Vanessa Sain-Dieguez, Senior Director of HR Digital Strategy and Implementation, works every day with her team to spotlight employees and career opportunities at Hilton.
“We believe everyone deserves a job they love, and that Hilton is a place where everyone can thrive professionally and personally,” says Vanessa. “We use social media to connect people to this purpose by showcasing our Team Members, their stories, and the opportunities available at Hilton.”
For Vanessa and her team of three, a large part of that task is educating potential employees on what a hospitality career looks like and the benefits of working for Hilton.
Equally important is keeping current employees connected to Hilton’s purpose and excited by the continued opportunity of a Hilton career. As someone who grew up in the hospitality industry and has been with Hilton for almost a decade, communicating the opportunity of a hospitality career at Hilton is something Vanessa is incredibly passionate about.
“Working for Hilton has been an amazing experience for me. I’ve gotten to stretch and grow and be so creative,” says Vanessa, who started with Hilton as an eCommerce Manager at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando, Florida.
“On my first day I was told I was in charge of Facebook and Twitter for the hotel’s opening. I was given the freedom to be creative and figure out how to use these new tools to enhance the guest experience. From there I went on to become Hilton’s first social media strategist and create many of the social media programs we have today,” says Vanessa. “Hilton is a special place. Team Members become your family and there is always opportunity to learn and grow. When this role became available to lead our social media strategy for HR and focus on our Team Members, I jumped at it.”
Vanessa moved over to HR a little over two years ago.
At the time, Hilton’s employer brand presence on social media focused mainly on posting jobs on a few channels. With a lean team and limited budget, Vanessa had to get creative with their social media strategy. Having built her career at Hilton creating low-budget, high-impact programs focused on empowering and training Team Members to engage in social media, Vanessa was up for the challenge.
In order to showcase why Hilton is a great place to work, she knew the answer was continuing upon that path of empowerment and having Team Members show why they loved working for Hilton.
“People trust people,” explains Vanessa. “By building programs that empower our Team Members to tell their stories and share their journey — that naturally attracts new talent, and keeps current Team Members engaged, ultimately leading to better retention.”
Their employee-generated content strategy didn’t happen overnight.
They started by piloting an Instagram profile solely dedicated to employee takeovers and featuring a new employee every day. The takeover consisted of the employee sharing several photos throughout the day, taking viewers through a typical day, explaining why they do what they do, and what they love about working at Hilton.
“At first, we weren’t even sure we could pull this off,” says Vanessa. “We knew we had the Team Members and the stories, but the project management involved for a takeover every single day was a bit daunting. But we were committed to the idea, and we figured out a way to bring it to life. The result was a Team Member takeover nearly every business day for a year — 250 Team Member takeovers in total our first year.”
As Instagram evolved, changing the Newsfeed and adding new features like stories, Vanessa’s team had to take a hard look at their takeover strategy and figure out how to make it work.
“The Instagram community wanted more raw content in real time through stories, and with the Newsfeed change, photos were no longer chronological,” explains Vanessa. “Almost overnight our takeover strategy no longer made sense on the platform. Plus, it’s one thing to ask a Team Member to snap three or four pictures of their day and share. Having them build an Instagram story is a whole other ball game. So we basically went back to the drawing board and figured out how to keep the spirit of the takeover, but take it to the next level.”
Vanessa shares that her team was worried about the impacts of changing their strategy as the community had grown accustomed to meeting a new Team Member every day. Their new strategy is still a focus on the Team Member and their story in every piece of content -– but her team has had to take a more active role in producing and curating content to keep up with Instagram’s changes.
“We were nervous to shift away from the takeover format and were unsure how our audience would react,” says Vanessa. “But, we’ve found removing this sole focus on takeovers allowed us to be so much more creative. Plus, posting less frequently didn’t have any negative impact on engagement, so that helped us feel more comfortable with the changes and get more innovative.”
Today, her team still works to feature Team Members on Instagram every week.
“In total we’ve featured over 350 Team Members, giving them the chance to be Insta-famous and takeover for the day,” says Vanessa. “But my team has had to get more creative and is actively producing more content than ever before to leverage the rest of Instagram’s features and better tell our employer brand story.”
Vanessa’s team has increasingly pushed the boundaries on raw, authentic content. Her team immediately jumped on Facebook Live when it launched in 2016, so testing Instagram Live was a no-brainer.
Now, they regularly host Instagram Lives with recruiters and hiring managers to bring the Hilton team directly to their audience. They have also been experimenting with “Live with a Friend,” extending the idea of a takeover to a conversation.
Additionally, Vanessa’s team focused more on Hilton’s global campaigns and initiatives.
“As we aligned the content calendar with the activities happening internally, we saw a huge boost in engagement, which makes sense as we had a hunch all along that many Hilton Team Members were following the account,” says Vanessa.
“What began as a way to attract new Team Members, turned into a powerful Team Member engagement platform. We now have Team Members commenting with shout outs recognizing one another for their work and asking if they can do a takeover or nominating someone for a takeover. We’ve added close to 200 new followers per week. For a program that’s always been 100% organic with no paid support, we’re pleased with the results,” shares Vanessa.
To ensure they maintain post quality as interest in participating grows, a member of Vanessa’s team works individually with the employees before their takeover to understand how familiar they are with Instagram, what they want to share, and what their story could be.
“We’re actually in the process of trying to figure out how to optimize this process without losing the personal touch of it because it is so special and unique,” says Vanessa. “But in that process, we’re giving them the necessary guidelines and guard rails.”
To better engage these Team Members requesting to do takeovers and turn them from a one-time takeover to an ongoing engagement, Vanessa’s team created the Hilton Careers Tribe.
The tribe includes a few dozen hand-selected Team Members across the globe that are highly engaged and interested in creating social media content. The tribe empowers them to be a central part of the Hilton Careers strategy going forward through thoughtful activations and exclusive social media trainings.
“Once Team Members are engaged, we see powerful, long-term value in the stories they share. We want to amplify and extend not only their stories, but our relationship with them,” says Vanessa.
Vanessa’s team is so committed to leading with authentic Team Member content, that their paid media follows the same strategy.
“I have a strong rule with my team against stock photography,” says Vanessa. Whether you’re looking at an organic post about why Hilton is a great place to work, or a paid social media post about a job opening, you’ll be met with the same authentic content. We work hard to source and curate the images we need from Team Members around the world. It can be time consuming, but the result is always worth it.”
As for her biggest piece of advice, Vanessa shares that it’s important not to overlook employees as advocates.
“Don’t underestimate the value of the people that already proudly carry your flag. Your employees are already passionate about you and are your biggest advocates.” says Vanessa.
“People spend so much time focused on finding new talent and it is such a competitive landscape, not just in terms of talent, but in terms of attention. When we’re asking people in their personal social media feeds to look at Hilton for a job, that can be a very abrasive type of communication if we don’t do it correctly. So the more that you can get your employees to do it for you, the better. The Team Members we feature not only share their story with us, but then they turn around and share it on their own social media networks — that type of advocacy and amplification is priceless. The more that you can give your employees the tools and resources to advocate for your brand, the better.”