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How Hilton is enabling flexible work for frontline employees

October 20, 2022, 12:01 PM UTC
Hotel front desk employee
Hilton is offering more of its frontline workers the autonomy to choose where they work.

Good morning!

Corporate employees aren’t the only ones who crave flexible work arrangements. Frontline workers want them, too. 

At Hilton, offering frontline and hourly workers flexibility is a cornerstone strategy to attract and retain talent, particularly as travel soars post-pandemic, says the hotel chain’s CHRO, Laura Fuentes.

Creating a flexible work model is relatively simple for knowledge workers: give them a laptop, an ergonomic chair, and send them on their way. It’s much trickier for frontline workers who must be physically present to perform their jobs. 

“Flexibility before was what we talked about for corporate workers,” says Fuentes. “We need to now really address this for hourly workers. We’re working to crack the code on what this means as far as where our team members work.”

Hilton’s solution is to provide more mobility opportunities and allow employees to work at multiple hotel properties. Fuentes’s strategy mirrors the gig work economy. Employees have the autonomy to choose where they want to work, when they want to work, and pick up shifts. 

“If you’re served in a hotel today by someone in one of our restaurants, we would like for that same team member to be able to say, ‘This afternoon, I want to work at the Disney location because that gives me two different properties that I can learn from,’” she says. Alternatively, “‘In the winter, I’d like to work in California.’” 

Dan Schawbel, managing partner of HR research and advisory firm Workplace Intelligence, says the move to allow employees to work in various places speaks to a larger trend of young talent seeking jobs that don’t tie them down to one location. 

“There’s this big trend of the nomadic life of workers wanting to work in different cities, states, and countries. And there’s a larger trend of not just companies competing against companies for talent, or industries competing with industries for talent, but countries competing with countries for talent,” he says.

Schawbel, who researches workplace trends and flexibility among frontline workers, points to Spain’s new digital nomad visa as an example. Portugal also announced earlier this month that it was launching a digital nomad visa. 

Still, Schawbel says the main type of flexibility that hourly workers want—and employers are more willing to give—is schedule flexibility. 

“Companies are trying to figure out the value proposition to be able to attract and retain hourly workers because of low supply and high demand for those jobs,” he says.

Amber Burton

Reporter's Notebook

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Rachel Korberg, executive director of the Families and Workers Fund, on what surprised her most about her research on job quality:

“One of the most surprising things is that feeling a sense of purpose and belonging at work and feeling respect at work matters to every employee, from the lowest compensated in our economy to the highest. I think sometimes we assume that if someone is making the minimum wage, what matters to them only is making more money, not also being respected on the job or being heard by their employer. But that's really not the case. It's as important to those frontline workers as it is to people in the highest-paid jobs.”

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- Illinois will vote on an amendment to the state constitution that would guarantee employees a right to collectively bargain. AP

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Everything you need to know from Fortune

Bye bye perky. Companies like Goldman Sachs, Google, and Salesforce are tightening their belts and ending pandemic-era employee perks like free meals and monthly wellness days. —Paige McGlauflin

Boardroom double duty. A small cadre of 746 people sit on more than one Fortune 500 board. Their diversity numbers are less than ideal. —Lila Maclellan

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