Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 46 seconds

Blue collar workers efforts' are often ignored, even though they're on the front lines, ensuring companies can function everyday. However, some companies are now saying to those workers 'we hear you.'
Hilton markets itself as the “most hospitable company in the world” for its guests. The hotel chain notes that same branding applies to it own blue collar, or service staff, who handle everything from maintenance, food preparation and landscaping, notes the Society For Human Resource Management

One of its initiatives, Heart of House, involves sprucing up common areas, such as cafeterias and locker rooms used by its employees with new lighting and paint. Hilton also added dedicated Wi-FI for workers and reduced pricing on rooms for workers, their friends and family.

Hilton is part of a growing number of large companies, including competing hotel chain Hyatt, and fast-food giant McDonald’s, where top executives are offering blue collar workers benefits outside of the standard 401(k), vacation and health insurance. 

“It’s pretty basic,” says Matthew W. Schuyler, Hilton’s chief human resources officer. “We view our team members as part of our family, and how we treat them matters not only because it will lead them to treating our guests better, but also because you treat your family with respect. To deliver the best service you have to have the best people, and to have the best people you have to have the best environment.” Schuyler is quoted in the SHRM article. 

Keeping employees happy is essential for a hospitality industry that is having a tough time luring qualified recruits. Companies also are cognizant of how negative employee reviews on social media and sites such as Glassdoor, Fairygodboss and kununu, can further damage their recruitment efforts.

Overall, under its Thrive@Hilton plan, the chain has fixed up employee common areas at 500 of its properties with the goal of growing that to thousands. The company has 5,300 hotels globally. 

Hilton’s focus on blue collar workers has helped attract better candidates and cut turnover, Schuyler said. A 6% decrease in turnover last year translated to about $30 million in savings for Hilton. For Millennials working in the U.S. for the hotel, turnover dropped 13% last year. 

Improvements to staff areas can run as high as $100,000 at older hotels. That's because the updates range from simple paint jobs and installing new lights to more complicated renovations of cafeterias and locker rooms, Quartz at Work reports. Hilton has also improved benefits for salaried and hourly workers by expanding parental leave, with up to 10 weeks for new moms and two weeks for new dads.

“Our mission is to be the most hospitable company in the world, and you can’t do that without great people, and you can’t get great people without being a great workplace,” Schuyler told Quartz at Work. “We can’t have a dungeonous back of house and expect people to have a great workplace.”

McDonalds, of its part, has set aside $150 million for the next five year for an employee education program, SHRM reports. Archways to Opportunity debuted in 2015 and has so far granted more than $21 million for tuition assistance with high school and college.

“By tripling tuition assistance, adding education benefits for family members and lowering eligibility requirements to the equivalent of a summer job, we are sending a signal that if you come work at your local McDonald’s, we’ll invest in your future,” says David Fairhurst, chief people officer. 

Hyatt is also making improvements. It has revamped its check-in process. It used to take a 143 key strokes to register guests. Now it takes only three on iPads, Quartz previously reported. This gives staff more time to personally connect with guests, including taking them to their rooms. 

“From a hotel efficiency perspective, it reduces friction in a place where there’s lots of turnover,” CEO Mark Hoplamazian told Quartz.

Christy Sinnott, senior vice president of Talent Management, noted how difficult it became for front desk staff to even maintain eye contact as the check-in process took long. Sinnott, who started her career at Hyatt as a front desk clerk, remarked how the improvement to check-ins was aimed at making it easier for service staff.

“There’s always been a challenge for the front desk, in balancing data entry and processes and procedures, and engaging with a guest and understanding what’s important to them,” Sinnott said. The guest “will stand there, and someone is not even looking at you, and key strokes are driving the interaction.”

Last modified on Thursday, 16 August 2018
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