Programs Make a Difference for Embassy Suites

When Cynthia Reid was told she’d been picked for Embassy Suites’ “Make a Difference” training camp, she wasn’t sure what to think. All the front desk manager at the Williamsburg (VA) property could do was sigh.

 “I didn’t know anything about ‘Make a Difference,’” she said. “I had just become front-desk manager and didn’t have time to jump for joy. All I knew was I could use the break,”

Reid joined 399 other line-level employees—two from every Embassy Suites location—last September at the Pointe Hilton - Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix for an all-expenses paid four-day mix of work, fun, leadership training and team-building skills. “It’s amazing how Embassy Suites shined on us those days,” Reid now says of the camp. “If you cut me open and look inside, that will tell you how I feel about Embassy Suites. Words can’t describe it.”

Judging by Hilton’s year-end guest-satisfaction scores and Reid’s reaction, the plan worked. Embassy Suites’ loyalty score went up 4.2 percent and service jumped 3.2 percent year over year, in large part, according to Rick McCue, vice president, brand performance and support, because of the “Make a Difference” philosophy.

“We wanted to reinvigorate our service culture,” McCue said. “You have to go beyond day-to-day operations. You must show respect to your community, be bigger than your business. It’s about touching people on a human level.”

The brand rolled out its “Make a Difference” service statement—“Gracious, engaging and caring…making a difference in the lives of others, in ways both big and small”—in June with sessions around the country for general managers and assistant GMs. Those leaders were sent back to their properties to spread the word and eventually choose the line-level staffers who would go to Phoenix. After the training camp, those 400 employees returned to their properties armed with a new sense of Embassy Suites’ culture of leadership and the tools to pass it onto co-workers and ultimately guests.

The success of the initiative has led to an extension of the program this year: “Circle of Leadership,” an internal training program for an elite group of 10 Embassy GMs, was launched earlier this week. The chosen 10 will receive individualized training and leadership development with seven monthly interactive webinars.

“Our Make a Difference culture provides the tools for all of our team members to get involved and become leaders at the hotel with guests, and even other team members” said McCue. “We wanted to expand upon this culture and offer a group of our esteemed general managers a more personalized approach to leadership development. The Circle of Leadership provides the tool box for our general managers to foster his/her own brand of the Make a Difference culture at their hotel.”

But the philosophy really started with the line-level employees and the training camp in Phoenix. For Reid, and fellow attendee Rex Welling, banquet captain at the Embassy Suites Seattle North/Lynnwood, the event that stood out the most was the bike- (and team-) building exercise.

The employees were broken into smaller groups and given a large box of bicycle parts, tools, instructions and 30 minutes. After the bikes were assembled, from another room, children making up the Boys & Girls Club of Phoenix flooded in to receive their new toys. The employees didn’t know whom the bikes were for and the children didn’t know they were getting bikes, making for quite a scene when the two groups came together.

“That was quite a neat experience,” Welling said. “Watching those kids’ reaction…” Reid wasn’t at a loss for words: “It was exceedingly overwhelming with so much joy. I saw grown men cry…children just hugging and loving everyone.”

Now, Reid does anything but sigh when talking about the ‘Make a Difference’ camp. “You know what I was thinking? Why are they spending millions of dollars to do this for little old me, we could do this at another (less expensive) hotel,” she said. “Two people from each hotel? It took time to plan this. That’s more than saying we care about you guys. You’d be selfish not to be happy, not to break a smile.

“I was telling them at my hotel you just don’t know when things are going to move in your life, but if you keep doing well, if you’re doing the very best, putting your best foot forward, things will come. I came back fired up. I’m still on a high.”

Management at the Embassy Suites Williamsburg clearly made the right choice with its pick of Reid.

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