Q&A: ‘Everything we’re doing on wellbeing is linked to performance’

20 Sep 2017 By Cathryn Newbery

Hilton’s Ben Bengougam on why the hotel mega-chain is working with Arianna Huffington’s company to improve employee wellbeing

Hospitality behemoth Hilton has become one of the first companies to partner with Thrive Global – Arianna Huffington’s new wellbeing venture – to improve the mental and physical health of its 160,000 employees. We spoke to Ben Bengougam, senior vice president of HR for EMEA at Hilton, about why the business has embarked on a new wellbeing framework for staff at its 5,000 hotels.

What are the key staff wellbeing challenges that Hilton faces?

There are the typical problems associated with a busy, physical working environment, such as muscular ailments and flu, as well as mental health issues. We have been proactively dealing with health and wellbeing issues for some time – in the UK, for example, we have an employee assistance programme – but it was time to offer something different to our team members.

Our success as a business comes from looking after our employees; customer service is our product. That’s why we have invested time and money in this evolution and rebranding of our health and wellbeing activities.

Why has Hilton partnered with Thrive Global to create Thrive@Hilton?

Providing a great place to work has been a focus for us for some time, but Thrive@Hilton is the new framework. We wanted to work with an organisation that could offer us not only wellbeing strategies but high-quality thought leadership, too. And despite only launching towards the end of last year, Thrive Global already has a record of partnering with big corporates, and delivering worldwide programmes fast. Working with the experts at Thrive Global, we will strive to help team members feel more resilient, focused and optimistic about their work, which we believe will support our company's continued success.

Hilton is, of course, a huge multinational company, with hundreds of thousands of busy employees. How is this global reach shaping your wellbeing efforts?

We have to make sure that our wellbeing offering is locally relevant to team members. With Thrive@Hilton, we have put in place training for local leaders and resources for team members. But the core idea is about team members taking ownership of Thrive, deciding what issues they want to engage with and what activities they want to set up to improve their own wellbeing – these could be anything from volunteering with local charities to learning more about good nutrition, or more spiritual activities, such as yoga and meditation.

Our key objectives are to drive engagement and trust; our annual staff surveys (which have a response rate of more than 90 per cent) show a correlation between these measures and high performance. Everything we’re doing is, ultimately, about enhancing that organisational performance.

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