Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Other Side of the Coin

Last week, in my entry title “Early Retirement vs. A Boot in the Ass”, I wrote a little about how I am feeling about the corporate transformation underway at Hilton. My friend and former colleague, Jeff Kirwan, told me, “I thought you may have judged our new executive management a bit harshly.” Jeff shared with me that the company is providing Employee Assistance Counselors to offer advice on coping both personally and professionally when faced with uncertainty and change. I agree that this indicates some level of care for the team members in the midst of so much turmoil, and I hope people take advantage of the offering. You just never know what contact will turn a light bulb on in your head. Think of it as a networking opportunity as much as a counseling session.

Let’s look at the other side of the coin, and separate the emotional storm generated by re-organization from the need that drove this transformation in the first place.

Just like individuals, corporations should always be striving to improve. The Hilton brands have been good at making changes to stay current with changing markets and customer needs. For example, Hampton recreated itself just a few years ago with the Make It Hampton initiative, and Embassy Suites redesigned their hotel design to make development of their all-suite product more affordable for owners, thus boosting their pipeline.

There were unquestionably some aspects of HHC’s corporate operations that needed to be re-evaluated and overhauled for the better. The brands have proven that drastic change is hard, but can result in a stronger path forward. Hilton’s IT organization was not immune to the need for change. If we Hilton team members and alumni are honest with ourselves and each other, we know that change was needed. There are organizational, staffing, and cost issues festering that need to be addressed. There is always room for evaluation and improvement. Executed properly, it’s healthy.

But change is hard. When jobs are eliminated, the faces of those affected are real to us, and we question the decisions made. My fervent hope is that our friends and colleagues will move on to find rewarding replacements to their lost jobs, perhaps changing their lives for the better. We probably all hope that the company being transformed comes out the other side of this successfully. Time will tell.

Even though I am retired from Hilton, I’m finding it impossible to disassociate myself from what’s going on. I care deeply about my friends and what they are experiencing. Oddly, I feel something like survivor’s guilt that I successfully bailed before all this happened. I truly hope that the Hilton of the future will be better than ever and a great place of opportunity for its team members. At the same time, I am grieving the loss of the daily camaraderie of long-time colleagues and the familiarity of “the good old days”. So I will shake my head in sorrow and learn to look forward instead.

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