MCLEAN, VA—What does it mean to thrive? It’s a personal goal for many who aspire to better their best as they reach beyond the basics of the everyday. The purpose of thriving is to learn, experience growth and then share what you’ve mastered. With this notion in mind, Hilton’s team members are asked one question: “If you could live out a lifelong dream or give one to a person or community in need, what would you do?”
In its third consecutive year, Hilton’s Thrive Sabbatical: Give a Dream, Live a Dream is a program that gives 10 team members four weeks of paid sabbatical time and $5,000 to pursue a passion. The monthlong sabbatical provides team members the opportunity to spend time doing what is most meaningful to them.
“We’ve been on a journey to build an ecosystem of programs and benefits for all of our team members. We wanted to create an umbrella promise that all of our team members could reach their full potential, and we’d be there every step of the way,” said Laura Fuentes, chief talent officer, Hilton. “It’s about evolving the way we work and lead to make time for what matters—the mind, body and spirit.”
Fuentes further explained that in order to ensure team members are thriving, they had to identify and understand the needs and find ways to provide support.
“We needed to create a great environment for them, and make sure workspaces are welcoming and conducive to work, recharging and being productive. It’s about the connection with yourself and other people,” she said.
The impact of the Thrive Sabbatical is evident in the stories of participants, who share their deeply personal experiences. Mira Macud, a single mother and administrative assistant at Conrad Dubai, received the annual sabbatical. She used the four weeks to return to her home country to learn American Sign Language at the Philippine School for the Deaf, allowing her to have a conversation with her 15-year-old son for the first time.
“Before, my son felt very lonely, but now that I know more sign language he has become more expressive and it’s easier for us to understand each other,” said Macud.
In addition, Macud spent her Thrive Sabbatical allowance funding hundreds of meals for volunteers at the school. After building a relationship with the Conrad Manila team, who provided the meals, Macud was offered a position at the hotel.
“My Thrive Sabbatical has changed my life forever,” said Macud, who is now living with her son for the first time since he was four years old. “This is the start of a new chapter in life.”
Fuentes added, “It’s amazing because it’s not only for those on sabbatical. We take great care to amplify and share their stories and spread awareness of what the far-reaching benefits are. They come back rejuvenated with life-changing and world-changing perceptions, realities and behaviors. And, their lives are better, they’re giving back to the world and the world—as a result—is incrementally changed for the better.”
Sharing the sabbatical stories with Hilton’s teams around the world serves as a point of inspiration, enabling team members to lean into their lives and communities, and consider a sabbatical themselves.
“The stories we hear back are sometimes, ‘I always wanted to learn this specific skill directed to the work I do at Hilton, or there’s an unfulfilled dream,” said Fuentes.
Tim Sachse, concierge at Hilton Berlin, rented a wheelchair-accessible RV to take his father through the countryside of Sweden and Norway. “I wanted to show him the places he always wanted to show me… It means a lot to me to be able to do this trip together,” said Sachse.
Bronwyn Hartney, sales manager at Hilton Cobham, trained her client for the 2019 Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi. “Hilton supports whatever your passion may be and pushes you to go above and beyond what you might have done before. It’s really made me think about what I want to achieve,” said Hartney.
Emille Artigas, marketing and PR director at Hilton Doha, organized an underwater dive trip with Project Aware – Dive Against Debris to survey and clean up ocean debris: “I want my children, and my children’s children, to see the world free of pollution,” said Artigas.
It can be quite touching to hear about the experiences and the impact of these moments for the sabbatical recipient and fellow team members.
“It’s so humbling. Every year, they read the stories and I can’t help tearing up or sobbing. We give them a fully paid four-week leave, $5000 cash and a GoPro camera to support them tangibly. For the story they bring back on film, we do compilations and they’re incredibly powerful. We share it back to world,” Fuentes said.
For sabbatical hopefuls, there is a request and review process. Internal teams work with the sabbatical candidate’s GM to find ways to make this opportunity work for the individual.
“For every single request, the GMs have been fully supportive and so proud,” said Fuentes. “Oftentimes, they’re the ones nominating the team members and encouraging them to apply for sabbaticals. We do give flexibility and support. They have a full year to take it.”
Hilton continues to receive recognition for its workplace culture. This year, the brand was named as one of the World’s Best Workplaces by Fortune magazine and Great Place to Work.
“We have been on this journey. We listen to our team members, ask for feedback, benchmark progress and create partnerships,” said Fuentes. “As part of an expansion of our Thrive Global platform, we have a new and enhanced parental leave. Hilton increased parental leave by two weeks, providing birth mothers with 12 weeks of paid time off, and fathers and adoptive parents with four weeks of paid time off. Expecting and returning parents will also have access to a new Parents Concierge benefit where expecting parents can access anything they need to know about transitioning to and from work.”
For Fuentes, it’s about moments that matter at work and at home.
“It is the root of our work,” she said. “The work continues, there’s much more to do and we’re on the right path. We are a best place to work for women and diversity. We’ll keep going as our team members are more engaged than ever. We want to stay focused on what matters to our team members and transform their experience for the better.”