Hilton drives a flexibility mindset through ‘It’s Okay’ campaign

Being a 24x7 operational sector, it is a challenge for the hospitality sector to drive flexibility, but Hilton is determined to do it


The mindset of employees has undergone immense change post the pandemic. With so many organisations forced to embrace work-from-home, people have come to realise that it is not difficult to achieve flexibility.

In the hospitality sector, however, flexibility remains a challenge. After all, most of the roles across hotels are customer facing. Therefore, physical presence at the site is necessary to carry out the job.

“The hospitality sector is known to be strict, especially with regard to timings and other things. Moreover, given the nature of the work and our industry, allowing flexibility remains a challenge,” says Sabu Raghavan, VP-HR, India, Hilton.

In spite of such challenges, Hilton is desirous of driving a culture that promotes more flexibility at the workplace. Talking to HRKatha, Raghavan shares that flexibility cannot be defined by the nature of work alone. One needs to first accept flexibility. “As employers and leaders, we need to be flexible about flexibility,” states Raghavan.

“The hospitality sector is known to be strict, especially with regard to timings and other things. Moreover, given the nature of the work and our industry, allowing flexibility remains a challenge.”

Sabu Raghavan, VP-HR, India, Hilton

Recently, Hilton has initiated a campaign called ‘IT’S OK.’  This campaign highlights the human side of the Hilton brand, revealing the Company’s desire to promote flexibility in its culture. Through this new campaign, running internally and on social media, Hilton wants to convey to its employees that:

–        It’s Ok, if you decide to put your loved ones and family first. The Company cares about you and your family.

–        It’s Okay, to have a life outside of work. The Company respects your personal hobbies and interests beyond work.

–        It’s Okay to have interests and passions other than just the job. The Company encourages you to pursue your interests and hobbies.

As per Raghavan, Hilton wants to drive a workplace culture that is ready to offer flexibility to employees in terms of work timings, short breaks in between work, or planning a leave at the last moment to fulfil family commitments or taking a day off.

With the hospitality industry operational 24×7, people wonder how it is even possible to allow people flexibility.

“It is about truly looking for the opportunities to give flexibility to employees if one wants,” explains Raghavan. While he does admit that it is impossible to give complete flexibility to employees in every department of a hotel, it all about one’s perspective.

He cites the example of the restaurant staff in the hotel, including waiters, who can be given some flexibility. In the mornings, a restaurant generally needs only a few people to prepare the tables and set up the facility for the day. During these morning hours, when there is no rush, some staff can be given the flexibility to come a little late to work.

It is a known fact that restaurants require the full staff strength on weekends, while the weekdays are generally not that heavy. People can be given the flexibility to take a day off on a Tuesday or a Monday if they wish.

Even when it comes to the room-service staff, some amount of flexibility can be allowed on days that the volume of guests is low. After all, room occupancy cannot be full at all times. There will be lean days when the room-service staff can be allowed some flexibility.

“Some departments cannot be singled out when it comes to allowing flexibility. The managers need to look for opportunities where they can allow flexibility,” asserts Raghavan.

Hilton is continuously sensitising its staff, managers and leaders to promote flexibility at the workplace by organising workshops at various properties.

Driving a flexibility mindset is not new for Hilton. It is just that the brand wishes to enhance this aspect of its work culture.

Raghavan shares that before the pandemic, the Company had decided to embrace a five-day work week for its staff at some properties in India. He admits that they did not succeed in 100 per cent implementation, the positive thing is that the management had the intent to drive this change.

As for every company in the hospitality sector, retaining talent is a huge challenge for Hilton, which is facing a talent crunch. This move to drive flexibility is the need of the hour, as per Raghavan. It is expected to help Hilton retain its best talent and also attract talent from different sectors.

“Times are changing. If you do not change with time, one day time will change you,” concludes Raghavan wisely, stressing upon the need to drive flexibility in the hospitality sector.

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