Team Hilton is a mighty crew of nearly 420,000 of the best and brightest talent in hospitality, each with a different background and story. It is no surprise Hilton prioritizes creating a great place to work for all — a place where everyone can bring their best selves to work.
This commitment to an inclusive workforce is one of the reasons Hilton was recently named a 2019 Leading Disability Employer, which honors companies leading the way in disability hiring.
In recognition of National Disabilities Employment Awareness Month, we sat down with Hilton Senior Vice President of Customer Channels, Mike Gathright, the Hilton Leadership Group Advocate for Hilton’s Abilities Team Member Resource Group and a board member of the National Organization on Disability (NOD). In this Q&A, Mike provides insight to the continued evolution of diverse employment on #TeamHilton, how it’s helping shape our guest accessibility and more.
Why is employing people of all abilities important to Hilton?
Mike Gathright: Employing people of various skills and unique abilities should be a priority for organizations everywhere, and I’m so proud Hilton is one of the organizations leading the way. First and foremost, people with disabilities have tremendous talent that is often overlooked. They’re tenacious, they have had to overcome adversity and challenges, they’re inherently innovative — Everything you’d want in an ace Team Member.
Not only that, but at Hilton, we also want to ensure our Team Members represent our guest population. This empowers us to continue to make the guest experience better for everyone. Our Team Members with disabilities bring unique perspective to our business, ensuring we build accessibility into everything we do.
What are some ways our Hilton Team Members are helping shape accessibility and inclusivity?
MG: I’m really proud of the work our digital accessibility team is doing with our websites and mobile apps. In fact, Hilton’s Senior Digital Accessibility Analyst, Steven, is blind and shared some insights in an article for the NOD. He’s on the delivery team, responsible for building Hilton’s new custom call center application. His work on this team is critical as Hilton employs visually impaired call center agents. He’s working to make the application more accessible to help our current Team Members grow and enable us to expand our hiring of people of all abilities, with minimal external accommodations necessary.
Accessibility is also a priority on Hilton’s guest-facing applications. Our Digital Accessibility Team is embedded in our delivery teams to ensure our technology is built to address the varied needs of all our guests, including those with disabilities. Screen reader support, reduced motion preferences and color contrast considerations are just a few focus areas. As Hilton continues to innovate the on-property experience with technologies such as Digital Key and Connected Room, ensuring these features’ accessibility will allow our guests of all abilities to enjoy independence and control over their stay experiences at our properties.
What does it mean to create an environment where Team Members can bring their whole selves to work?
MG: We want to ensure our Team Members don’t feel like they have to leave part of their identity at the door when they come to Hilton. We want everyone, regardless of background, belief, walk of life or experience, to feel included and involved. We want to celebrate the unique and individual aspects of everyone.
What are some other ways Hilton celebrates inclusive employment of people of all abilities?
It’s really a worldwide initiative.
Here are stories from just a few of our properties:
One of our Team Members started an initiative in Russia to hire Team Members with Down Syndrome. She founded UP 21, a project to help young adults develop life skills and obtain permanent employment across a number of Hilton properties in Russia.
In Central America, a General Manger hired several Team Members who are hearing impaired. Guests at first thought the Team Members were ignoring them, when in fact they simply couldn’t hear if guests asked questions. The property owner saw an opportunity to develop “awareness” polos with sign language artwork for Team Members to wear to effectively communicate. The result: Improved communications, greater awareness among guests and increased comfort among Team Members, ultimately empowering them to provide the best hospitality.
Mira, a recent Thrive Sabbatical Winner (Hilton’s annual “give a dream, live a dream” program for Team Members) spent her sabbatical learning sign language to better communicate with her 15-year-old son who is deaf. She gave her son and his classmates a tour of the Conrad Manila, educating them on career opportunities in the hotel industry.
What can you tell us about Hilton’s Abilities Team Member Resource Group (TMRG)?
MG: Our Abilities TMRG is a group of Team Members who voluntarily collaborate to support our company’s goals, promote professional growth through networking and development, and provide insights to the company. They help us consider questions to help improve the business, such as: What should we be doing? What should we be doing better? What should we think differently about?
Our group includes Team Members of all abilities, Team Members who are passionate about accessible employment and inclusivity. We want to continue the conversation about the importance of accessibility, inclusivity and employment of people of all abilities.
I think we’re off to an amazing start.
Hilton has career opportunities for all. Visit jobs.hilton.com for a list of our recent openings.