A Brief History of the Corporate Culture Transformation at Hilton | Part 4: Thrive

For Hilton, thriving is not just a fancy word, it encapsulates all parts of an ambitious culture program that started more than ten years ago. The concept of “Thrive at Hilton” was adopted globally after Hilton struck a partnership with Ariana Huffington’s organization Thrive Global. 

The origin and evolution of Thrive@Hilton

This partnership between Hilton and Thrive Global was originally conceived to solve a specific problem Hilton was facing. Back in 2017, a Hilton study revealed the harmful effects of mobile devices in the workplace. The use of mobile devices became a problem when Hilton transitioned from not allowing to fully allowing these devices during work shifts, with basically no restriction. This caused a “digital overload” among team members. Matt Schuyler says, “Our statistics show that on average we are all pushing out 200 emails a day, we are bringing back 200 emails a day from outside our respective organizations. We are checking these devices 150 times a day in our social media applications …That was eight or nine hours a day just on the device.” (1) As a result, Hilton decided to partner with a knowledgeable organization that could help it solve this problem, and the Thrive Global partnership was born. 

The rollout of the program at Hilton evolved to Thrive@Hilton, which is now the umbrella value proposition under which all team members’ programs exist today. These programs include Health & Wellness, Training, PTO, Learning, Recruiting and Referral. The broad idea of the program is to make sure team members understand that they can bring their whole self to work and thrive. Hilton is committed to supporting everything team members are interested in, enabling them to thrive at work. 

Hilton is the first hospitality company to partner with Thrive Global, an innovative wellness startup that was launched in 2016. It is estimated that burnout, fatigue and stress cost US industries $300 billion a year. The day of the partnership announcement Chris Nassetta said that “the company launched the Thrive@Hilton partnership to help our team members understand our people and flourish in every area of the business, from corporate to hourly, from the front desk to back-of-house. We strive to help Team Members feel more resilient, focused, and optimistic about their work, which we believe will support our company’s continued success.” (2)

Thrive@Hilton and Hilton’s Employee Benefits are not the same

It is important to notice that Thrive@Hilton is not equivalent to Hilton’s employee benefits. Thrive@Hilton is more of a framework that generally involves three areas: mind, body, and spirit. The program is focused on the need to recharge the body with rest and proper nutrition and provide employees with stimulating work and an approach to learning new techniques to help them manage their properties in a more meaningful way. (3)

Thrive@Hilton has two main goals: allow team members to focus on what is important to them (4) and support team members so they can do their best anywhere in the world. (5) Matt Schuyler says, “Thrive was launched to create an extraordinary culture where the talent is mobilized and achieving its goal potential. It’s our promise to team members that at Hilton, they can reach their full potential — they will develop and grow and flourish with us. We have a history of investing differentially, going above and beyond what our industry might dictate because of our values and what matters to our team members.” (5)

Thrive@Hilton Programs

Although technically Thrive@Hilton includes all the team member programs that exist today at Hilton, I want to introduce five great examples:

  1. Learning & Development
  2. Heart of House
  3. Hilton Wardrobes
  4. Thrive Sabbatical
  5. Personal Growth (GED Equivalence and SPEAK!)  
Learning & Development 

Hilton developed a culture of learning that is unique from anything I have seen before. This culture is guided by the 70-20-10 learning framework, which means that 70% of our learning comes from on-the-job experiences, 20% comes from feedback from others, and 10% comes from formal learning. In each of these buckets, Hilton has created specific tools and resources to get the job done. 

In addition to internal web-based platforms such as Hilton University and Leadership Development Programs, Hilton partnered with leading institutions to offer for free a variety of courses from financial well-being to mental resilience, health, and productivity. 

In the area of financial well-being, Hilton partnered with Momentum on Up to boost financial confidence among team members. In this program, team members can learn about budgeting basics, build spending habits, and more. Hilton also partnered with Commonbond to help team members understand student loans, including refinancing or new applications. As part of these partnerships, team members have 100% free access to these platforms as well as one-on-one financial counseling by phone. 

Heart of House

Hilton has invested millions of dollars revamping the back of house, or what Hilton calls Heart of House . The program provides workers with a place that is as welcoming as a hotel’s public areas to kick back and relax. 

“These are comfortable places with things like locker rooms and flat-screen TVs, where team members can put their feet up, grab a healthy bite to eat, chat with their colleagues, and recharge. This initiative, implemented mainly in newer properties, has passed the 1,000-hotel mark and has already made a difference. Engagement at those properties has gone up, morale has gone up, trust in the organization has gone up, and most importantly, customer service scores have gone up.” says Matt Schuyler. (5)

Creating a fabulous place to work is a significant business advantage that benefits everyone — franchise owners, the company, and team members. Hilton data shows that efforts to promote a positive culture reduce turnover, which reduces costs related to recruiting and training so dollars can transfer back to the bottom line. More engaged team members are a source of innovation, productivity, and product optimization that saves money and allows for differential growth over time.

The Heart of House initiative was implemented after leadership captured the feedback from team members, and corporate executives experienced the issues first hand through the executive immersion program. 

Hilton Wardrobes

In response to team members’ feedback, Hilton created the “wardrobe change” program. Innovative uniforms from Under Armour are more comfortable and versatile. The program provides customized designs, including breathable fabrics for team members working in physical roles or in hot locations. (5)

Similar to the Heart of House program, executives who wore the old clothes in their executive immersion program described them as like wearing burlap fabric and wondered why Hilton didn’t have more breathable, comfortable clothes for their employees. (1) This realization led to the quick deployment of the Hilton Wardrobe Program around the world. 

Thrive Sabbatical 

Thrive Sabbatical is one of my favorites programs at Hilton. The annual program enables ten team members around the world to Give a Dream or Live a Dream. Team members with five or more years of service can propose their plan for four weeks of paid sabbatical time and $5,000 to pursue a passion. A review board makes the selections. 

Give a Dream enriches the lives of others through a philanthropic or volunteer activity of their choice. Live a Dream allows team members to achieve a personal goal, explore a new interest, or embark on a meaningful adventure. 

My love for Thrive Sabbatical is because in the first edition in 2017, I was one of the ten runners-up. The participation was pretty high, so Hilton decided to award all runner-ups with $1,000 that they could donate to a cause they would like to support. Back then, I donated my portion to a Colombian organizations supporting indigenous tribes in the north part of the country. I have participated every year since then, and it is always a fun activity for me. 

Matt Schuyler says “Having seen this program at work for the last two years, we can say with certainty that these sabbaticals have a lasting impact on our Team Members and inspire all of us who follow their journeys.”

Through Thrive Sabbatical, team members have:

  • Supported children with disabilities in Tanzania,
  • Learned sign language to communicate with family in the Philippines,
  • Created eyeglass clinics in Mexico,
  • Taken care of elderly dogs in the United States,
  • Cleaned the ocean of debris in Dubai , all of it making a positive impact around the world.
Personal Growth 

From time to time, Hilton rolls out small and localized projects to address the specific needs of its workforce around the world. A good couple of examples of that is the SPEAK! program in Mexico or the GED equivalency program in the US. 

In the SPEAK! program in Mexico, Hilton helps team members to improve their English skills. Sponsored by the University of Michigan, SPEAK!—Seniors Promoting English Acquisition and Knowledge—provides an opportunity for team members at all levels to improve their English fluency. The benefits are numerous: hotels benefit by being able to provide stellar customer service and retain employees, and team members will have more opportunities for advancement in the workplace. (6)

In the GED equivalency program, team members who didn’t complete their high school can get an equivalent diploma. This is very important for some team members because, through data analysis and observation, Hilton realized that not having a high school diploma was a big obstacle for career advancement. 

Although work flexibility, travel benefits, adoption assistance, and other programs contribute to the overall well-being of team members at Hilton, I’ll be discussing those further in the next article. These initiatives are more closely related to team members’ benefits. 


1.         Great Place to Work. Watch Hilton CHRO Matthew Schuyler Speak at GPTW4ALL Summit. In: Schuyler M, editor. GPTW4ALL Summit2018.

2.         Pradfer E. Hilton takes employee wellness up a notch with Thrive Global partnership: Hcareers; 2017 [Available from: https://www.hcareers.com/article/employer-articles/hilton-takes-employee-wellness-up-a-notch-with-thrive-global-partnership.

3.         Wroten B. Healthy workplace culture at hotels demands full buy-in: Hotel News Now; 2017 [Available from: http://hotelnewsnow.com/Articles/153040/Healthy-workplace-culture-at-hotels-demands-full-buy-in.

4.         Leader Perspectives: Hilton’s Chief Human Resources Officer Matt Schuyler on Building a Winning Workplace Culture [press release]. Hilton2019.

5.         Meyer E. Hilton’s Champion Culture – Hilton Celebrated Its 100th Anniversary and Bolsters the Culture That Will Take It Into the Future. Lodging Magazine. 2019.

6.         Little C. Hilton Enlists Help to Bridge Language Gap: Hotel Business; 2019 [Available from: http://www.hotelbusiness.com/hilton-enlists-help-to-bridge-language-gap.

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