The CEO Of The Best Company To Work For Says Gen Z Really Isn't That Different From Any Other Generation | Old North State Wealth News
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The CEO of the Best Company to Work For says Gen Z really isn’t that different from any other generation

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Earlier this month, Fortune, in partnership with Great Place to Work, named Hilton the No. 1 best workplace, owing to its superior company culture, commitment to inclusivity, and opportunities for advancement. Those have long been the goals of its CEO, Christopher Nassetta. 

“I’m an authentic guy; I am who I am,” Nassetta, president, CEO and chairman of Hilton Hotels & Resorts told Fortune’s Nick Lichtenberg in an interview earlier this month. “I’m not perfect. My intentions are always good—mostly pure—and I want what’s best for our people, because that’s what’s best for the company. And I will get anybody out of my way that I need to to make sure that that’s happening.” 

Nassetta, who is inching towards the two-decade mark at Hilton, also says he believes in servant leadership—and that Hilton’s frontline employees do “the real work.” These are the building blocks of the company culture Nassetta is dead-set on cultivating. 

It’s not by accident; more so than their forebears, Gen Z in particular cares deeply about authenticity, social justice, and equality in their workplaces. Ensuring equal devotion to all three is quickly becoming critical for keeping them onboard.

As Nassetta puts it, those prongs were his singular purpose for years. “My whole intention in business is to do well by doing good—period. End of story,” Nassetta said. “I’ve been [promoting] ESG for decades, because it’s good for the business.” Despite working in leadership roles for over 30 years, Nassetta said he doesn’t think he has a “big ego.”

“I don’t think I ever had a big ego, but we all have egos, and particularly as an early CEO, you have a little bit of poser syndrome because you haven’t figured it out,” he said. “You haven’t built your rhythms and, if you’re public, you haven’t built the shareholder relationships where you have all that support, and you’re worried about your board and all these various stakeholders. There’s sort of an embedded insecurity that comes with all of that, but as you get your rhythms, you figure these things out.”

Then there’s the matter of the generational divide; Nassetta, 60, says in his day, people didn’t bring much mental health chatter or personal hang-ups to work—least of all to the boss. But there are still parts of youth culture he can get on board with: flexible work, upward mobility and mentorship, for instance. “Most importantly, I’m focused on purpose.” 

Despite disagreeing with some of the “oversharing” that’s a Gen Z hallmark, workers of all ages generally want the same things. “Everyone wants to advance; everybody wants wellness financially, physically and mentally; everybody wants somebody to mentor them,” he said. “Maybe Gen Z wants more formality around it. But the only reason I am where I am [is] I had the best mentors on earth—and I’m a baby boomer.” 

Too many executives, to Nassetta’s mind, spend their time pointing out the differences between their own priorities and those of their youngest workers. “I try to think about—because I have to run a company with 500,000 people, increasingly Gen Zers—what are the commonalities? My own belief is: The fundamental things young people want are more alike than they are not.”

But there is one newfangled concept Nassetta doesn’t fully get behind: Bringing your “whole self” to work. 

“We want everybody’s whole self, because a diverse environment is the key to success,” he said. “What I’m trying to do is encourage people; we want to know how you think. I don’t always

agree with it, and I might tell you I don’t, but I want you to bring your whole mind. I want you to bring your whole self because your whole self is why I want you here and is going to, hopefully, help us better serve customers. If I bring you here and say, ‘fit in our mold.’ and you can’t bring your whole self, then by definition, I have lost the value of that diversity.” 

Workers have to recognize that “not every single thing we do, you’re going to agree with, but when you put it all together, you agree with the outcome,” Nassetta went on. “In today’s world, all of our political system is built around, basically, dividing us, and identity politics and all that.”

Hilton doesn’t struggle there, Nassetta said, which he chalks up to his workforce’s trust that the executive team has a consistent, honorable purpose. “[Workers] have a voice, and what they think matters,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that we can please everybody all the time; it would be chaotic to try and do that.”

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