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For All Summit Recap: Leaders Must Change in order to Meet the Challenges of the Future

16 May 2024

More than 1,600 attendees joined Great Place To Work® in New Orleans to learn and develop strategies to build vital and thriving workplace cultures.

It’s never been more important to offer a great workplace culture.

Amid the rise of AI and a challenging macro environment for business leaders around the world, the workplace is changing rapidly. That pace of change presents an opportunity, but it also requires trust.

“Trust is more important now than it has ever been,” says Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place To Work.

How you build that trust was the focus of several sessions on the first day of the For All Summit™ in New Orleans, featuring leaders from companies like Hilton, Marriott International, and more.

At the heart of Bush’s message for 2024: “Everyone does better when everyone does better.”

Companies that embrace this philosophy see investment in employees as a key business driver.

“Culture is ultimately about building an ecosystem of trust,” says Chris Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton, ranked No. 1 on the World's Best Workplaces 2023. “When something goes wrong, you are able to weather the storm.”

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Above: Chris Nassetta, president and CEO at Hilton talks with Laura Fuentes, CHRO at Hilton at the 2024 For All Summit in New Orleans.


Trust is also the ingredient that allows CEOs to pursue opportunities that often come with risk.

“The more trust you have from your stakeholders, the more you are able to take advantage of those opportunities,” Nassetta says. 

It all starts with listening, and one secret weapon for uncovering the different experiences of employees across your organisation is the employee resource group (or ERG).

Hilton has Team Member Resource Groups, which it credits with driving its inclusive culture.

“It’s important to use them not just to celebrate different backgrounds, but to leverage them for talent retention, development, engagement, coaching, and business insights,” shares Laura Fuentes, CHRO of Hilton.

Wellbeing and mental health

Another focus for speakers at this year’s Summit? Employee wellbeing.

Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global, spoke about how her organisation has researched wellbeing as a productivity multiplier. “We are in the middle of a huge cultural transformation,” she says.

For most of the industrial revolution, machines and software have been optimised to reduce downtime and maximise productivity. However, human beings can’t run all day and all night.

“For the human operating system, downtime is a feature, not a bug,” she says.

Arianna Huffington and DJ Casto

Above: Arianna Huffington, CEO of Thrive Global speaks with DJ Casto, CHRO of Synchrony, at the 2024 For All Summit.

“I’m always looking for ways to take the friction out of the employee experience,” says DJ Casto, CHRO of Synchrony. Casto joined Huffington to talk about how Thrive Global and Synchrony are co-designing wellbeing initiatives across the organisation. 

“For me, it was the pandemic,” Casto says. “It was my wake-up call.”

Synchrony has partnered with Thrive Global to integrate wellbeing directly into the daily lives and workflow of the frontline customer service agents.

Call center representatives receive Thrive Resets: short mindfulness and breathing exercises to help them break the cycle of cumulative stress and re-center themselves after a tough customer call. These science-backed Resets last just 60 seconds, and nearly 80% of agents at Synchrony said they would rather get a 60-second reset than take a five-minute break.

While employee assistance programs (EAPs) and therapy sessions are greatly beneficial for employees, Huffington says it’s crucial to have interventions that are part of daily workflows.

“Health is what happens between doctors’ visits,” Huffington says.

Empowering the frontline

This year’s event put the spotlight on frontline workers, particularly in industries where these roles are critical for the customer experience.

Anthony Capuano, president and CEO of Marriott International, shared how its people-first culture was the guiding principle that led the hotel chain through the pandemic when revenue evaporated.

“The company was founded on five simple, powerful core values,” he says.

Anthony Capuano, CEO, Marriott International and Ty Breland, CHRO, Marriott International

Above: Anthony Capuano, president and CEO of Marriott International, and Ty Breland, CHRO of Marriott International, talk together at the 2024 For All Summit.

“Our founders had a simple view of how to drive business success. Take care of the associate, and the associate will take care of the customer, and the customer will come back again and again.”

To take care of its associates, Marriott’s leaders went on the road to meet with leaders and frontline employees at hotels around the world. The listening tour resulted in three signature efforts:

1. Redefining leadership: “We believe that if we get leadership right, everything else will fall into place,” says Ty Breland, CHRO of Marriott International. This meant getting every associate at all levels of the organisation to embrace their responsibility as a leader. “We want every person in the company at every level to wake up and think of themselves as a leader,” Breland says.

2. Investing in associates: Marriott revisited its compensation framework, increased base pay and expanded bonuses, launched an employee stock purchase programme, and revamped its wellbeing offerings to “invest in associates,” a phrase that was chosen very carefully. “The difference between a cost and investment is an investment has a return,” Breland explains.

3. Access to opportunity: While many businesses post-pandemic were focused on remote work and telecommuting, Marriott had to find a way to be competitive with its frontline roles. It increased flexibility and choice by increasing part-time work, offering flexible schedules and investing in associate resource groups (ARGs), Breland says.

From this initial investment, Marriott has launched Elevate by Marriott International, a leadership development programme to help frontline employees progress into early management and long careers at Marriott. Currently, 1 in 4 entry-level management roles are filled by non-management associates taking the next step in their careers.

Marriott hopes to grow that number and sees the offering as a key differentiator in its industry.

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