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Hilton’s love for its employees is what makes us love them so much

A smooth transition into franchising

Hilton is one of the largest and most well-known hotel franchises in the world, with a history that dates back to 1919 when its founder, Conrad Hilton purchased his first hotel, the Mobley in Texas. Since then, the hospitality giant has grown a network of more than 6,000 hotels and resorts across 119 countries. That’s an average yearly growth rate of 15% over the past 98 years. 


Its strategic growth through partnerships and an incessant drive to innovate its industry drove its early success. But it was in from the 1950s that their growth skyrocketed through franchising. In this article, we will discuss the key components that continue to drive Hilton’s success and share key takeaways from the steps towards innovation and growth they continue to take.

Key takeaways

  • Continuous employee training and development through various methods such as on-site, online, classroom, and cross-functional training drives business success. 
  • Strategic partnerships with carefully selected franchisees and organizations enhance learning and development programs.
  • Innovative approaches to learning experiences involving staff can help increase empathy to better understand customer experiences.
  • Hilton’s commitment to training, partnerships, and innovative mentoring has led to significant behaviour changes and improved industry understanding.

Training from day one

Hilton introduced its first official learning and development course in 1954 with the creation of the “Hilton Management Institute,” which was designed to train future hotel managers in the company’s philosophy and operating procedures.


This was the first formal training program in the hospitality industry and was an innovative approach to developing talent within the company. Since then, they’ve continued to heavily invest in training and development in various ways:

On-site Training

Hilton provides on-site training to its employees in various ways.  “Hilton University” offers a range of courses for employees to develop their skills, including management training, customer service, and technical skills. Their “Leadership Excellence” program focuses on developing leadership skills among team members.

Online Training:

“Hilton Worldwide University” provides access to a range of online courses and resources for their employees.

Classroom training:

Classroom training is usually conducted for specific job functions, such as front desk operations, food and beverage service, and housekeeping. These types of training are delivered on-site and online to offer flexibility.

Cross-Functional Training:

This enables employees to gain exposure to different areas of the business. For example, an employee in housekeeping may receive cross-functional training in food and beverage service to gain a better understanding of how the hotel operates.

Conferences and Workshops:

Hilton franchisees also attend conferences and workshops to learn about the latest trends and best practices in the hospitality industry. This provides an opportunity for employees to network with industry experts and learn from their peers.

Key takeaway: Hilton understands the importance of continuous training and support for their employees – especially when it comes to training thousands of individuals across the globe. This approach to their growth has led them to open over 6,000 hotels in the last century. 

Strategic Partnerships

Since 1954, Hilton has partnered with leading hotels in major cities. Hilton carefully screened potential franchisees to ensure that they had the financial resources and business acumen necessary to operate a successful hotel. This helped to ensure that only qualified and committed individuals became Hilton franchisees. 


But beyond being strategic about management partnerships, they have been strategic about learning and development partnerships. Hilton has formed strategic partnerships with organizations such as the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute and Cornell University, to enhance its learning and development (L&D) programs. 


These partnerships provide Hilton employees with access to industry-leading certification programs, leadership and strategic thinking courses, and training and employment opportunities for young people.


Key takeaway: you can’t grow alone, make yourself appealing to the people that will bring the most to the table by offering the best environment to learn, work and grow.

On a quest for continuous growth

Whether it’s career advancement opportunities or skill development is a part of their DNA. At every step of the way, Hilton has focused on mentoring staff at every level through innovative approaches. 

In 2020, they trained staff by creating innovative VR learning experiences. 

Since many of the corporate team members throughout the Hilton business have never actually worked within a hotel, it’s common for them to come up with new ideas for a customer experience. Through VR learning experiences, Hilton executives learnt about life in the hotel and were able to spot if the recommendations were to make life more challenging for front-line staff. 


The project resulted in 87% of team members changing their behaviour through VR training. Executives had a better understanding of how life in the hotel works, so they could come up with more realistic opportunities for growth.


Key learning: That which doesn’t change, doesn’t evolve. Take your staff on the journey! By creating experiences that increase empathy,  team members across the board were able to  understand what guests feel or how changes could impact their staff. This equipped them to deliver the experiences that they expected.


Other ways to help staff evolve and innovate:

  • Role-playing
  • Active listening training
  • Challenges
  • Brainstorming
  • Cross-functional training

Hilton’s Success: TL;DR

Hilton’s success in the hospitality industry can be attributed to its focus on continuous training and development for its employees, as well as its strategic partnerships to enhance its learning and development programs. 


The company’s innovative approaches to the mentoring staff at every level, including VR learning experiences, have led to significant changes in behavior and a better understanding of the industry. Hilton’s commitment to growth and innovation serves as a valuable lesson for other franchises looking to succeed. 


If you’d like to learn more about how training can make or break your franchise network growth or you’re unsure of how best to approach training for your own franchisees, read our latest article to start developing your own approach.


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