1 month's paid holiday to accomplish your dream (or someone else's) come true

Written by Adèle Boinnot, on 08 April 2020

The mission of the Hilton hotel network is to be the most hospitable company in the world, creating authentic experiences and striving to have a positive impact on its community. This also applies to their employees, and they embody it, for example, through their "Thrive Sabbatical: Give a Dream, Live a Dream" program. The principle: give employees 4 weeks to realize their dream project.

The "Thrive Sabbatical: Give a Dream, Live a Dream" program was launched in 2017 to give Hilton employees the opportunity to realize one of their dreams, pursue a passion, or complete a project that is close to their heart.

Concretely, the company gives them 4 weeks of paid leave and a budget of $5,000 to accomplish the project of their choice. It's not just about fulfilling their own dream; program participants can also choose to use this time and money to fulfill a loved one's dream or engage in solidarity actions with other communities. The goal: to allow them to take time to recharge and return with the feeling of having accomplished something important, while also inspiring their colleagues and the company along the way.

For example, Emille Artigas, Marketing and PR Director at the Hilton in Doha (Qatar), organized a diving operation to clean up the oceans with the Aware project. Tim Sachse, a concierge at the Hilton in Berlin, spent his 4 weeks in an old camper van traveling through Norway and Sweden with his wheelchair-bound father, who had always dreamed of sharing those landscapes with his son but never had the time or opportunity.

Others have used this time to build new buildings for hospitals in Guatemala, volunteer with child aid associations in Singapore, distribute glasses in communities that lack access to them, or train women in hospitality jobs to help them access new careers.

We launched the Thrive Sabbatical program to allow these Team Members to return to work feeling rejuvenated and accomplished. What we did not realize is how humbled and inspired we would all feel, as we heard their stories and learnt about their journeys. - Matt Schuyler, DRH de Hilton

How to participate in such a cool program?

Every year, Hilton selects 10 candidates to benefit from the program, from several hundred applications. To be eligible, you must meet a few criteria: for example, be an employee of Hilton for at least 5 consecutive years, have the approval of your General Manager or Vice President (for those working at headquarters), who must confirm that the candidate is in some way an "exemplary employee" (Editor's note: we don't know the criteria for judgment). The only employees who cannot benefit from it are those involved in organizing the program (one can imagine their frustration, a bit like selling chocolate without being able to taste it). So regardless of whether they are concierges, receptionists, assistant general managers, cost analysts, security directors, or sales directors, all have access to this program.

To participate, candidates must include in their application a written essay on one of the following themes: "Give a Dream" (giving back to the community and improving the lives of others through a philanthropic or solidarity activity of the candidate's choice) or "Live a Dream" (achieving a personal goal, exploring a new interest, or embarking on a memorable adventure), and answer the following questions:

  1. What do you wish to accomplish during your Thrive Sabbatical?
  2. What would make this experience meaningful and have an impact on you?
  3. What is currently preventing you from achieving your dream or someone else's?

The selection and review of applications are done in several stages: there is an initial pre-selection of applications by the program team, then regional HR managers narrow down the selection before the General Manager or Vice President gives their final approval on the selected candidates. But how can the jury judge the importance of one project compared to another if they are all intended to "change lives" for one or more people?

According to Hilton, in evaluating applications, the jury mainly focuses on the following two aspects:

  • Impact: Will the project presented have a significant and lasting impact on the candidate and/or the target community?
  • Passion: Will participation in the program allow the candidate to act for a cause that has been close to their heart for a long time and amplify their commitment?

The impacts for participants and Hilton

During the 4 weeks of Thrive Sabbatical, candidates are followed and filmed by Hilton, which broadcasts the mini-documentaries made to all its employees at the end of the program. These documentaries are testimonials that present the projects carried out, show their progress, and the impacts for each participant (you can find them by clicking here).

I feel privileged to work under Hilton. Through the Sabbatical Program, it changed me as a person. It made me grow more, emotionally and even spiritually. This Thrive Sabbatical has helped me to appreciate every little thing I have and to always look out for people who are in need. - Wilisoni Buadromo, analyste de coût à Hilton Viti Levu, Fiji, volontaire auprès de la Foundation of the Education for the Needy Children in Fiji

By watching the videos and reading the testimonials of the different participants in the 3 seasons of the program, one can feel (not surprisingly) its positive impact: they seem motivated and energized by their experience, whatever it may be, by what it has allowed them to learn and discover, both about themselves and others. They seem both very proud of what they have accomplished and humble to have contributed their small part to the project they had chosen. There is also a strong sense of gratitude to Hilton for giving them the time and means to accomplish a project that is so dear to them.

What's interesting is that this surge of humility and inspiration doesn't stop with the candidates but is communicated to their colleagues when they hear about their achievements.

According to Hilton, the real key to the success that has made this program so popular is the fact that it is the candidates who choose and carry out their own projects, those that are close to their hearts, and it would never have worked as well if they had been asked to participate in solidarity actions already identified by the company.

This program allows Hilton to create a strong sense of belonging and recognition, which enriches not only the participants but also their colleagues and the company as a whole because they bring their teachings and energy back to their teams.

What’s important is that it is personal and meaningful to the Team Member. - Milla Ketonen, Corporate & Brand Communications de Hilton