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Bringing out The Best - Blog series: An Interview with Hilton Antwerp General Manager Serge De Wandelaer

Bringing out The Best - Blog series: An Interview with Hilton Antwerp General Manager Serge De Wandelaer

The Best Workplaces™ recognition distinguishes the very best employers from certified organisations. In Belgium, we have three lists: Large, Medium and Small, depending on the organisation’s size. These companies have the highest levels of trust and the most inclusive cultures in Belgium. They have seized the opportunity to become better—to courageously connect in new ways, deepen their commitment to their communities, and get creative in how they care for their people.

For this year’s Best Workplaces event, we interviewed the top three companies recognised on our Best Workplaces™ 2022 lists. In this blog series, “Bringing out The Best”, we will share interviews for you to get to know these companies better. This week, it’s Hilton’s turn! The hospitality company ranked #3 within our “Small” category and won the special award for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Hilton is a leading global hospitality company with the vision to “fill the earth with the light and warmth of hospitality”. “This recognition is an incredible honour for our Team Members’ hard work”, explained Anneleen Driesen – Front Office Manager of Hilton Antwerp Old Town. “Since we came back from the pandemic, I feel an enormous hunger in our team to do things differently”, added Serge De Wandelaer – General Manager of Hilton Antwerp Old Town. “Being recognised as one of the Best Workplaces in Belgium is an affirmation of the new path we took, which has boosted our energy even more throughout the hotel!”
With fewer Team Members and a need for renewed efficiencies during the pandemic, there were several Team Members who really shined as they implemented new practices, and as a result, have been promoted for their passion and proactivity.
Find out what we can learn from these great employers!

Bringing out The Best - Blog series: An Interview with Hilton Antwerp General Manager Serge De Wandelaer

According to you, what does a Great Place to Work® mean?

At Hilton, being a Great Place to Work means Team Members are at the centre of our culture. Hilton is a place where people feel great camaraderie, experience a fun workplace, and develop professionally and personally.

Do you find it essential to be a Best Workplace?

Certainly! Firstly, it’s a great source of pride for our Team Members. It is a great recognition for the extraordinary things our Team Members are doing each day.
Secondly, Great Place to Work allows us to benchmark against the best in our industry to identify what we can potentially improve. These benchmarks can be sectoral, but ideas from companies outside our industry inspire us to think outside of the box and make our workplace even better.
Finally, while being a Best Workplace helps us to attract, and retain, the best talent in our company, I hope this recognition also underlines how our People are at the centre of our culture and how we ensure they have opportunities to grow and thrive.

How do you become a Great Place to Work?

It is part of our culture. It lives within us – in every Team Member. We live it every day: when we start working, we continue to provide this culture within Hilton even after work.
With over 100 years of experience in the industry, Hilton has a variety of resources to support Team Members. Here are just a few of our programs that make Hilton a Great Place to Work:

  • Team Member Resource Groups:

Our Team Member Resource Group (TMRGs) are voluntary groups that bring together Team Members with shared backgrounds or interests. TMRGs include Women’s, NextGen, Pride, Military, Abilities, Ethnic, Black, Hispanic, and Asian & Pacific Islander. They drive impact by building communities across all segments of our workforce, providing professional development opportunities for our Team Members and fostering innovation in our business strategy

  • Courageous Conversation Series:

Is dedicated to intentional conversations with thought leaders to advance allyship. Topics have included “How to use your Privilege to Become an Ally”, “Systemic Racism and the impact of COVID-19 on our industry”, and “Valuing Diversity and Culture in the ‘Hotel’ Experience”.

  • Thrive @ Hilton:

To support our Team Members in prioritising their physical and mental wellbeing, we launched Thrive @ Hilton, which includes a central hub loaded with mental health and wellness resources, a new app for Team Members, and coaching for managers and leaders to help them and their teams thrive.

  • Go Hilton:

Offering deep discounts on hotel room rates, and food and beverage..

  • Lead @ Hilton:

Our leadership development framework with a multi-faceted approach to building opportunities for women and ethnic minorities to help develop leaders at every level.

Can you boil down into one sentence what Hilton is exceptionally good at?

We create a “bottom-up” culture where Team Members feel empowered to continuously innovate and inspire our guests; every Team Member has an important voice and impact at Hilton.

As a Great Place to Work, you are part of an ecosystem of like-minded organisations aiming for the same goal – improving the employee experience—addressing your ‘co-competitors’, for what can they always call you?

Serge: Our way of developing people. Our Learning & Development platform is fantastic! I have worked at Hilton for over 30 years now, and I’ve experienced its growth. I started when the internet didn’t yet exist, and everything happened through physical meetings. Today we offer Team Members access to Hilton University, LinkedIn Learning, mentoring, and buddying. Quite astoundingly, we’re now able to partner with a company in South Africa, for example, to virtually teach Team Members different cooking skills from scratch – just through videos that they can play on their iPad in our kitchens.
Anneleen: I’m part of Hilton’s “Women in Leadership” learning program. We’ve organised several events where we’ve brought together all the women in our hotel to ideate various topics. We bring in guest speakers and share our personal experiences. We inspire each other, prompting some colleagues think, ‘oh, maybe I would like to take on another opportunity and develop myself further’.

That brings me to my last question about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion; why are you investing in this topic?

At Hilton, we find it essential that all of our Team Members feel welcome and at home. Different people have different ways, and therefore, we can learn a great deal from each other. For example, we have Team Members from many different nationalities, and two years ago, we organised a Nepal food festival in our Team Member’s restaurant, allowing them to share their culture with the rest of the team. It’s beautiful to see how a particular product is treated differently in diverse cultures and how these experiences create learning opportunities. Additionally, diversity amongst our Team Members helps us provide excellent (more cosmopolitan) service to our guests, who are visiting us from all over the world.
Furthermore, Anneleen is one of our women in leadership. Hilton is putting great effort into achieving global gender parity at its corporate leadership levels by 2027. And we are well on the way. Recently, I heard a great story from a woman who works in Singapore but is now re-joining my area (Continental Europe). Before, she used to be the General Manager’s secretary at Hilton Madrid, and now she is returning as the General Director. Isn’t that a great story to illustrate how we grow people within our company?

Are you inspired to become a Best Workplace? Gain unique insights into the best practices of Belgium’s Best Workplaces 2022 by downloading HERE our full report.