Marriott CEO: Bringing Dignity & Opportunity to Front-Line Workers

Marriott CEO: Bringing Dignity & Opportunity to Front-Line Workers

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00:02
[Music] good morning good morning so that's very impressive resume but what were you doing on the day Lindbergh flew the Atlantic he actually didn't tell the story which he loves to tell recently he'll go someplace in that people will say well what was it like in 1927 do we have yes I've read about it in books so but in all seriousness so you recently celebrated your 20th anniversary with the company hospitality industry as many of you probably know has incredibly high
00:36
turnover but Marriott has been an exception to this rule for a long time I believe it's something like 13,000 of your employees have 20 years-plus well it's a lot yeah it's a very it's a substantial achievement it's one reason they're a great place to work company year year after year and it ended addition you know Marriott has something like it's 200,000 plus employees worldwide a few counts yeah clothes cars are models a little complicated because in many of the hotels we run outside the u.s. they're not legally our employers or employees of the owner but we think we have about
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675 thousand people that wear our name badge every day right and we want them to feel very much like they're part of our family and that must be a challenge just the sheer scope of that I mean that's a bigger company than most people in representing can you talk a little bit about the difficulty of managing that sort of take care of the associates culture across such a wide network yeah we've had it it's of course fabulous to build on the legacy that you just heard mr. Marriott described and for 90 years
01:39
to have a family which sort of approaches the business as a family business with an extraordinarily long-term focus which i think is a a powerful trait because it causes you to think not necessarily about hitting next month's numbers for example but instead how do we continue to lead 10 years from now or 20 years from now and it causes you to make different decisions but that legacy is really powerful I think what as we grow bigger and bigger what becomes clear is the
02:10
principal ambassadors of our culture are not sitting on this stage but are the general managers of the individual hotels because they are the folks that are associates around the world are going to look to and say okay do they in fact care about me and again caring here is about opportunity it's about pride and work it's about being empowered it's about really feeling good in your job not simply this sort of paternalistic idea sure we love you although obviously we should we should be communicating that
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too but but so it's a the challenge is how do you make sure we're getting the right GMS how do we make sure we're training them how do we make sure we're sort of celebrating the cultural successes and we have a whole bunch of things we do throughout the year to drive that sort of encouragement if you will to say culture is important and we're going to be able to see it and touch it through associate surveys and other things regularly through the year what's an example of an event like that maybe one that you've been part of recently but they established that yeah
03:12
or reinforce that value so we had a Marion Awards of Excellence last week in Washington which we've done every year as long as I've been at the company and basically we bring in a dozen or so associates from around the world they are overwhelmingly hourly associates not exclusively that's not a requirement many of them have never been to Washington before many of them have never been outside their own countries if they're coming from abroad sometimes never been on an airplane before and but
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and they come and tell stories that are often extraordinary and and reduce us all to you know sort of jelly by the end of the night and they come and they give a sort of acceptance speech at the end there's a little video that portrays their lives but but it might be a so for example one of the women who won last week started in Turkey ended up in Russia before coming to the United
04:15
States moved to Charlottesville Virginia had worked for us for 20 years but in the video you see this picture of her with their three kids in front of a house wearing an Apple watch and you hear her tell this story about coming and working and with the predictability of work that she feels proud about raising kids buying a house sending sending them off to college doing the things that we sort of can take for granted and it's extraordinary powerful
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story which has been amplified by guest testimonials which is why she she surfaces in an award ceremony like that because people say this woman I see when I stay in that hotel and she makes me feel welcome like nobody else and what kind of job does she do as an hourly associated she she housekeeping is she front desk is she what role does she play or what kind of world of that category cover she's basically overseeing the breakfast and that either changed with people at the start of the day and as I hope you're
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all travelers and I hope you stay with us frequently but what we are at our most what tender and personal in the morning and often and this is true for travelers all around the world we want a breakfast which is comforting to us where we're just getting going sometimes in a strange place and when you see somebody like that who makes you feel like you're home or you've got some attributes of being home it's a really powerful service point thank you for thank you for tender and
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personal which is a great euphemism for what I usually feel which is more sort of raw and Ruffy yeah there you go yeah but I think we can all relate to the experience of visit the strangers face the kind of light life things like you're not a morning person reserved I'm learning to become one thanks to retraining and a lot of coffee but but it's talking about this category of hourly associates you know if you look at the current kind of political and economic climate there's a general concern in the States right now that
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would - back up a little bit when I was a kid in California my high school classmates included people whose parents had there were immigrants and their first job was a hotel job usually an hourly thing housekeeping kitchen something like that these were those entry-level jobs were a first rung on a ladder it could lead to exactly what it did for this associate you were describing there's a lot of concern right now that those kinds of jobs don't create those kinds of opportunities the way that they used to and I'm wondering if that's something that you grapple with with
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this great workforce and so many hourly wage people how does Marriott address this and make people feel like opportunities that are available we talk about all the time and I think the opportunities are still there that the housekeeper's are a group that I talk about most frequently and they are my heroes they are usually women they're usually diminutive women they're often immigrants they work extraordinarily hard none of us are at our best when we're in hotel rooms no it's like have you ever watched a rental car do you
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ever make your own bed in a hotel room do you throw your stuff away or do you just kind of leave it there and you know so they come in and they do what is really selfless work over and over though they do it for years and they do it with pride and we've done something so for a few years ago for example we we started having the ability to essentially sign a sign the same rooms to the same housekeeper every day and hear back from guests and know how
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guests were responding to that housekeepers work and when we started talking about that I thought oh my goodness that's a little that's a little much how are they going to react to that is that putting too much pressure on them and in fact it was just the reverse they said I want to know how I'm performing because these are rooms I'm taking care of and I'm going to I'm going to win these customers and so there's an extraordinary pride there we want to obviously make sure that we get the pay and benefits right which we hope
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we do but we also want to make sure that we are building a relationship with these housekeepers where they can feel that kind of pride in their work and actually get to a point where they they feel like there's there is there's what there's dignity in this work and you know one of what I suspect every industry is represented out here one of one of my pet peeves often in Multi Industry things is the conversation about work often goes immediately to the high-tech space and
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how important high-tech space and of course it is for our society but but these service jobs are jobs that deserve extraordinary dignity and people should have with pride and people should not people people shouldn't feel bashful about saying I work in the hotel business when I work in the restaurant space and when you actually look at the trends in employment we got great tech companies to be sure and they're changing people's lives but in every city around the world we've got
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micro breweries micro distillery is our dessert artisanal coffee we've got bakeries we got restaurants popping up and they're popping up by folks who say I want to be involved engaged with people creating something that I can be proud of and sort of seeing the response and and we shouldn't pretend that that's not happening because more and more of us are going to be serving more and more of us because of the way our economy is growing and these are core things that sort of core needs shelter food I mean the things that that take that tender
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and personal moment and set the tone for the quality of our day and the the evaluators we enjoy the most yes I had a experience a Marriott related experience early on in my marriage I splurged a little bit for an anniversary and I took my wife for a weekend at a ritz-carlton property excellent and when you stay - ritz-carlton which if you've been lucky enough to do that they have a card that you'll see when you enter your room that says the ladies and gentlemen of the ritz-carlton look forward to helping you and the tone that that says that the work they are doing is valuable and the
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M has ranks them among ladies and gentlemen there's not some kind of class distinction between you and the people who work in the service economy I think it's a really important time to set and anyway glad to know that that I hope you had a good weekend yeah it was very good actually this particular hotel also let me rent a dog so you can't beat that how about that I feel like I'm gushing too much about maybe just leave that we don't know we don't need more deep me later about Dom
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the mr. mr. Marriott mentioned earlier the this great challenge of the Starwood acquisition and you know almost instantly you're multiplying the number of hotels under your umbrella by something like 50% and taking on many many more employees as well I'd love to talk a little more about the culture challenges involved with that first of all just if you don't mind briefly sort of talking a little bit about the the business rationale kind of driving the decision why was it important for Marriott to make this move at this time yeah so this you know some of it play
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too much I played out in the newspapers of course but in your 23 2015 Starwood which has long been one of our principal competitors put itself up for sale and so it obviously starts a process which is more than just an abstraction you know often you might say should we buy X Y or Z but X Y Z may not be for sale and they may refuse to be for sale even if you think you want to buy them well here was a company that was for sale we we looked at it first and we decided we weren't interested and
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we thought it was a lot of work and a little bit the flavor of mr. marianski ments we were performing extraordinarily well and this looked like a really big job and the economics didn't feel quite compelling enough and so we initially passed we then over the course of the summer of 2015 are engaged in conversations with a number of our tech partners the online travel agents the Expedia and Priceline met with Google had time with Facebook all of whom are
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deeply engaged in the travel space in one way or another sometimes as middlemen or selling our rooms and trying to sell more of our rooms so they can collect Commission and the way those unfolded we thought you know what if we build an even bigger loyalty program Marriott Rewards and SPG now about a hundred million members that is the way for us to have a stronger relationship directly with our customers by offering them more choice we have the to say why would you stay anywhere else
13:08
and really drive sort of that connection and so the strategic importance of the deal became stronger or the course of those months of thinking and analysis the economics also got better because of the relative shift of the stock prices and nobody else had really stepped up to do the deal at terms that were compelling so there was a window for us in late 2015 which was you know really really more lucky than smart in some respects but we decided we would jump at
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it the other thing that miss Merida has said at times as companies like this come for sale only every ten years or longer and if you don't jump at them forever you'll look back and say well shouldn't he have done it and so we jumped in now now how do you maintain a culture in the midst of all that we've just completed eight global general managers meetings the first that we've done since closing the Starwood deal and it was sort of a grueling you know from Toronto to Mexico City Dubai London
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Macau number of United States destinations ranging in size from about 200 to about 4,000 which was the group in New Orleans and by bringing people together talking together about the strategy and the important issues for the company building relationships letting people you know sort of touch and feel the culture of the company and sort of celebrating to some extent there's nothing that builds culture like
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success and so when the team thinks you know what we're accomplishing something that too is something that gives them power and pride in their work did you feel that Starwood had a distinctive sort of culture of its own prior to the acquisition that differed from Marriott in significant ways I think I think the more you're at the hotel level the more the culture is similar because hotel people understand that in order to succeed they have really got to have a team a general manager who doesn't know
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his or her people and treat them the way they deserve to be treated will not be successful for long and so no matter what the corporate culture is above that there's a much more commonality there than dissimilarity at the corporate level I think the cultures were a bit different in some respects Marriott has has long been an operating culture which you see from somebody like mr. Marriott and his parents who were deep into the details of what's happening in this hotel or
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this restaurant so it's a real operating DNA Starwood was much much more on marketing and branding dealing and so that that actually can be quite complimentary though because we're obviously needing to do both things right so trying to bring in the right talent and trying to make sure we embrace that piece as well so do you feel that they're adding things to your cultural DNA that maybe Marriott's didn't have as much of before they're absolutely adding expertise yeah and and you know I think I'm hopeful we were already doing some things around innovation and branding and you know
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starting new brands and doing a number of things before we closed the Starwood acquisition but it brings us that much more in that space and mr. Murray had also referred to this as a bigger company as more hotels or opening you've got more opportunities for the people within the family I mean did this mean that for some of these long time long tenured Marriott veterans are there more places to to go more more rules to fail it may be different brands that weren't part of the portfolio before absolutely you you end up with both of just the bigger size immediately and so that
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means there that many more positions that will open naturally because of retirements or you know whatever other decisions that happen and of course you've got the growth which we talked about which is this new hotel every 14 hours for three years which is a stunning figure to us let alone to everybody else we sometimes wonder how we're going to get it done but but people want those opportunities and and they you know just a couple of stories last fall we opened the new Marriott in
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Kigali Rwanda and I don't know how many of you have been to Rwanda I'm sure you all know the story it's only 20 years ago there was a genocide that cost a million lives in 90 days most people killed by knife machete not not buy anything less personal than that so that sort of horrific event economy has grown well now there's a beautiful Marriott hotel with about 220 people that make permanent jobs there 37 women who came
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out of the Aquila girls school which is nearby every one of whom's lives were impacted by this genocide and they now have jobs with a predictability that they could only dream about and an extraordinary optimism about the future and some of those women will go on to be managers of that hotel or other hotels in Africa or in our regional headquarters in Dubai or someplace else in the world for the company and that will be great but for every single one of them that job is
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transformative closer to home in the midst of all these GM's tours we were in Dallas met with the general manager of the W in Dallas started as a doorman in Seattle 20 years before now running a gleaming hotel and simply following that up on the legacy Starwood platform but following his career through effort and skill and all the other in luck and all the things that build into that and the stories you know go from that starting job in Rwanda all the way to that
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pretty fancy senior executive job of a GM of a W and there are thousands of those stories across the company and there are thousands of those stories that have yet to be told as the company gets more global you've mentioned opportunities for women in the Rwanda in the Kigali Hotel Rwanda isn't necessarily specifically example of this but I imagine you must operate in some cultures where cultural constraints hold back for example the seniority that a woman can reach or maybe there are caste differences for
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example how does Marriott navigate that I mean I know you must have to give a certain amount of autonomy to local managers to not violate local standards and at the same time you have standards of your own to uphold so how do you find that balance yeah we just last week we were hearing from some of our hotels in Saudi how actually quickly some changes beginning to happen and I and I know from an American lens we all say can it happen faster and how on earth could you still put up with this
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but we have women associates working in our hotels in Saudi just a few years ago they would never be visible in front of the house they might work in a finance office or someplace else and you're now starting to see women show up in a public place in those hotels which is a big transition internet culture I think when you when you stand above it a little bit we would say obviously we're going to comply with law and so we and and we need to respect
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local culture clearly but we can always be a safe place and we can be a place where where we can pursue every opportunity for our people whether they be women whether they be members of the LGBT community whether they be something else in a in a place where it is not friendly I think increasingly folks in those communities say I know I'm welcomed here and that actually makes me feel even better about my work then then I would if I didn't have that embrace
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but you know in the fullness of time hopefully we'll see that those those cultural differences become less prominent not more we'll see sure uh in the time you've been with the company I'm sure a lot of things have changed in terms of the the biggest sort of hot-button debates about workplace inclusion your team was good enough to share with me sort of the take care the summary of the take care plan that philosophy towards how you take care of your associates and the word
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inclusion inclusivity inclusive workplace that's that language is very much permeates the document permeate idea how does that change than evolved there were the time you've been with the company since the company has grown and changed so much it's I think it's a book significantly although to some extent it is about the words we use not the not the walk that we do every day so you think you think about 90 years of being focused on building opportunities for folks for everybody and I think that has been
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consistent for a long time so it might have been 25 years ago or 40 years ago that Inc words like diversity inclusion weren't used but the company was in fact sand all right you may have started as a waiter in a in a root beer stand but you can be a manager of a restaurant or you can be a manager of a brand or you can be a you know CFO of the company those are things that are available to you just like that to anybody else my first exposure to the red board was in 1992 before I get to the company I was oh I'm
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a reformed lawyer and represented Marriott before going to and and the the fame that struck me from the beginning is the board would never talk about the pedigree of executives so it was never well they went to Wharton or they went to HBS or you know they came from P&G or whatever it is but it instead was you know what they started as a security guard or they start as a waiter and look at how their career is evolved those were this the the stories in the
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boardroom that have pride so that that legacy I think is really important I think more recently we've used language around diversity and inclusion I think there may be around the LGBT spaces it's it's been most dramatic in recent years with gay marriage and with some of the public battles that have been fought I think ten years ago our LGBT community would have been proud of Marriott but not necessarily would they
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have heard words that were specific to the LGBT community and I think today those words are there all the time and and members of that community will say I feel so proud to be at Marriott because I know that Marriott has got my back whether it be the issues I face very local elated day-to-day or whether it be you know Indiana or North Carolina or something else which is happening not surprisingly today there's probably more
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anxiety than there was two or three years before found diversity and inclusion broadly which makes the the hearing of those words that much more important sure I guess there's also some anxiety now we alluded earlier to the role that the hospitality industry creates in has in creating opportunities for immigrants and now there is for some of the immigrant community some similar anxiety now has that required any kind of strategic pivot for you guys internally
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so well what we are we're talking about immigration we're talking obviously about travel policy to Shara and both are very much in in sort of a relevant place today the put aside personal politics I want to talk about my own point of view here but certainly what happened in our last election in the United States among other things is a you know fairly significant voice that says I'm concerned about security terrorism and I don't really know how
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immigration works in the u.s. I don't I don't know what the numbers are I don't know what the rules are I don't feel like I've ever been brought into a consensus about how immigration works and it of course can be demagogued about you know amnesty amnesty and other things but put aside those those fighting words I think underneath that there is a total lack of consensus in the United States about what immigration rules should apply and until we engage
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in those or it's not going to change we will end up with voices being extreme on one side saying we're a sanctuary city and we don't care what the immigration rules are we're going to not enforce them in our place and we're going to thumb our nose at the others and you'll have some on the other side who say throw all throw them all out tomorrow we don't care what kind of people they are we don't care about anything and until we basically say okay stop that both of you let's instead look at okay what should our consensus be around
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immigration how do we build that we won't get to a place where we can get back to to something that works for us maybe the best news here is not political but its economic as we get towards a high employment economy which is where we are today you go to many of our cities it's hard to find people the voice will be louder and louder that we need to make sure that we think about ok what role does immigration play in that and the voice which is fearful about
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loss of opportunities from those who oppose immigration I think will become lesser and lesser and maybe we can find an ability to get a conversation going well I imagine companies and the companies like yours that employ a fairly large workforce that is that diverse will have a lot of potentially leadership in that conversation so we'd like to have a voice but right now it's not clear that you're doing much more than screaming into the winds so maybe we can just hope for a little less wind there's really cheers to that good luck
27:12
yeah we almost made it to the end of our time without me mentioning Airbnb yeah but I do have to mention Airbnb on we talked a little bit earlier about the challenge both the challenge of appealing to Millennials both in terms of reaching customers especially if Millennials are a little more willing to take a to take a gamble on couchsurfing but also reaching new talent you know when you're competing whenever you with in theory every young you know smart millennial wants to go work for Google how does Marriott make itself appealing
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to Millennials as as talents they make itself appealing as an employer it's actually not it's gotten better and better and we have tremendous momentum with our younger associates in fact our internal survey data shows that our young people are as proud of their work with Marriott as the Boomers or even the exes and which is the I suspect is a roomful of experts is is a relatively unusual thing
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why authenticity matters maybe particularly to new entrants to the workforce don't talk about stuff you really don't do because if it's sort of corporate speak I'm going to be turned off quickly secondly we all increasingly love to travel and eat out you look at Instagram and snap and all the ways we share the things we're doing what do we share we share something about the way we travel and the way we entertain ourselves this this quest for experiences is more
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important than the quest for stuff which influences us all as consumers but I think influences people where they want to work too and thirdly the the change in the company even in technology is really exciting and powerful so you know we we will sell well over twenty billion dollars of rooms online this year on our comm site we have on the top five dot-com sites of any industry at all and so we're and we're investing hundreds of
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millions of in technology we're doing a lot on branding and new branding with you know not just W we've had for some time but Moxie and AC hotels and autograph and other things where we are really innovating in the space and people want to be involved in change and it's exciting so so I think we are as attractive as we've ever been to young people they make me feel younger which I need everything yes and it's fun fun
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time that's great I hope you able to make the most of it enjoy it thank you thank you for your time thank you [Applause] you

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