How does Hampton Hotels Engage their team? Through Influence & Inspiration…

How does Hampton Hotels Engage their team? Through Influence & Inspiration…

April 21, 2014

Hamptonality™  didn’t exist in 2004 – either as a word or a mentality. As Gina Valenti, VP Owner Services at Hilton Worldwide. explained at the recent EEA Engagement University, it evolved as a response to a basic question – “How do we differentiate our brand? Through people….But they’re not our people”.

HamptonalityAs part of the Hilton family, Hampton Inns consists of 1,950 hotels in 14 countries, but Hilton only actually owns one property, and manages another 40 or so. So defining a brand culture through their team members would have to be achieved by “Influence and Inspiration”, not by optimizing compensation or mandating behaviors.

The need to create a defining team spirit came about after Hampton went through an extensive rebrand and upgrade in 2004 based on guest feedback. The changes to the product were so well received that by the end of 2005, it seemed that the competing hotel brands had copied many of the upgrades. Since product-based differentiators weren’t sustainable, the Hampton leadership realized that exemplary service – driven by excellence in staff attitude and performance – was a more likely way to stay ahead of the pack. As Gina says “if you are your authentic self, you have no competition”.

Using the groundbreaking book “First Break All the Rules” as a starting point (and enlisting the help of co-author, Marcus Buckingham), Valenti and her team laid out a plan. They started by defining the Brand Compass – “We focus on the little things that make a big difference to create memorable experiences worth sharing” – as the guiding principle for the overall program.

Hampton already had established core values, but they weren’t widely known throughout the company. So a campaign was launched to bring these values to life and to activate the Brand Compass – “Friendly, Authentic, Caring, and Thoughtful – it’s a FACT!”

It’s a phrase that’s easy to remember and simple to act on. In an instant, a team member could decide if a particular action (for example, stopping vacuuming to help a guest carry their breakfast to the table) would fit the core values.

Communication became a key driver as hotel employees around the world started to embrace the principles. YouTube is full of videos made by individual locations celebrating “Hamptonality”  – more than 1,500 at last count.

Valenti cited two examples of how they shared tools and methods to amplify the core values.

– A “Moment Makers” toolkit enables mangers to train their teams on how to create those individual guest interactions that differentiate the Hampton experience;
– An internal report on the “9 Game Changers” of their top performing General Managers included the regular use of team huddles – so Huddles became the theme of a recent Top Managers meeting in Orlando, to share best practices. And so on.

Perhaps the strongest sign of success is that what started out as an employee engagement brand is now being used as Hampton’s official advertising campaign “Feel the Hamptonality”.

As Valenti told the Engagement University audience, when you want to integrate your core values and culture throughout an organization “It’s not about Preaching and Teaching….it’s about bringing it to life”. Take a look at those Hamptonality videos, and you’ll see what she means.