“American companies are facing a caregiving crisis—they just refuse to acknowledge it.”
Those words come from a report entitled The Caring Company, published by Harvard Business School in 2019. Its authors discuss how most employers fail to understand how caregiving responsibilities impact and impede their workers; they therefore provide benefits that don’t match actual employee needs. Months after its publication, the COVID-19 pandemic would bring these issues to the forefront.
Lora Lawler, senior vice president of total rewards and HR technology at Hilton, has been behind a major push to acknowledge and address caregiving needs for employees. She explains that caregiving is now gaining much-needed attention as a business imperative from other employers, but the iconic hospitality company was already leading the charge in support of its team members. “The pandemic accelerated conversations we were already having about being human,” she reflects. “It put our personal lives on display for our colleagues to see.”
Before COVID-19 brought the world of hospitality to a standstill in 2020, Hilton had already invested in mental wellness and well-being initiatives. Lawler and her team were already thinking holistically about the impact of caregiving needs on their global workforce.
When the pandemic hit, “silent caregivers” working at Hilton could no longer be silent. Their homes, families, and sometimes even pets were making appearances on Zoom calls and video chats. Lawler says the conversations she was already having about caregiving were instantly accelerated.
Hilton’s leaders were faced with significant declines in hotel bookings and saw revenues plummet in all parts of the business. Still, Lawler and others stayed committed to meeting the needs of their workforce. “Our first conversations during COVID were about the safety of everyone involved and also about how we could help our people through a difficult situation,” she explains.
Although Hilton couldn’t avoid furloughs and layoffs, its HR department went into reverse recruiting mode and established partnerships with companies that were ramping up hiring to help its employees find new jobs. The company also developed an internal mental wellness resource hub to help those on its team easily access and connect to mental health benefits, resources, and tools.
Then, a new caregiving initiative called Care for All was born. The innovative platform extends services beyond self-care and gives employees easy access to resources in five other categories: care for sick, disabled, elderly, children, and pets. Hilton’s new hub features free online courses, podcasts, and other resources curated and organized by category. Everything on the hub is available to the general public, and employees can share tools and information with others who are involved in their caregiving efforts.
Lawler understands that creating change and driving culture happens best when leaders are engaged. That’s why the Care for All also includes manager training resources. The company worked with Thrive Global to introduce live training sessions so managers can understand and support caregivers who are part of their teams.
Another key partnership enabled Hilton to pioneer an industry first. Hilton joined forces with Wellthy to bring caregiving concierge benefit to its US team members at no cost. Employees can use the program to find an advocate to make medical appointments, find health aides, evaluate physicians, and negotiate medical claims. Lawler says Hilton has now made the perk available to teams in the UK and Ireland, and continues to explore expansion in other parts of the world.
Prior to joining the hotel chain in 2018, Lawler worked at Deloitte and the Advisory Board. The roles made her into a well-versed HR leader who understands business strategy and the importance of leading with empathy. Now, she’s having open conversations about how to evolve the Care for All platform. She expects Hilton to add initiatives to address financial wellness, women’s health, and other emerging issues.
These efforts are making a true impact as team members report improvements in their own mental health and caregiving abilities. Hilton’s most recent engagement surveys show significant increases in positive answers to questions about how comfortable employees are talking about well-being and whether they feel healthy and balanced. Those results will help Hilton—already number two on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work for list for 2022—attract and retain a strong workforce amidst a labor shortage. Hilton has also been named the best workplace for women in the US by Great Place to Work and Fortune.
The company has more than 400,000 team members in 7,000 global properties and has hired over 45,000 new employees through the third quarter in 2022. A focus on caregiving will not only make Hilton more competitive, but also empower its employees to take care of their personal needs and foster an inclusive workplace environment.
Wellthy is proud to support Hilton team members at every moment along their caregiving journeys, at all stages of life. As the marketing leading caregiving solution, Wellthy provides personalized support to help families balance work and the demands of caring for a loved one.