Idris Stover has always had a passion for connecting people and helping them succeed, so it’s no surprise that she’s built a thriving career in HR. As Senior Manager of Global Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) at Hilton, it’s Stover’s job to make sure that diversity and inclusion is embedded into every facet of the business and that Team Members from all backgrounds and walks of life feel like —and are treated as—a valued part of the team.
Luckily they have no problem attracting great candidates due to their reputation as a top workplace. Fortune ranked Hilton as the #1 company to work for in the U.S. in their 2020 list, for the second year in a row.
Read on to learn about the most rewarding and challenging parts of her job, as well as the best career advice she’s ever received.
What led you to a career at Hilton?
After finishing up an MBA at Florida A&M University, I began to explore career opportunities that might be a fit for me. I wanted a role that would allow me to contribute at a high level and play to my strengths—connecting and engaging with people. It was my time as an intern in human resources at Pfizer that ignited a spark within me for this work. I loved having the opportunity to work with the employees to create a space where they could succeed and ultimately thrive. After that internship, I knew that I was passionate about HR and I focused my search on identifying companies that would allow me to be a part of a strong HR team.
Hilton's reputation as a top place to work attracted me to the company so I sought out a role on their HR team, eventually moving into D&I work. It’s been four years since I joined the team and I’ve had the opportunity to drive real conversation and measurable change within the culture. What I love most about Hilton is that we really are focused on creating an environment where everyone can be their authentic self.
What are you responsible for as the Senior Manager of Global Diversity & Inclusion at Hilton?
My work is primarily focused on our internal workplace culture, both in the corporate office and at our hotel properties. I’m always thinking about what we can do as a company to ensure we are embracing our Team Members’ diversity. I help promote and foster an environment that invites all Team Members to contribute, innovate and share their individual perspectives in a way that makes everyone feel respected and valued.
What does a normal day in your job look like?
Since I’m in a people-centered role, I’m constantly interfacing and liaising with people across a variety of business functions, in close alignment with HR. I consider myself a consultant, as I work with internal teams to ensure they are applying a D&I lens to everything that they do; and I work with our Team Members to help them develop the skills they need at an individual level to succeed.
How do you work with teams and individual employees to help them develop diversity and inclusion skills?
At Hilton, we are diverse by nature but inclusive by choice. In other words, diversity is going to exist within our organization organically, thanks to the nature of our business and global operations; however, we have to ensure we are intentional in our efforts to ensure everyone feels like they belong and are included.
One way we do this is by building inclusive leadership into the learning and development training for our senior leaders. When our leaders learn how to foster inclusive teams and apply these behaviors, it creates a beautiful trickle-down effect to all of our Team Members.
How does Hilton hire with diversity in mind?
It all starts with our recruitment team’s approach to attracting talent.
We are intentional in our efforts to diversify our recruiting sources and partner with associations and organizations that have members with varied skill sets, backgrounds and experience. We leverage these relationships to connect with top talent to educate them about Hilton so that they will seriously consider us for their next career move.
Another way we’ve found success in hiring with diversity in mind is in our campus recruitment. College campuses are becoming more diverse. We partner with several Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions, and organizations that cultivate diverse leaders. These partnerships allow us to attract and source early-career talent who will become our internal pipeline for leadership roles in the future.
Why is D&I so important for companies like Hilton to focus on? What are the benefits to both employees and the company as a whole?
Diversity really does drive innovative thinking and can increase actual business results. Heterogeneous teams—teams that are not all the same—tend to perform at a higher level. And as a global company, we need the perspective of all types of people within our company to make sure we can effectively meet the needs of our very diverse guest population.
What’s a specific diversity and inclusion initiative you've spearheaded that you're particularly proud of?
One part of my job that’s really fun is working with our eight Team Member Resource Groups—also known as affinity groups at other companies, e.g. African American, Military, Hispanic/Latino, Millennial, Women, LGBTQ & Friends, Abilities (people with disabilities) and Asian & Pacific Islander.
At Hilton, these groups represent several dimensions of diversity and are focused on creating community. They also facilitate opportunities for networking, development, and sharing insights on key business objectives for Hilton. I work with the leaders of these groups to ensure that they’re not only getting the most out of the experience, but also that those groups are contributing back to our business in unique and meaningful ways.
In 2016, I helped lead the expansion of our Team Member Resource Groups to include a group dedicated to millennials. We really wanted to ensure we were meeting the needs of both our growing workforce and an emerging and growing guest population. I’ve been so proud of the insights this group has been able to share to help us evolve our business and brands in meaningful ways. For example, members were part of a focus group that weighed in on the brand concept that would become Motto by Hilton, our affordable lifestyle brand that caters to travelers looking for value in centrally located urban destinations. Motto offers elements like linking rooms for group travel, vibrant communal spaces, and coffee bars.
What is the hardest part about your job?
I’ve found that diversity means different things to different people; and that it’s not always an easy topic to discuss.
It’s in those moments that I remind myself that my work is one (important) piece of a very large puzzle. The goal is to embed D&I into everything we do and not make it a standalone effort. So, it is important in those moments to work to fully understand the business demands and then articulate how our commitment to D&I supports those goals and our overall success. What I love about our leaders at Hilton is they get it and are committed to D&I for the long haul.
What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
The best career advice I received as I made my transition into the D&I space was from a mentor who said, “Diversity and inclusion work is a journey, not a race.”
Essentially, he wanted me to understand early on that the work is not going to be complete in a month, a year, or even five years. This work is ongoing and requires vision and patience. Things will evolve. There will be starts and stops, detours, and maybe even a few curveballs along the way. But if you remain focused on the goal—creating an environment where people can do their best work and be their most authentic selves—you’ll continue to inspire change.