Serving as the Chief Human Resources Officer for Delaware North, a global leader in hospitality, Eileen Morgan is responsible for the company’s global corporate human resources strategy and function, including talent and organization development, compensation and benefits, employee and labor relations and human resources systems and services.
Leading HR strategy for a company with 55,000-plus employees and operations in signature places like Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, TD Garden, Wembley Stadium and the Australian Open, to name just a few, Eileen’s responsibilities and impact carry global significance. She took a moment to talk with us about emerging trends, shifting employee desires, the company’s new headquarters and more.
You have been a human resources executive at Delaware North for 17 years. How has human resources evolved in that time?
Delaware North is four times larger today than when I started with the company. That growth alone has driven significant change for my role in scale and reach. But, what’s always impressed me at a foundational level, is our company’s commitment to delighting guests via hospitality. Our business is about ensuring people have memorable experiences, and our people’s attitudes and loyalty is so key in making that happen. Delaware North recognizes that and the company’s focus is what keeps them effective and strong as a business. The full credit goes to the family ownership of the Jacobs.
Other than that, just about everything has changed. There’s so much change we could talk about just in technology alone. When I started, nobody used laptops, Skype or LinkedIn. So, meeting candidates, identifying people for strategic roles – all of this had to be done by extensive travel and phone follow-up. The new ways we can connect instantaneously all over the world help HR teams be more efficient and share ideas faster – it’s exciting.
When it comes to recruitment and retention, what are employees looking for today they weren’t looking for a decade ago?
There’s three “wants” today’s employees have that are different than in the past, including:
- Immediate gratification: More people today than ever before have an inherent expectation for instant “status updates.” They want to know now how the interview went and/or if they can fill the job. When I started, the process could take a month or more and that was ok.
- Authenticity: People want to identify organizations with strong values and then come to realize the company delivers on their promise.
- Experience: People seek flexibility, support and learning opportunities that help them manage their career experiences similar to how guests in hotels are seeking great experiences.
Amidst these shifts, recruitment and retention is a never-ending constant challenge. Finding and keeping talent is hard work and as our company grows, the number of great people we need around the world grows with it. We have to constantly keep up with new trends and shifting preferences to meet people where they are in the marketplace.
What has helped Delaware North retain talent?
There are a number of things, but I think the core driver for Delaware North’s recruit/retain success is our relationship-oriented culture. From the top down, there’s genuine care for our people and the relationships we create to move our business forward.
Beyond that, our commitment to leveraging leading-edge technology. This is especially helpful in recruiting our seasonal workforce year in and year out. That’s another area I’ve seen real change during my career. While there wasn’t much focus on technology toward the front end of recruitment 17 years ago, there is now. Our organization’s ability to recognize these shifting realities and adapt is key to ongoing success.
Three years ago, Delaware North opened its new dynamic HQ in downtown Buffalo. How has the new building helped your people and organization?
The new headquarters empowers Delaware North in multiple ways, but there are a few areas that stand out. First, the building amplifies our brand. Delaware North has been in Buffalo for more than a century, but up until the new HQ, the company lacked a building with its name on it – now it has an entire city block.
When we bring a strategic partner, a job candidate, or a community representative to the building, they identify the HQ as a physical representation of our 100 years of business. They see our team’s pride, the experiences they have here; it all adds value. We’ve even started having annual employee events here as our staff wants to show off the building to their friends and family.
Beyond its value as a brand amplifier, the HQ also embraces technology in exciting new ways. The phone system leverages Skype, so there are no desk phones. Wireless connectivity allows employees to work in various settings and remotely. These changes help us recruit and retain people, and also enable them to work in different ways that fit their needs.
Even great workplaces require constant investment and modification. What’s one way the new HQ may evolve in the years ahead?
We continue to study the best ways to balance community and personal space. New generations are less committed to the idea of having their own office and more open to collaborative, team-based work. This lines up with new realities of how we work that demand multi-disciplinary problem solving and ideation.
So, as we grow with our building, I’m sure we’ll continue to test new allocation ratios for these types of spaces. How can we give people a sense of belonging and ensure they’re inherently connected to others across the office? How can we ensure people use communal spaces for their full ROI? How will business look different a decade from now? These are all questions we’ll try to answer in and with our building over the years ahead.
Delaware North employs 55,000 people, all working unique jobs. From corporate employees to culinarians, how do you balance these diverse needs and wants in your workforce?
We bring the same philosophy and values to each employee, whether they’re an executive, a human resources specialist, a data analyst, a chef or a server. Beyond that, we tailor to their needs through programs, policies and benefits, etc. that are very local and functional for them. So on a high level, we’re committed to professional development opportunities for everyone, and then we customize those based on the different roles.
For example, culinarians, as a generalization, care deeply about professional development and education. So, every salaried culinarian at Delaware North has access to a national certification program; they can take a week-long class; we work with vendors who offer learning opportunities and we support professional certification in numerous ways. We even send teams to the Culinary Olympics. This commitment to professional development is a value proposition for those who work with Delaware North’s culinary group. The types of professional development others seek will be different and on an entirely different scale.
Outside of that customization though, we strive for consistency. Our benefits programs, health and wellness offerings – we strive to keep the philosophy and values driving them the same. We care about ensuring our staff feels appreciated and has what they need to be successful.
What is Delaware North’s focus on change management?
Given Delaware North’s long history and current global scale, widespread change adoption can be hard. So many different departments are constantly introducing change (finance transformation, procurement changes, new talent and capabilities, etc.). Moreover, change can look different at our different properties, and so the change journey can’t always be dictated from the center of the organization.
Recognizing the complexity of change in our organization, we’ve worked with outside groups, we’ve established a strategic initiative all around change adoption and we’ve built technology platforms that empower our people to connect, share and help each other adopt new behaviors and best practices.
I don’t think an organization can ever rest on its laurels when it comes to change management, and that’s a main reason we’re committing enhanced focus to it in these ways moving forward.