Courtesy Hilton Hotels

Hilton Hotels: We will hire 20,000 more vets by 2020

Eric Dehm
February 28, 2018 - 10:39 am

Along with being one of the nation's most succesful businessmen and entrepreneurs, Conrad Hilton, founder of the 100 year old Hilton hotel empire, was many things, including a veteran. He served in the U.S. Army in France during World War I but the Hilton family's military service didn't end with their founder.

 Even as the family business was flourishing into one of the biggest and best known in the country, Conrad's son Barron would serve in World War II as a Navy Photographer's Mate. In 1966 Barron, now 90 years old, would succeed Conrad as President and CEO of Hilton.

Photo courtesy Hilton Hotels

It makes sense that an extremely successful organization built and led by two war veterans for the first 77 years of its existence would have a vested interest in keeping veterans involved in the company. Which is exactly what Hilton has been doing on a large, but relatively quiet, scale with their Operation Opportunity program.

When it was launched in August of 2013, Operation Opportunity had a stated goal of bringing on 10,000 veterans and spouses by 2018. They reached that goal two years ahead of time. That would have been a public relations coup in and of itself but there's a solid chance this is the first you're hearing about it, unless you happen to work in the hospitality industry. Hiring veterans was never about publicity for Hilton, it's about good business. 

According to Lauren Bacon, Senior Manager of Hilton's military programs, hiring veterans for the sake of hiring veterans isn't something a company would be interested in doing, at least not if they wanted to survive. If those 10,000 veterans weren't pulling their weight, Hilton wouldn't be interested in hiring more. Of course, she says, those 10,000 veterans are high-performers who have been a welcome addition to the Hilton team. 

For proof of how well veterans are doing in the Hilton family, you need only look at their newly stated goal of hiring an additional 20,000 vets and spouses by 2020. According to Bacon, veterans and spouses are contributing significantly at every level during a time of growth for Hilton.

"When we made a concentrated effort around it (hiring veterans) we saw huge success," Bacon said during an appearance on's Morning Briefing radio show. "There are so many similar values and veterans and spouses are bringing so many unique skillsets that fit in a lot of areas of our business. So adding 20,000 more was a no-brainer."

Bacon says vets are contributing from top to bottom and she's not exaggerating. At the top, Hilton's Chief Technoloy Officer is a Navy vet and their Chief Risk Officer served in the Army.  You can find the 10,000 veterans already hired working everywhere from accounting to security and all stations in between.

Bacon says that while people may think of the hospitality industry as limited to working the front desk of a hotel, and veterans might not think their skills translate well to it, neither could be further from the truth. In fact, even if you did do a job that translates directly, but want to try something else, the opportunities abound.

Courtesy Hilton Hotels

"Because you were a cook in the military doesn't mean we're going to stick you in the kitchen," according to Bacon. "We have so many different areas we can translate your skills to, and it's really all on-the-job training at Hilton. We don't require degrees for our positions in our properties and that (not having a degree) is also not going to hold you back from moving up. You can move up really quickly, so it really is an awesome industry to get into."

Some of those hired are even able to work for the company from home, which is particularly enticing to one very important segment of the military and veteran population--spouses.

"We know that they are travelling all over," said Hilton's manager of Military and Government Group Sales Christina Saragnese, whose brother is a Captain in the Marine Corps. "We have work from home jobs, they telework and are able to work with flexible hours. We're really committed to making sure their futures are succesful, because we know the sacrifices of their past and that's truly what we're committed to at Hilton."

Bacon says veterans and spouses interested in finding out more are encouraged to reach out directly via e-mail to [email protected]

You can hear the full Morning Briefing interview with Bacon and Saragnese below by clicking Play to stream now. To download and listen later, click the share button and select download from the available options.