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Best experiences deliver best performance

When a company gets widely awarded by credible bodies for its HR management system and practices, it naturally wants to strengthen its successes further. Anita Sharan tells us more about The Marriott...

india Updated: Dec 12, 2007 23:56 IST
Anita Sharan

When a company gets widely awarded by credible bodies for its HR management system and practices, it naturally wants to strengthen its successes further.

With a slew of such recognitions – third place in India and seventh in Asia for Best Employers 2007, according to a Hewitt Associates survey (in partnership with

The Economic Times

for India and the

Wall Street Journal

for Asia); fifth place in “Great Places to Work in India Study 2007” by Grow Talent Company in partnership with the Great Places to Work Institute Inc, USA and Business World magazine; 11th place in the BT- Mercer- TNS Study for “Best Companies to Work for in India”; and in 2004, the award for HR Excellence by CII (western region) – Marriott International Inc.’s country director (India) of human resources, Gurmeet Singh, is convinced the HR management of the group, incorporated into its India operations, is the right way to go.

“We have localised the international Marriott model for HR management,” he says, adding that the model draws from the founder’s statement that if you take care of your employees, they will take care of your business and customers will keep coming back. Marriott Hotels India manages six hotel properties across Goa, Mumbai, Chennai and Hyderabad. “We share a lot of the Marriott group’s best practices.”

Singh does not deny that there is an attrition issue. Industry average on attrition, he says, is 35-36 per cent. “Our average is 32 per cent. Attrition is a way of life in our business and our challenge, really, is how to increase the length of stay for every associate.”

One of Marriott’s key differentiators in HR, Singh believes, is its core focus on individual talent, right from the beginning. “Our entire selection process focuses on individual talent rather than qualification or work experience. Knowledge can be acquired, skills learnt, but if you don’t have the talent, you can’t function.”

After a stringent and rigorous selection process, associates continue to get inputs that not only accord them continuous training but also expose them to customer-facing experiences that create a sense of on-the-ground needs and expectations from the job. “We believe that managerial excellence is by design and not by accident,” says Singh.

So for instance, when Marriott signs an agreement for managing a hotel property, it builds in a commitment with the hotel owners for spending US $750 for every manager’s training. The idea is to accord 40 hours of training time to each manager; in turn, he/she is responsible for as many hours of training for each associate on his/her team.

To create customer-facing experiences, the company creates opportunities for every associate to be treated as a guest at the Marriott-managed hotels, from the orientation to stay-a-night-at-the-hotel on birthdays with a family member. Twice a month, associates are given customer experiences as a norm. Every year, 10 associates are selected on their performance from across the world for the Award of Excellence. This comprises a trip to the Marriott head-office and hotel property in Washington, where the selected person and the person who recommended him/her “are treated like an emperor.”

All this culminates in appraisals that weigh performance on four attributes: gross operating profits, guest satisfaction survey index, associate opinion survey and individual performance. “No performance appraisal system is 100 per cent foolproof,” admits Singh. “What is important is how you are performing on the ground, how people are relating to it and how fair the system is.”

Even as people move up the hierarchy, the evaluation process remains defined and stringent. So, for instance, there’s a leadership performance process that has business goals and competencies on the evaluation sheet with equal weightages. “If you successfully meet your goals but do not do well on competencies, you don’t reach the next level.”

And finally, how open and transparent a system is “is very important. We thrive on that. We bet on our people,” states Singh conclusively.