Creating a great place to work with a people-first workplace culture

With a vast number of properties, associates and brands, employee engagement across different regions is a priority for Marriott International.
By: | August 29, 2023

Building a great place to work is always a challenge and especially when you are one of the biggest hospitality brands in the world. Marriott International, with hotel chains under their belt like The Ritz-Carlton, JW Marriott, W Hotels, St. Regis, and Autograph Collection Hotels, boasts a staggering number of close to 400,000 associates across the world. How do they cultivate workplace culture and engagement within their organisation?

With such a vast number of properties, associates and brands, Marriott International’s feat of winning Best Workplace Culture & Engagement for more than 500 associates at the HR Fest Awards 2023 is significant, especially in the wake of a pandemic that has hit the hospitality industry much harder than most in the last few years.

Speaking with HRM Magazine Asia, Andrew Newmark, CHRO, APEC (Asia Pacific exclude Greater China) at Marriott International, said, “Coming out of the pandemic, our hotels experienced challenges such as the surge in travel demand despite a talent shortage in the hospitality industry. However, our associates continued to show resilience and adaptability while taking care of our guests and each other. We are inspired by their commitment and will continue to support them with meaningful opportunities to grow and learn.”

Marriott International’s work in cultivating a workplace that engages and supports their associates globally across multiple regions starts by taking care of their associates, who will then take care of their customers. Newmark called this people-first approach their guiding principle for more than 95 years in building a strong workplace culture at Marriott International.

This “TakeCare” philosophy, as he coined it, is supported by leaders openly sharing the importance of wellbeing with their teams. As role models of TakeCare, leaders will share with team members how they personally take care of themselves, while other leaders and volunteers, known as Champions, will initiate and advocate well-being programmes in their local region. Marriot also sets aside time to express their appreciation for their associates during Associate Appreciate Week, which serves as an important reminder that organisational success is rooted in the dedication and hard work of their people.

The organisation’s culture of social responsibility extends into the local communities where any local Marriott International property operates. Grounded by the organisation’s core value ‘Serve Our World’, Marriott International associates are encouraged to volunteer in their communities. This includes activities such as charitable fundraisers and DEI-focused initiatives like offering job training to people with disabilities. These efforts are all ways that associates in the organisation engage with work that is consistent with the Marriott International brand set nearly a century ago.

Like many hospitality establishments, Marriot International’s work is often affected by the scourge of manpower shortage and ability to attract top talent. Newmark acknowledged that fact but explained that the Marriott International team has already introduced new initiatives to deepen their focus in areas of wellbeing and growth opportunities.

“Over the past year, we delivered a series of mental health and wellbeing training to equip leaders with practical knowledge and skills to care for their teams,” he explained. For example, leaders are trained to identify signs of mental health struggles in their teams, create a safe working environment for their teams to raise and address concerns, be empowered, and build better relationships with colleagues.

READ MORE: Why employee engagement is all about people

Marriott International has also launched a pilot job enrichment programme, iJobs, for associates in different departments to explore and learn multiple roles, enhance their career skillset, and grow professionally. Associates often share their career journeys through the organisation’s social media campaigns, delivering authentic stories and first-hand accounts of their Marriott experiences to a wider audience. The result? A robust growth in applicant numbers between the Marriott properties.

When asked how organisations should develop a great working environment for associates to work in, especially for international brands that span globally across multiple countries with a high headcount, Newmark cited the importance of glocalisation. “Define your purpose and core values on a global level but customise your approach when it comes to local execution. From employer branding to recruitment efforts, trainings, and career mobility opportunities, you need to meet people where they are and with what they need,” he concluded.