Hospitality is a people-facing industry. So naturally, hospitality companies seek people who not only understand people but also enjoy other people. Priscilla Guasso is such a person, and her role as regional manager of talent acquisition in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) for Hyatt is to find the right hospitality leadership team—directors of finance, executive chefs, etc.—to lead Hyatt properties in those countries.
“I enjoy being the person who helps influence those decisions,” she says, “because if we make the right selection of talent, we can influence a new wave of leadership.”
Guasso knows how much Hyatt values its current and future leaders. Since joining Hyatt after graduating from the University of Illinois–Champaign-Urbana with a business degree, she has worked her way from an administrative assistant to her current position with help from various leaders from all levels at Hyatt headquarters in Chicago and the LAC regional office in Miami.
“This is a company that surrounds you with a strong support network and if you can adapt to change quickly, have a strong work ethic while having a bit of fun, nothing can get in your way,” she explains. “I find myself very blessed to have been surrounded by such thoughtful and giving leaders and in return hope to be the same to those around me.”
The Chicago native’s transition to her current position involved a move to Miami along with her husband, Jorge, and some cultural adjustments—even for a second-generation Mexican American. It was through the advice of her mentors that she made the necessary adjustments and the transition ended up being one she would never regret.
Priscilla Guasso’s Tips for Recruiting in Latin America and the Caribbean
- Build relationships first, listen, and don’t jump to conclusions.
- Be conscious of how you say something, and be aware of your manners and body language.
- Study each country’s language, culture, and history. Don’t assume you know everything, and surround yourself with experts.
- Meetings and decisions tend to take longer, so block extra time for conversations, dinners, etc.
- Have fun! Ensure you add an extra day to sightsee to learn more about each city you’re in.
“What is so unique about our office is seeing diversity at all levels. Almost all my colleagues in the Miami office come from various parts of Latin America and have such different skill sets,” she asserts. “It has continued to teach me more about each function, and I have gained a deeper understanding of my roots in Latin America.”
While she embraced the opportunity to engage her Spanish skills, she encountered a different approach to work in Latin America and the Caribbean. “I learned that we don’t move as urgently as in the United States. In LAC we take a moment to breathe, listen, and observe even closer,” she says. She had to build trust, and that meant investing time to not only meet her colleagues, but also find out about their families, culture, and history.
“I knew it would be different,” she admits. “But the opportunity to visit these countries, and meet our wonderful people has been an extraordinary experience. In such a short time, I’ve established much closer relationships that only get stronger by the day.”
In her current role, Guasso supports recruiting for more than twenty-seven Hyatt properties in Argentina, Aruba, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama, St. Kitts, Trinidad, and Uruguay. By the end of 2017, the company will have opened new locations in Mexico, Bahamas, and St. Kitts. Future properties are in planning stages for Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Barbados.
All in all, Hyatt works with people in more than fifty-six countries worldwide. “It’s a very proud, yet humbling, feeling to see how, throughout all the growth we’ve had, we’ve been able to maintain our culture as a family who truly cares for its people,” Guasso says. “This to me means using the heart. Don’t confuse this with meaning everyone always gets what they want. Just like a family, love can come in various forms, but ultimately it’s always for the best.”
This is especially true when looking at how important diversity is for the company. Guasso says she’s been blessed to have worked in such a welcoming environment all these years. “Each leader I’ve worked with has seen something different in me, pushed me to go further, and I’ve never felt my background, my ethnicity, my gender has been a cause for question,” she says.
Now, when looking to recruit globally, being able to diversify talent is essential for Guasso. She says her colleagues hold the secrets to their own language and culture. As each colleague evolves their careers at Hyatt, these secrets become assets to not just enhancing Hyatt’s guest experiences, but also ultimately embracing colleagues for who they are.
Hyatt’s greatest asset, Guasso says, is its people. So it’s up to her and other leaders to support and develop their colleagues to be the leaders of tomorrow. That’s where Hyatt’s five leadership characteristics—care, serving, learning, adapting, and achieving—come in. Care is the most important.
“My interviews with senior leaders do not typically revolve only around the job description or responsibilities. I want to hear stories and raw emotion on how their leadership has impacted the careers of others and our guests,” she says.
Two years ago, Hyatt began a Latin American leadership training program, which focuses on employees who have great potential in their careers. Hyatt started by sponsoring more than fourteen employees to work in the United States for a year. While to some this may be just another program, Guasso has been collecting feedback from these young, aspiring professionals and has learned how they never thought working in the United States was an attainable dream. Beginning careers at Hyatt served as stepping stones to changing lives and the future of families.
“Hearing these stories is humbling, it just pulls at the heartstrings,” she says. “It’s something so simple—an opportunity opens a door, and I look forward to the day that one of these trainees become a senior leader in the company. A little at a time, our actions can create a large impact.”