Since acquiring their first hotel over 70 years ago, the family-owned Loews Hotels & Co has maintained a strong presence in the high-end luxury hotel market. But in 2016, Loews’ leadership realized that having a stellar consumer reputation wasn’t enough. They knew the team member experience at Loews to be unique to other brands in the industry; but finding a way to reflect this in the form of an engaging employer brand perception was a whole different story.
The communications and culture team at Loews worked to spark excitement internally throughout all 24 properties. This meant upgrading all team spaces, creating an internal communications strategy recognizing Loews’ values at work, and opening lines of communication to allow for team member feedback.
The next year, the Loews brand team decided the time was right to shift the employer brand strategy from internal to external. Their content collection strategy began right where we like it: team member stories, and that’s where we stepped in.
First, a careers video
Initially, the project was to be a quick one: the Stories Inc. team was to visit the Chicago and Philadelphia-based Loews Hotels & Co, interview and photograph ten diverse team members at each location, and create two 2-to-3-minute videos bringing the Loews employee experience to life.
The Stories Inc. team approached the initial day in Chicago in our usual organic style, going where the interviews take us; while the Loews brand team expected us to hear certain themes, they too were open-minded to shaping the content around whatever we uncovered throughout the day.
And what did we find? We found that each of the individuals we spoke to had a palpable energy and personality. Everyone seemed so authentically themselves, that we had to ask about it. Human Resources Manager Arelis Morales summed it up best in a line that would become the thesis for the project:
“We’re here to do a job of being able to take care of our guests. But having fun while we’re doing it and being natural and being yourself is very important. We want you to be unique. We want you to be you.”
After interviewing ten fabulous team members, we brought the footage back to our office. Going into the post-production phase there were two main challenges. The first was ensuring that all ten Loews team members were represented in the video. While everyone we interviewed provided us with great content, utilizing ten different storytellers within a well-flowing 2-3 minute video that also features well-developed stories proved difficult (though not impossible, of course!)
The second challenge was the content flow itself. The Loews brand that we experienced seemed to have fun and energy at its core. Loews prided itself on being a family, after all, so this authenticity seemed key to understanding the work experience.
But everyone we spoke to at Loews also had such pride in what they do. Hospitality is a serious business, one each storyteller considered to be their calling. Bringing these individuals to life without doing their hard work justice seemed like a disservice, and finding a balance was key.
What we did: We created a video capturing the sense of family at Loews Chicago. Featured were the unique personalities of individuals such as Emmanuel Banahene, a front desk agent with a passion for fashion. When he enters a room for a meeting, he struts his perfect runway walk; how welcoming the rest of the team is of his “crazy side” means the world to Emmanuel.
The video also showcases how the team members are there for each other on a day-to-day basis, too. Banquet person Cristian Sanchez-Lopez remembers when it started to rain during an outdoor reception for 300 people. Everyone—housekeeping, managers, the GM—rallied together to set everything up inside within 30 minutes.
And finally, to provide an extra burst of personality and fun, we added an intro and outro to the video. The intro featured a childhood anecdote from a chef we interviewed, Moriah Dobson, of how she fell in love with cooking. The outro featured a member of the housekeeping team in one of the funnier parts of her interview, talking about how much she loves her job. With the intro and outro being separate from the body of the video itself, we struck the balance of energy and drive.
Project expands to cover core values
When we delivered the final version of the Chicago video, the Loews brand team was so excited about the content, that it helped to crystallize their overall strategy. Instead of two videos broadly communicating the employee experience, the brand team decided to select two additional properties for the Stories Inc. team to visit: Miami and Orlando.
Both of these locations, on top of the already planned filming in Philadelphia, were selected because of their standout exemplification of a Loews core value: professionalism, service to the community, and adding value. The original Chicago video would be used to represent the “family” value.
Each video would follow the same structure of the Chicago video — an intro and outro to showcase personal connection and fun, with the video’s core demonstrating the pre-selected core value. With each video, there would be an undertone of the thesis Arelis created for us: Loews wants you to be you.
Professionalism in Philadelphia
We visited the Loews Hotel & Co in Philadelphia to interview and photograph 10 team members and capture what it means to them to be a professional. In typical Loews fashion, to each individual, professionalism meant something different.
To barista Basma Halmy, being a professional means being the best she can possibly be at what her job is. When Loews brought in a professional to teach them how to become better baristas, Basma took the lessons to heart. Wanting to prove her skills, she proudly concludes her portion in the video with, “you should try my coffee.”*
*Personal insert: when we were in the lobby later that day, she swooped us over to the coffee stand to put her money where her mouth is! My americano was decadent.
For server-to-be Jessica Hoffman, being a professional meant taking advantage of opportunities to move forward. When she was being moved from a food runner to being a server, she asked her manager, “How do I learn about this stuff?”
Instead of referring her to a book or even a colleague, he pulled out a couple different bottles of wines and encouraged her to taste them. They then had a conversation about each one, why it tastes the way it does, and with which foods to recommend them to guests for the optimal dining experience.
Though professionalism came alive in many forms, there is a common theme throughout Philadelphia’s video, which could be used to sum up what it means to be a professional at Loews: a pride and love of the work that they do.
Being a Good Neighbor in Miami
When chairman Jonathan Tisch created the Loews Hotel and Co’s Good Neighbor Program in 1990, it became the hospitality industry’s first broad community outreach program and focused on encouraging team members to be active, positive members of the local community. The Miami location was selected to demonstrate how they strive to give back to their community.
In the opening story, senior access sales manager Roseline Bien Aime tells how she came to be where she is at Loews. While she was in high school she had to have an internship, and she happened to end up at Loews working by the pool without really knowing what she wanted to do in the future. She made her way into a sales position at Loews, and she hasn’t looked back.
Roseline has made it her mission to share her journey with other young students in the Miami area. She believes that by sharing her experiences and the skills she’s learned to be successful in this industry, she can be a mentor to them as they try to find what they’re meant to be doing. In Roseline’s words, she wants them to believe that “anything is possible.”
Loews also finds ways to enable team members to give back even within their day-to-day. Director of Housekeeping Catina Christian talks about how Loews donates any used soap to be collected, cleaned up, and used to create fresh, new bars of soap to be donated to those who need it. While that may seem like a small thing, when you consider how many bars of soap must be collected everyday in the 700-plus room property, that is a lot of impact.
Throughout the three minute video it shines through how—no matter what form it takes for the individual person—being a Good Neighbor means being there for the people and community around you. And Loews enables you to do just that.
Adding Value in Orlando
The Stories team spent one day in Orlando visiting two Loews locations: Cabana Bay Beach Resort and the Hard Rock Hotel. We had a two-fold objective going into the day. First, to uncover how these team members “add value,” Loews’ core value embodying the power of the individual team member to make a difference—to the company, to guests, and to each other.
The second reason why these two hotels were selected: both Cabana Bay and Hard Rock are immersive destinations, meaning that Loews Hotels and Co has joined with another brand to create a completely unique experience for their guests. While under the Loews umbrella, the team members do not “wear the brand” in the same way the traditional properties do, so the brand team wanted to be sure to represent this important team member experience in the final videos to show how they add value to the company.
What we found: when it comes to “adding value,” many of the team members felt the culture of the company allowed them to make large impacts on the guest experience.
Hard Rock server/entertainer Anthony Stevens remembers one of his first nights on the job, serving drinks by the pool. A song came on that got his feet moving, so he jumped on stage and starting dancing and the crowd went wild. His manager recognized what an energy Anthony had and what an experience that created for guests, and encouraged him to continue! For Anthony, dancing and getting people excited “is me making a connection.”
For other team members, “adding value” meant Loews’ openness to them moving around to the roles that best suit them and enable them to add the most value. Recreation Supervisor Benjamin Payne started out as a lifeguard. His manager quickly recognized his aptitude for guest interaction, and moved him to a sales position where he excelled. In his words, this shift “allowed me to direct myself to where I really should be, as opposed to where I got hired.”
With all the interview days complete, we brought the footage back and created four videos from four cities illustrating four core values: Family, Professionalism, Good Neighbor, and Adding Value.
In Spring 2018, Loews launched the content internally at their annual meeting to create excitement throughout the organization around their employer brand. The videos will go live externally across various social platforms and Workday in July 2018.