The Breakers Palm Beach
Denise Bober is the rare executive who ignited her professional passion by enjoining two highly appealing disciplines – human resources (HR) and the hotel business – as the fuel for a successful career. As one of the industry’s premier HR specialists, she remains as highly charged by her responsibilities today as when she first shifted to hospitality from the health care/benefits sector. Her intrinsic respect for people and the desire to put them in a nurturing environment where they can thrive, grow and develop, reflect the employee-centered philosophy of The Breakers Palm Beach, for whom she has worked for 25 years.
As vice president of human resources at The Breakers Palm Beach, Bober is responsible for managing a broad range of HR functions: recruitment and employment, staff relations, training and development, wellness, safety, community service, the administration of human resources policies and programs, as well as financial management (including annual operating and capital budgets). She is recognized by her peers as a highly intelligent yet intuitive advocate for a fulfilled workforce, comprised of 2,000 dynamic team members that represent dozens of operating and administrative departments. The Breakers is literally a business of businesses, so Bober’s duties and her impact are far-reaching, especially for Palm Beach County’s largest private employer. She is a member of the resort’s Executive Group, the body comprised of executive management responsible for strategic hotel initiatives and operations.
Bober not only ensures that all of the company’s day-to-day activities follow guidelines set forth by HR; but she built HR into a vital force within all areas of operations because, as she notes, “We are an employee-driven organization, which means we are dedicated to hiring, promotion and accountability for how each one of our associates is treated.” Any critical decision-making that involves employees is vetted through Bober and her team. It is not a surprise that the resort, one of the most financially healthy and thriving hotel companies in the U.S., has designed HR and finance to have far-reaching influences in each department. There is no question in Bober’s mind that employee fulfillment is the guarantor of guest satisfaction, which directly impacts the bottom line. “Our people are one of our greatest assets and we place a tremendous value on their fulfillment, which drives the resort’s exceptional retention rates,” notes Bober. The Breakers has one of the highest benchmark retention rates in the industry.
This kind of approach has made The Breakers especially unique, not just as a hotel, but as an employer. Bober’s main concern is to attract and cultivate talent, and to motivate and retain employees. Accordingly, she built an aggressive recruiting strategy to build a stable, enduring workforce that supports consistent, first-class service and long-term business objectives. Her mission is to hire good people and then find the best role for them – one that suits their talents and competencies – instead of simply hiring people to fill particular positions. Her team pursues candidates that are motivated, naturally service-oriented and have the personality and energy to succeed, not just highly skilled and technically competent. Active recruiting efforts deploy resort executives to the finest hospitality schools in the world, to invigorate The Breakers with the diversity, culture and an international flair that its global, discerning clientele have come to expect; the staff is fluent in 50 languages.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in New Jersey, Denise Bober was always the child during her school-age years with an affinity for helping youngsters with odds against them. She brought home the child that no one wanted to talk to, who wasn’t accepted because they were different. Her perspective that no one is different, became a lifelong passion to embrace those differences and to help the underdog with the right support. This altruistic profile easily translated into her career aspiration: to help people recognize and reach their fullest potential and enhance their lives through the workplace. “Initially I wanted to be a teacher, as I knew I wanted to be a vehicle for opening doors for people where or when they might not have been opened.”
Bober moved to South Florida with her family, craving the warm weather and lifestyle, and obtained a degree in Hospitality Management from Nova Southeastern University. She was immediately drawn to HR, which presented a new professional horizon. “I could envision the opportunity to cultivate a workplace that would enrich people and be more than just an employer,” Bober reflected. Her work in the early 80s for the HMO Rutgers Community Health Plan, Inc. (now H.I.P. of NY/NJ), ultimately drove her “to break down the walls of the cubicles.”
She first joined The Breakers in 1988 as the administrative assistant to the director of human resources, in awe of the director position and captivated by the critical role HR plays in fostering a dynamic work environment and how it impacts so many lives. Only a year later, Bober was promoted to employment manager, then employment & staff relations manager, and then to HR manager, with the additional disciplines like staff relations integrated into her scope of responsibilities. During this career progression, she managed to raise her daughter alone and attend school at night, ultimately earning a Master’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and Development at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
In 1997, Bober became The Breakers’ director of human resources, and she dramatically expanded and added depth to the resort’s HR initiatives; developing staff relations programs, recognition programs, service awards, and specialized training and professional development programs…ultimately transforming HR into front-of-organization division, from being simply a personnel department. She has been actively involved in developing the curriculum and administering the International Associates Training Program, for foreign nationals who engage in training opportunities at The Breakers. She also introduced the JCLO (Jamaican Central Labour Organization) temporary workforce program to The Breakers, well-suited to this seasonal destination that faces staffing challenges with a limited local labor pool during high business volume periods. Bober liaised with Jamaican government representatives and its local citizens, who were incredibly humble and grateful for resort employment opportunities to improve their livelihood.
The successful launch of Corporate Athlete, one of The Breakers’ signature professional development programs for senior and mid-level management, is also credited to Bober’s relentless determination. This intensive, three-day program provides participants with the tools to manage their energy, not just time; to get fully engaged in all areas of their professional and personal lives; and to fulfill their mission of personal change.
Under Bober’s direction, corporate social responsibility has been an ongoing priority of HR; an expression of The Breakers’ commitment to its team members, the environment and the community at large. An annual report detailing CSR initiatives outlines the myriad ways that The Breakers organization strives to achieve change for the better.
Bober was promoted to vice president – human resources in 2015, in recognition of her achievements, performance and ongoing contribution to the organization, and her active leadership role extends to the Palm Beach community. She was appointed to the Board of Trustees for Palm Healthcare Foundation in January 2014 and currently serves as Chair, Member at Large. From 2007 – 2013 she served on the Board of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, and during that time completed a two year term as the Chamber’s president. She is a member of the Human Resources Association of Palm Beach County, the Executive Women’s Association of the Palm Beaches, a former member of the International Association of Women Chefs & Restaurateurs, and a past board member of Goodwill Industries. Bober has also served on the Suncoast High School’s Council of Business Advisors, a Top 10 nationally rated magnet school. She currently resides in Palm Beach Gardens with her husband, Craig, and their Chihuahua, Reese