A Conversation With Malaika Myers
Chief Human Resources Officer for Hyatt
A CHRO touches the life of every employee in the company. Hyatt's CHRO, Malaika Myers, has her eye on a bigger group -- 40% of the world's youth population.
That's the global percentage of "opportunity youth" -- young people aged 16 to 24 who are neither in school nor working. And Hyatt and Myers want to hire 10,000 of these young people for entry-level roles by 2025 through Hyatt's RiseHY initiative.
RiseHY opens the door to employment opportunities and increased economic stability for individuals, families and communities, but it's not a charity. It's an initiative that fulfills real organizational hiring needs across Hyatt's 875+ locations worldwide. RiseHY also helps the communities surrounding Hyatt properties to thrive and aligns with Hyatt's purpose: to care for people so they can be their best. "It's great for the opportunity youth. It's great for the communities we operate in. It also is great for us. You couldn't have a better marriage," Myers says.
RiseHY has been swiftly successful. The program -- with the assistance of community-based organizations, Hyatt's empathetic management strategies and employee support -- launched a little over a year ago and has already reached nearly 20% of its goal. Still, Myers knows it will take the combined efforts of many others to touch the lives of 40% of the world's youth population.
"RiseHY is great for Hyatt in numerous ways, but I'd love for lots of other companies to reach this population of young people and connect them to the economy," Myers explains in this CHRO Conversation, "because there are millions of young people with talent, and the impact that we can collectively make on society is significant."
Emond: There are a lot of important issues a CSR program can focus on. Why did Hyatt decide on hiring 10,000 opportunity youth?
Myers: We decided to make a commitment around hiring because we know that when people get jobs, it changes their lives. When we started thinking about this initiative, we had three pillars in mind: our purpose of care, potential impact in the communities in which we operate and the realities we face as a hospitality company. RiseHY hit all three of those. Hospitality always has a need for entry-level workers, and Hyatt has a global reach with more than 875 properties. Hiring 10,000 people by 2025 is an ambitious commitment, but it's a commitment we know we can meet.
We decided to make a commitment around hiring because we know that when people get jobs, it changes their lives.
Emond: How do you introduce the program to opportunity youth?
Myers: We are working with community-based organizations that are involved in career readiness and training programs. These organizations have a deep understanding of their communities' needs and are well-positioned to help us overcome potential obstacles to hiring opportunity youth.
For example, it's unlikely that young people know about the types of roles we offer if they've never been inside a hotel. To get to 10,000 hires by 2025, we have to scale quickly, so we created a virtual reality experience that gives many opportunity youth a behind-the-scenes look at "a day in the life at Hyatt." For RiseHY, we're focused on entry-level roles, including bell attendant, housekeeper, steward, wait staff and entry-level culinary opportunities. Through the virtual reality experience, whether at a community-based organization or at home, they can click and follow a housekeeper or a bell attendant around to see what they do during the course of the day.
Emond: What do your numbers look like?
Myers: We've hired nearly 20% of our 10,000 goal, distributed around the globe. RiseHY is not concentrated in the U.S. -- we have teams in Canada, India, Latin America and France that are very focused on the program. As we continue to increase the number of participating hotels, we celebrate all contributions from our hotels, regardless of whether they hire one opportunity youth or 20.
Emond: How long has RiseHY been up and running?
Myers: We started in late 2018.
Emond: And you've already made almost 2,000 opportunity youth hires around the world. That's 20% of your goal accomplished in just over a year.
Myers: I think telling the stories of these opportunity youth has really galvanized our hotels. We have such amazing stories about people that we've hired -- orphans who have had to make their way alone in the world, immigrants who have come to a country with nothing and built a career after finding their way into one of our properties, people with intellectual disabilities who have found a place where they can grow. A position recently opened at the Hyatt Hub headquarters in Chicago, and our facilities director asked, "Can we find a RiseHY hire? Can we focus this job for an opportunity youth?" Our colleagues in all areas of the business want to be part of this, which is incredibly exciting to see as we move into the program's second year.
Emond: I realize it's very early on this, but obviously one of the key things you're going to track is retention and advancement. Do you see anything yet?
Myers: It is too early to tell. But as of last fall, our 90-day turnover for RiseHY hires was the same as any other hire. One of the things that I love about this industry is the ability for people to come in at entry-level roles and grow to be senior leaders in our organization. Many of our general managers started as food servers or pool attendants or housekeepers. Retention is important, but just as important is supporting these individuals so that they don't just have jobs -- they have careers. We provide training and support to help them grow and develop, and are launching an internal mentoring program.
Emond: So at some point in every initiative, you start seeing what you didn't know when you began. What are you learning now that you didn't know before?
Myers: One key learning from the first year is about how to support RiseHY hires once they're in our hotels, as we know that many of them have not worked in a traditional work environment before. We provided training to our managers and colleagues, and we're expanding those efforts to support our RiseHY hires with nonwork-related realities. Things like childcare and commute time and transportation can be more challenging for them. We are currently identifying community-based organizations that can assist with additional support services.
Retention is important, but just as important is supporting these individuals so that they don't just have jobs -- they have careers.
Emond: Have you connected to other companies that are succeeding with similar projects?
Myers: There are a number of other organizations that focus on opportunity youth. We've spent time with other companies -- McDonald's, Bank of America and Walgreens, to name a few. I am also on the board for Skills for Chicagoland's Future, which is an organization focused on connecting employers with unemployed and underemployed job seekers, with programs specifically targeting opportunity youth. That's one of the reasons I'm happy to share our story in CHRO Conversations because there's no pride of authorship here -- we'll share what we've learned with any organization that wants to get involved.
Emond: You mentioned that preparing Hyatt employees for RiseHY hires was part of your pre-launch. How is it going for them now, a year later?
Myers: RiseHY is a point of pride for Hyatt colleagues. We're demonstrating what it means to care for people in a real and compelling way. That's what makes me most hopeful -- the energy, pride and enthusiasm that I see from Hyatt colleagues around this initiative. There are a lot of reasons I come to work excited every day about what I'm doing, and RiseHY is probably at the top of that list. Every time I meet a colleague who has joined Hyatt through this program, I know that is a life we have changed. And that's just through direct employment -- there are so many other people we'll help along the way. I am proud of where we are so far and where we'll be by 2025. Or sooner.
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This article was based on an interview with Larry Emond.