HR: powering Marriott’s competitive service edge

Regan Taikitsadaporn, Asia Pacific CHRO for Marriott International

Marriott International is on an aggressive growth path both globally and throughout the Asia Pacific, and HR is playing a critical role in ensuring the company has the right talent to meet its ambitious growth plans, according to its Asia Pacific CHRO, Regan Taikitsadaporn.

In the Asia Pacific alone, Marriott expects to double the number of hotels it operates in the next few years through opening up more than 20 new hotels in 2015 and over 40 hotels in 2016.

Marriott has a number of plans in mind to achieve these aggressive growth targets, according to Taikitsadaporn, who said a focus on customers, product and service innovation as well as meeting the needs of “next generation travellers” are key to this process.

“Our vision is to be the world’s favourite travel company,” he said. “The world surpassed the 1-billion-trips-made mark last year, and is now heading towards 2 billion.

“Business growth in the Asia Pacific market will see our focus on mobility and technology enhancing our guest experiences, as well as increase loyalty of our customers across our portfolio.”

The role of HR
HR has been focused on developing leadership talent from within for the pipeline of hotel deals it has signed (Marriott signed a record 100,000 rooms in 2014), said Taikitsadaporn.

“By endeavouring to have as many internal promotions or transfers for the leadership positions at our new hotels as possible, we are able to ensure that Marriott programs, policies and processes are in place, as with our service and work culture. This helps us ensure we retain our brand identity and standards,” he said.

Being a service industry, Taikitsadaporn said Marriott’s associates (its term for employees) are critical to delivering the service experience for guests and customers, and he said HR partners closely with operations to ensure the right talent is hired, trained and engaged to deliver a consistent service experience that guests expect every time they visit a Marriott hotel.

“The staff service metric on our guest satisfaction survey is a shared goal between HR and operations to ensure there is a joint accountability to delivering exceptional guest service to our customers,” he said.

Marriott maintains a portfolio of different brands, ranging from lifestyle hotels to luxury hotels, and HR works closely with the brand strategy team on various talent initiatives, such as assessment tools and service training programs, to ensure the right associates are appointed and equipped to develop and execute on a particular brand’s strategy.

For the past several years HR has also had a strong focus on retention, and in the process it has helped reduce continent turnover from about 30 per cent in 2010 to 23.5 per cent in 2014. During this same period, associate engagement has increased from 86 per cent to 93 per cent.

“With a more stable workforce, we are able to drive better business results, including guest satisfaction and profit margins,” said Taikitsadaporn.

Developing talent
There is a strong focus internally on the human capital review process throughout the organisation, which has helped ensure it has the leadership talent pipeline to staff hotels in the face of fast growth, Taikitsadaporn added.

Potential general managers for hotels, for example, are identified seven years out and they are put through structured development programs to prepare them for these roles.

“This helps ensure that we are able to have strong leadership who can help us grow our new hotels, pull through our brand identity and customer programs, and instill the Marriott culture in the hotels,” said Taikitsadaporn.

Internal development and promotion is a strong focus for Marriott in general, and he noted that almost two-thirds of all management vacancies were filled by internal transfers or promotions across Asia in 2014.

Attraction, development and retention of younger generations is also a focus for Marriott, as it looks to secure the supply of current and future talent needs for growth, he added.

“In China and many other countries, we have established strong partnerships with schools and colleges where we help them with visiting guest lectures by Marriott executives, industry exposure for the faculty, hotel tours for the students and faculty, and internship opportunities for the students to gain real life work experience,” he said.

Marriott also runs a graduate development program called “Voyage” to fast track graduates into an entry management position through a very structured and robust 18 month program.

Social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn are also used to engage with candidates, according to Taikitsadaporn, who said Marriott launched “Mobile Apply” last year, which allows candidates to search and apply for nearby jobs using their mobile devices.

About 28 per cent of potential candidates are searching and applying for jobs with Marriott through mobile, and he said this number is on the rise.

For the full story on Marriott’s growth and interview with Taikitsadaporn see the next issue of Inside HR magazine.