By Julianne Slovak
December 6, 2018

As Hilton approaches its 100th birthday in 2019, it has a lot to be proud of. When it comes to creating an inclusive workplace, the global hospitality company has had a remarkable year. The McLean, Va.-based operator of hotels and resorts around the world takes the top spot on this year’s list of the Best Workplaces for Diversity, published by Great Place to Work and Fortune, moving up from No. 14 last year.

From recruiting and leadership mentoring programs to partnerships with nonprofits to GED and apprenticeship opportunities for employees who need them, Hilton supports its workforce at every level of the organization.

Hilton’s performance this year is extraordinary across all demographics, including ethnic and racial identity, gender, age, disability status, and sexual orientation. That means the company not only has a sizeable representation of employees in each of these categories, but that a high percentage of those employees across the board rate the company a great place to work, sharing in generous company benefits and positive workplace culture.

Says Jon Muñoz, vice president of global diversity and inclusion, “Diversity is embedded in our DNA. It’s important for us to reflect the communities where we live and work. We’re in the people business, so it’s important for us to be responsive to our guests, our team members, and our communities.”

Of Hilton’s more than 55,500 U.S. employees, 69 percent are racial or ethnic minorities, 53 percent are women, 5 percent identify as LBGTQ, and 4 percent have a disability.

One of the initiatives Muñoz is most proud of is Hilton’s Team Member Resource Groups (TMRGs), which include 50 chapters around the world and are led by executive committee level sponsors. These groups provide opportunities for professional growth but also allow members to share feedback on their experiences and observations with high-level executives, as a way of ensuring voices are heard. The TMRGs include those for African Americans, the LBGTQ community, Latinos, women, veterans, people with disabilities, and others.

Sanjeev Udhnani is a senior financial analyst in corporate and capital planning at Hilton headquarters in McLean and an MBA candidate at Georgetown University. He is also co-chair for the Abilities TMRG, which focuses on people with disabilities. Udhnani, who doesn’t have a disability himself, became involved in working with the disabled while he was in college and found that he was passionate about the cause. Now he and the Abilities TMRG work to raise awareness within Hilton about issues affecting people with disabilities. They also partner with nonprofits such as Special Olympics and Best Buddies on fundraisers and other events.

Udhnani, 28, grew up in south Florida, where he enjoyed living in a diverse and vibrant community. His father was born in India and his mother, who is also Indian, was born and raised in the Philippines.

“I come from an immigrant family with very little to no corporate experience, so when it came time for me to join the workforce, I didn’t really have the family or support system to be coached through a lot of these corporate nuances and some of the critical conversations that you’re faced with in today’s workplace. Everything from what assets to invest in in your 401(k), how to ask for a raise, how to navigate your way to a promotion,” says Udhnani.

But when he started at Hilton about a year-and-a-half ago, he found a support group right away. “I joined the Asian Pacific Islander TMRG and I learned about a mentorship program that placed analysts in the API community with members of senior management. My mentor through that program, as well as the leadership within my own department, helped me navigate through the corporate web and helped with a lot of these critical moments that I didn’t really have any experience dealing with in the past,” he says.

At Hilton, the support for its workforce extends not just to those with an MBA. Hilton employs thousands of housekeepers, maintenance workers, front-desk clerks, and other front-line employees, many of whom are women and people of color. Many benefits, including parental leave (ten weeks paid leave for birth mothers, two weeks for fathers and adoptive parents), adoption assistance, and paid sick days are available for hourly as well as salaried workers, and in 2015, Hilton began offering coaching and financial assistance for any employee wishing to earn a high-school diploma or GED.

All of this is good for the bottom line as well as morale, says Jon Muñoz, since employees at all levels who feel supported do better work, particularly in a company whose business is hospitality.

About Hilton’s record on diversity and inclusion, Muñoz, who is gay and Latino himself, says it’s a journey. “We’ve been doing really well in tracking our progress. We provide dashboards to our executive committee every quarter, we provide a report to our board of directors, so they understand how they can contribute to the overall process. I feel like we’re in a really good place.”

See the entire list of the Best Workplaces for Diversity here.

Julianne Slovak is a contributor to Great Place to Work and works as a freelance writer.

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