Jamai Blivin Interview with Audrey Williams-Lee


Jamai Blivin Conversation with Audrey Williams-Lee

Jamai Blivin had the opportunity to sit down with Audrey Williams-Lee, SVP, Human Resources, Talent Acquisition & Philanthropy.  Audrey Williams-Lee joined Hyatt Hotels Corporation in 2017 and serves as the HR leader and advisor for C-suite executives and their leadership teams, leading the development and implementation of workforce and talent strategies. She also leads Hyatt’s community engagement and social impact efforts and directs the company’s philanthropy strategy and approach to charitable giving.

Jamai:  Thank you for your time today Audrey. I appreciate your expertise as you lead Hyatt’s Talent Acquisition globally from not only an HR standpoint but also a philanthropy lens for opportunity youth and employment.  You’ve been at Hyatt for two years now.  As you began your research on the best ways for Hyatt to make a global impact, what have you learned?

Audrey: I knew coming in that work needed to be done to look at the organization’s structure, and how to best organize to support our strategies and priorities.  I came in April 2017, and in November 2017 I assumed responsibility for all of the philanthropy and community engagement work at Hyatt.  We were developing our signature philanthropic program, RiseHY, which provides employment for opportunity youth.  Our focus was ensuring how we could be most successful.  The decision to put this under HR was a big decision, and critical since we are focusing on employment.

Jamai:  I feel that with many companies there is a barrier between philanthropy and HR. Why don’t you think more companies are trying to do this? I see HR function very separately from philanthropy in most companies.

Audrey:  I do believe more companies are looking at ways to approach their hiring strategies with philanthropy and social good in mind. At Hyatt, we wanted to ensure that if we were focusing on providing strategies and funding partnerships that impact opportunity youth, that we as an employer would also be able to do the same work we want from the community.

Jamai:  You recently launched a new initiative “RiseHY”.  Can you tell me about that initiative and what you hope you will achieve?

Audrey: At Hyatt, we want to provide opportunities for young adults. The RiseHY initiative is a commitment to hire 10,000 Opportunity Youth – young people between the ages of 16-24 who are disconnected from our economy by either not working or not going to school – by 2025.  Hospitality provides a unique position because hospitality as an industry provides opportunities for young people to rise out of entry-level roles and build meaningful life-long careers. The RiseHY digital initiative we have recently launched focuses on our work with community-based organizations across the U.S. (initially) with Hyatt. We selected two assessments to pilot (Core Score and Pymetrics platforms) to pair thousands of employment opportunities at Hyatt with Opportunity Youth. The young adults take the assessment and then work with the community partners to ensure they upskill in the areas identified for improvement and then are paired with entry-level jobs. We have started piloting the assessments in Chicago, and are in the process of expanding them to DC, San Diego, and Calgary.

Jamai: Can you explain how you value of assessments in the talent pipeline?

Audrey: This pilot with assessments is something that we have researched and been thinking about for some time. We have a meeting with our CEO next week, and we have full support for this to impact many young adults that are not seen in traditional hiring practices. We are seeking new ways to hire to ensure economic mobility. And, this is also a great way to include our community partners with hiring strategies.

Jamai: Looking ahead two years, what is your vision for this pilot and your work with Hyatt?

Audrey: We current have RiseHY pilots active in 7 countries and 11 markets.  We will expand to all of our hotels globally later this year, and plan to more broadly launch the assessment element in 2020.

Jamai: What was your first job ever? How did it shape you?

Audrey:  My first job was volunteering at a hospital.  It taught me skills that I have carried through my lifetime. It taught me how to give back and have an impact at an early age.

Jamai:  Oh yes, the candy striper! Is that what you were?

Audrey:(laughs) Yes, candy striper.

Jamai:  Audrey, thank you and your company for your leadership in paving the way for the future of working and learning!