Q&A -- Nancy Vu, Manager of Field Employment & Recruiting Hilton Hotels
Vault: I understand that this is a new, or relaunched, management training program. Tell me about the genesis of the program.
Vu: We started in 1999, when Hilton Hotels Corporation acquired Promus Hotels Company, we acquired four new hotel brands -- Doubletree, Embassy Suites Hotels, Hampton and Homewood Suites by Hilton -- and thousands of additional team members. Prior to the acquisition, we had a management development program called the HPDP [Hilton Professional Development Program] in place. After the merger we reviewed the program and realized that it really catered to just the Hilton brand, so we had to implement a new program that worked with all of the brands.
Vault: How long was HPDP around?
Vu: Since about 1988. We have directors and VP who came through that program and are still with us.
Vault: So what's new about this program?
Vu: What we've done is taken a look at that old program, and looked at how we can revamp it so we can tie together the various properties, so that if someone's a trainee at a Hilton or a Doubletree, they could eventually become a manager at a Doubletree or any other brand.
Vault: How does the program work?
Vu: It's a six- to eight-month program. We have six different tracks: Sales, Food & Beverage, Revenue Management, Front Office, Housekeeping, and Human Resources. Each trainee is assigned to a training hotel -- and this hotel could be a Doubletree, a Hilton or an Embassy. The first three to four months is general rotation in the hotel. A new team member goes through 11 or 12 different areas of the hotel -- every major department is covered including property operations, finance, human resources, engineering, banquets and others.
Vault: What happens after that initial period of rotations?
Vu: The last three to four months, they spend in their area of specialization in the same hotel. After that, they are placed in an entry-level management position. So if you're on the sales track, you'll be a sales manager.
Vault: Do the employees stay with the hotel they were at?
Vu: More than likely they'll end up staying in their training hotel, but if not, they'll stay in their region. [Hilton has six geographic regions: Northeast, Southeast, Central, West, Hawaii and Focus Service & International.]
Vault: How do you place the trainees?
Vu: The SVP of Operations looks for areas of need in hotels, and then we try to find a win-win situation, where the hotel need matches with the candidate's area of interest. For example, the Hilton New York has a revenue management trainee and a front office trainee this year. So again, using the Hilton New York example we looked for students specifically interested in the Northeast, and specifically interested in sales or front office. We don't want to put them in a track where they don't want to be.
Vault: What are the requirements for the program?
Vu: You have to have a minimum 2.8 GPA and you have to be enrolled in the hotel program at your college or university. We recruited at 16 schools this past year.
Vault: Why do you have the trainees go through the initial rotation period?
Vu: If you're going to become a general manager one day you're going to have to understand all the different departments and functions. The more well rounded you are in understanding all of operations, the better you're going to be as a general manager or any executive level position. We want them to understand how each department links to one another.
Our front office people stay in very close contact with sales, our sales stay in very close contact with revenue management. There's so much interaction within each of the departments -- engineering/maintenance are in close contact with housekeeping, because they are the team members who are actually in contact with our customers. We want our trainees to get their feet wet in all these areas. That way they have a better understanding of what goes on in the rest of the hotel.
That said, not everybody [that goes through the program] wants to become a general manager. Some students go through this training program find they love working in other aspects of the hotel. For example, someone who has an affinity for the front office could start as a Director of Front Office at a 200-room hotel and work their way up to Director of Front Office at a 1,200-room hotel.
Vault: Is there an orientation that starts the program?
Vu: We held a kick-off meeting in mid-June with all of the trainees where they had an opportunity to meet with each other and start building a network that will serve as a support group while they're in the program. Also, there are many executive committee members at corporate headquarters that attended the meeting and offered support and advice.
Vault: Is there any classroom training as part of the program?
Vu: We conducted a few training courses during the orientation. Within the program itself, in addition to whatever training they have on the job, they are required to attend or participate in specific training courses.
Vault: What sort of courses are these?
Vu: There are diversity training programs, safety training and others. We have those training requirements for any manager that joins Hilton. And if we're grooming people in this program to be managers, then it's our expectation that they're going to take these training courses during their training. Also, as part of the program, they're required to do a project. They thought they were done with projects after graduating, but no.
Vault: What sort of projects do they work on?
Vu: It's determined by what department they work in. For example, in Sales, maybe they'd be asked to participate in a sales blitz, a promotion where you're improving the hotel's visibility among all your clients or potential clients. For Food and Beverage it could be creating a brand new menu item for the restaurant.