The support HR gives to operational managers can have a significant impact on customer service, and ultimately profits, says Hilton Australasia's regional HR director, Richard Todd.

HR has enormous potential to improve an organisation's customer service, he says, because it can influence, recognise and reward behaviours.

HR is responsible for identifying the behaviours the organisation wants its workers to display, he explained to HR Daily. It enables employees to build the right skills, and provides operational managers with the tools to recognise and reward team members on a daily basis.

Where HR can really make a difference is in facilitating meaningful learning and development activities that reflect and reinforce company values, as opposed to generic training programs, he says.

Without that alignment, he says, organisations will find it more difficult to meet their goals.

Celebrating success
Hilton's Blue Energy initiative is overseen by HR but delivered by operational managers to help the company deliver a consistent brand promise, which is "to ensure that every guest feels cared for, valued and respected", Todd says.

Hilton has built a customer service "platform" around the initiative, "so it's very visible and it becomes a celebrated process from a customer service perspective".

To support the initiative, HR encourages celebrating the stories of employees, "with a really strong focus on meeting unanticipated guests' needs, and resolving guests' problems quickly and efficiently".

It directly links these with values of the organisation, which are 'hospitality', 'integrity', 'leadership', 'teamwork', 'ownership' and 'now'.

Hilton has developed an interactive website (called H360), which Todd describes as "part Facebook, part blogging site".

"Our 150,000 team members globally were added into the system, and they display their own photos, preferences, and what they like. And they share their experiences at work, and positive stories around taking care of the guests."

Where HR becomes involved is by extracting these stories and turning them into a "story web", Todd says.

It has created a "story wall" in a public place in each department, where stories are displayed, postcard-style, along with employees' photos. Each story explains how the person has "lived one of the cultural characteristics of the organisation, or met the brand promise".

"And what that's done is allowed the learning of behaviours that are deemed as good and positive in the organisation to be shared in a common place."

HR also supports the leadership team by creating "conversation guides" for managers, Todd says.

These are used for morning briefings, during which a team leader will share a story of a guest experience, which reinforces the particular value Hilton is celebrating that month.

"And then the team leader will ask questions about how we can exceed this guest's expectations and bring these values to life."

Stories are also shared via special Blue Energy post-it notes, which Hilton encourages staff to use to draw attention to and celebrate behaviours they observe in their peers, and via the website, where employees are currently competing on a global basis to share the story that best celebrates the "integrity" value in dealings with a guest, the company or the community.

"We've found people are videoing their own explanations about integrity; their own stories, and uploading them into H360 so that globally we have thousands and thousands of stories associated with how people are living the integrity value."

HR "pulls it together"
HR "pulls it all together" by partnering with operations to get team members displaying the right behaviours, Todd says.

"To make it 'live', we've linked it in to recognition, so each team member gets recognition for what they're doing, but they also get rewarded." Rewards are simply $10 gift vouchers or something similar, he says.

"It's driven by operations, but supported by HR, and I think that's why it's become so successful. HR's real value is in providing supporting materials, and making it live in the organisation."

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