La Quinta Inns & Suites Embraces Military Community with Holistic Enterprise-Wide Initiative

Apr 1, 2018 | Defense Transportation Journal

By Cheryl Endres, La Quinta Military Programs Advisor

Launched over six years ago, the La Quinta Salutes military initiative was built on six pillars that allow for an enterprise-wide holistic approach to embracing the military. Derek Blake, La Quinta’s Vice President – Marketing and Military Programs, who leads the initiative said, “Embracing the military community is not only the right thing to do but it also makes good business sense. Our efforts are focused on hiring veterans and military spouses by providing opportunities conducive to their unique skill sets. La Quinta offers portable, flexible jobs or careers to accommodate frequent PCS [Permanent Change of Station] moves and deployment schedules, as well as upward mobility. Putting people first is embedded in our corporate culture and those who have a passion for people and service fall in line with two very important core values of the La Quinta employee ethos. Transitioning service members have found their acclimation to a civilian career with us to be a smooth one—the remaining three La Quinta core values which are inspired by our people are integrity, excellence and unique.”

With more than 900 hotels and over 10,000 team members located in 48 US states, Canada, Mexico, Honduras and Colombia, La Quinta’s talent acquisition team, led by Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer, Mikki Hughes, assists local general managers to find members of this exceptional talent pool by providing a 10-page handbook called The La Quinta Military Recruitment Guide. This resource tool includes sections on why veterans and military spouses make great employees, where to find them, interviewing techniques and guidelines for the onboarding process. The highlights of why veterans and military spouses make great La Quinta team members include:

  • Ability to Learn – Our military members are asked to learn new tasks on a consistent basis—not only do they have to learn the new skill but in many cases, they must master it in a very short period.
  • Teamwork – Everyone who serves has a job that relates to a bigger team goal. They understand the importance of working within a team to achieve together. They must be able to balance the ability to work independently on tasks in order to achieve the broader team goal.
  • Integrity – The military instills and reinforces the importance of integrity with all its members; this translates into an employee who is more likely to be trustworthy.
  • Ability to Overcome Challenges – Not every situation in the military comes with a set of instructions on how to handle it; our military members must have the ability to think on their feet and make sound decisions.
  • Performance Under Pressure – Members of the military are accustomed to working under tight deadlines and accomplishing a lot in a short amount of time.
  • Leadership – Each position in the military has a leadership component, whether it is leading a team or demonstrating leadership in an individual contributor role. This translates into an employee who is more likely to be a self-starter with the ability to work well within a team.

Blake adds insights that military spouses comprise an eager workforce. “We’ve come to know valuable aspects specific to military spouses: they have the drive to work hard and do well; they seek upward mobility, careers vs. jobs; and they are well educated and often underemployed. Bringing these attributes to the forefront of hiring managers is imperative to have a positive impact on military spouse employment.”

La Quinta’s Military Recruitment Guide has a separate section on what makes them valuable assets:

  • Long-Term Employees – Most spouses are stationed in a location anywhere from 2-4 years on average. When military spouses must move, La Quinta has over 880 hotels across the country so they can likely take their job with them to another hotel in our system.
  • Employee Retention – La Quinta has been able to show a higher retention rate for those employees with a military background vs. those without.
  • Unique Skills – Due to the nature of their roles, military spouses and caregivers bring with them a well-balanced skill set that fits nicely into the La Quinta culture. These skills include:

–  Flexibility
–  Adaptability
–  Motivation
–  Resilience
–  Problem Resolution
–  Organization
–  Team Player
–  Leadership
–  Resourcefulness

Blake has been involved in this initiative since day one and is a founding member and current chairman of the Military Spouse Employment Advisory Council of Hiring Our Heroes (HOH), a program of the US Chamber of Commerce. He was also awarded the HOH Military Spouse Employment and Mentoring Award for his leadership and efforts in helping them find meaningful employment, as well as assisting other organizations in shaping their hiring initiatives.

Last summer, to better understand the current military spouse employment landscape, La Quinta collaborated with HOH to conduct a survey of active duty and recent veteran spouses. Military Spouses in the Workplace: Understanding the Impacts of Military Spouse Unemployment on Military Recruitment, Retention, and Readiness was released at the Military Spouse Employment Summit in Washington, DC, which was attended by national corporations, government officials and members of the Trump administration.

Key findings included:

  • Unemployment and underemployment continue to be significant challenges for most military spouses. Many are in part time or seasonal positions when they would prefer full time or permanent work.
  • Military spouses with degrees face the greatest challenges in nearly every measurable employment category. They face the highest rates of unemployment and the most difficulty finding meaningful work.
  • Moves between duty stations play havoc on careers. Not only do most military spouses have to quit jobs because of a move, they face long periods of unemployment after the move.
  • Like most American families, military families want and need two incomes—something that is much harder for military families to achieve.
  • The lack of employment opportunities creates stress and influences a family’s decision to stay in or leave the military—factors that ultimately hurt military readiness, retention, and recruiting.

The call to action for all was to acknowledge these challenges and to create opportunities that would help combat the 16 percent unemployment rate among them—four times higher than their civilian counterparts.

In recognition of La Quinta’s firm commitment to hiring veterans and military spouses, for the sixth consecutive year, the company has been named a 2018 Military Friendly Employer and Military Friendly Spouse Employer by G.I. Jobs and Military Spouse magazines—this year once again ranking in the Top 10 among MFSEs. La Quinta was also among the top 50 in Military Times’ Best for Vets 2017; the 2018 list is due out later this year. “La Quinta Inns & Suites is committed to not only being military friendly, but military and military family ‘ready’,” says Blake. Part of the company’s onboarding process includes the presentation of a La Quinta challenge coin and veteran or military spouse pin.

Since its inception six years ago, La Quinta Salutes is ever evolving to reflect and address the needs of transitioning service members and active duty military spouses.

“Our talent acquisition team actively engages in the Hiring Our Heroes’ Corporate Fellowship Program, allowing active duty military to experience firsthand La Quinta’s corporate culture and management training,” Blake explained. In fact, last summer a command sergeant major stationed at Fort Carson, CO went through the program with La Quinta and was then hired as a general manager upon his retirement. He currently has a transitioning officer going through the Corporate Fellowship Program at his property in Austin, TX. The program is now open to military spouses in some locations.

“We also have a strong commitment to mentorship and have been selected for six consecutive years to participate in the US Air Force Education With Industry (EWI) program which provides mid-career officers a year-long fellowship with vetted employers,” said Blake. While most of the officers serve in La Quinta’s cybersecurity department, they do spend time in all areas of operations, sales and marketing. “Our first EWI fellow even went on to head Air Force Lodging!”

Fairly new to La Quinta Salutes is the Military Business Resource Group (BRG), which provides an opportunity for veterans and military spouses to meet other service and family members, and feel connected when working within a “civilian” environment. It also provides civilian employees the opportunity to connect with members of the military community with whom they might not otherwise have the opportunity to engage. Additionally, the BRG will provide mentorship and professional development. An outcome for the BRG will be improved camaraderie, understanding and communication between military and civilian employees through the sharing of military experience and skills, and integrated team work on community outreach projects.

La Quinta supports and partners with over 20 non-profit organizations that benefit the military community and, through its La Quinta Returns loyalty program, was able to donate five million points to such organizations as Fisher House Foundation, Operation Homefront, Armed Services YMCA, Team Red White & Blue, and Team Rubicon during November’s Military Family Appreciation Month. The generosity of La Quinta customers and the company’s million-point match translates into 450 free room nights for military families in need. Additionally, La Quinta Returns members rallied to donate 18 million points to Team Rubicon to assist them in their disaster relief efforts.

To further recognize all service members, veterans and their families, La Quinta Returns Military Rewards program provides members with exclusive benefits including:

  • 12 percent discount off best available rates
  • Instant Military Rewards Gold status
  • 2,000 bonus points
  • Free nights, upgrades and more
  • Recognition upon check in with La Quinta’s purple ‘thank you for your service’ key card holder

La Quinta Salutes military initiative also includes sourcing from veteran-, service-, and military spouse-owned businesses for whom the company provides 15-day payment terms. As a member of the Coalition for Veteran Owned Businesses (CVOB), La Quinta supports them in their mission to provide economic opportunity to veterans, their families and the communities in which they live by offering leadership and a national platform to support veteran-, service member-, and military spouse-owned businesses; entrepreneurs; and suppliers. And, for veterans interested in becoming a La Quinta franchisee, it offers a special program through VetFran.