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Hilton Hopes To Retain Employees With Education Program

At a time when it's especially difficult and expensive to find and keep employees across various industries, executives at hotel brand company Hilton are leaning on education as a path to easing the labor crunch.

Speaking with Hotel News Now, Gretchen Stroud, senior vice president of talent and inclusion at Hilton, said she's hopeful a new continuing education program will make a difference for the company's employees beginning this spring.

In January, Hilton announced the program with Guild Education, which the company bills as the first of its kind in the hotel industry. The program promises to offer "a robust variety of learning offerings, debt-free for all team members."

The company states that the program offers "everything from high school completion, English-language learning, digital literacy, professional certifications in high-demand career areas such as culinary, business, data analytics and technology, and college degrees."

"When we launch this spring, team members can just call Guild directly and engage with an educational coach and say, 'I'm interested in pursuing' whatever it is and their coach will work with them," Stroud said.

She said the program will offer a clear path for career advancement at all levels of staffing.

"For example, we have about 5,000 team members in the U.S. without a high school diploma that come to us to start their careers and then want to continue to build their education and their careers with us over time," she said.

That is an important piece to developing a career path at a company like Hilton, which doesn't require college degrees for "many roles" but does require at least a high school diploma for management positions, Stroud said.

Hilton Hopes To Retain Employees With Education Program

"That's where we started this journey because we knew how critical that was to creating those career paths, but then we learned over time we needed [a partner like Guild Education] who could really work with us to provide a full suite of options — so professional certifications in culinary or technology, associates degrees, bachelor's degrees, in addition to the high school completion and English as a second language," she said.

The program offers more than 2,200 courses via universities across the U.S.

"We definitely know we have a lot of careers in the industry that we need to continue to build the pipeline for, and what better way to build that pipeline than helping our own existing team members continue to grow into those roles, whether that's general manager or executive chef or something on the corporate side they may be interested in," Stroud said.

"It's absolutely a recruitment marketing strategy, as well. Because in the war for talent that we're all seeing right now, this is a benefit we're starting to see in a lot of different industries."

She said those two factors will be metrics of success for the program, along with "increased applicant flow through career sites [and a] reduction in turnover for team members" engaging in the program. But she believes there will also be less formal measures of success.

"On a more personal team-member-by-team-member level — and it's harder to measure with one fancy giant metric — but it's people really meaningfully engaging in advancing their educational goals," Stroud said.

In addition to making sense in terms of return on investment, there's a basic altruistic benefit to the program.

"Yes, this is something that we're trying to do to make sure that we develop and retain our workforce, but fundamentally it is something that we just believe in because it is right on a deeply human level," she said.

Stroud said getting the message out on career development programs that the hospitality industry offers will be a big part of addressing labor issues.

"This has been a hard industry to work in the last couple of years, so I think people are questioning meaning — 'What do I want to do with my life? I have this one precious short amount of time on this Earth,'" she said. "Ultimately, this will smooth out because the industry itself has so much to offer people coming into hospitality."

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