"Those ideas quickly find their way into the hands of members of the team at HQ who can either solve the problem or spread the word about a good concept that works."
Managers need to understand the basics of the company's products and services to manage with depth. For many years their chief financial officer and other non-operations executives have been required to attend the company's "food school" to gain a bit of "hands on" experience with the products and services that form the basis of Marriott's world.
Mr. Marriott recounts that his dad particularly enjoyed talking to his employees. Marriott's corporate legend is full of stories of his father perched on a hotel lobby sofa, listening to the family problems of one of their associates while senior managers "cooled their heels" waiting for him to return to the office. He confirms that the stories are true. His Dad felt very strongly that the concerns and problems of the people who worked for him were always worth listening to.
In his eyes, a successful company puts its employees first. Mr. Marriott says: "I couldn't agree more. When employees know that their problems will be taken seriously, that their ideas and insights matter, they're more comfortable and confident. In turn, they're better equipped to deliver their best on the job and to the customer. Everyone wins: the company, the employee the customer."
The philosophy of putting employees first is particularly important in the hospitality industry, because Marriott is in the people business, not just the service business. Customers are not just affected by the tangible parts of the business but the intangibles as well. If the people who are responsible for supplying that human touch are unhappy, tired, stressed, poorly trained, or otherwise distracted, they're probably not going to do a good job. On the flip side, if employees are content, confident, and generally happy with themselves and the job, their positive attitude will be felt in everything they do.
The Marriott "Pathways to Independence" is employer-sponsored welfare reform done right. An employer needs to stay involved with new employees to help them overcome their failure points. Other areas of success: "over-managing" by design and work-life programs. He recounts many ways in which these tasks have become more daunting as the nation's hourly workforce has become more multicultural in makeup. Many of their hourly associates "must cope with complicated immigration procedures, interpersonal cultural clashes, and social discrimination, in addition to the pressures of child care, elder care, substance or domestic abuse, or housing problems."
To that end, Marriott started a toll-free consultation service for their associates staffed by social workers who field questions and find solutions to just about any problem. And they can do it in more than 100 languages. They rolled out the 800 Associate Resource Line (ARL) on a national basis in 1996, after a two-year regional trial run. Although the program is based on intensive studies of their associates' needs, the thinking behind it is actually pretty simple. At heart, it's really just a higher-tech version of Mr. Marriott's Dad's