming both the face of a hotel’s future guests and its employment base. For an industry in the business of making outsiders feel welcomed and valued, keeping up with the changing populace is crucial.

Hilton uses a global strategy on a local level—the company’s edict is to hire from within the communities where hotel properties are located and where they do business. That’s not only integral to Hilton’s effort to build strong local talent and supplier pipelines but also plays an important part in invigorating local economies. Ford says new team members should be able to fit within a diverse culture, since a pro-inclusive environment helps break down inhibitions.

To this end, Hilton has launched a new cross-cultural knowledge management information center called “Culture Wise” within Hilton Worldwide University, the company’s knowledge bank of 2,500 courses delivered through webinars, e-Books, and classroom training that enhance the career development and business savvy of employees, relative to Hilton’s core values. “Team members can access information on a number of countries where we have a significant presence or a robust development pipeline, including China, Russia, Turkey, and India, as well as the U.K. and U.S.,” says Ford.

To target audiences both inside and outside the corporation, Hilton uses team member resource groups (TMRGs). The focuses include women, African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, Asians/Pacific Islanders, LGBTs, and veterans. There are currently four chapters for each group, headquartered at the company’s corporate centers. “Hilton looks to these groups as a strategic resource,” says Louise Nelson, SVP, assistant general council governance and compliance. “They are critical to leveraging unique insights with respect to markets.

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