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When Marriott founders, J. Willard and his wife, started up the first A&W root beer stand in Washington D.C., in 1927, the Marriott enterprise began. A&W dominating for almost 30 years became an icon in the American fast-food industry.  Around 1957, the family moved to a new venture and opened the world’s first motor hotel in Arlington, Virginia, expanding year after year. Once again, shifting gears in 1986, they focused on business travelers and Marriott International set out to become the #1 hospitality company in the world. Today, they have over 7000 hotels across the globe.

But how did Marriott get there and how are they able to continue growth. An important ingredient seems to be their great attention to employees. With Marriott Hotel properties spread across the globe, how does the company go about finding the right talent for its vast operations? According to Yulia Bogdanova, director of human resources at the Rwanda Kigali Marriott Hotel, “it’s the same script across the board,”  an attitude led approach.

Marriott hires for attitude. Bogdanova explains that attitude has precedence over experience or academic qualifications. Their focus is on people who are willing to learn. This has opened the door to exporting consistent guest services around the world. Kigali Marriott associates are very much welcome to transfer anywhere in the world. This is true for all Marriott associates because they share the same work values. The exchange between associates across regions is a key ingredient to the consistency in services you will find across the different Marriott hotels.

Marriott is one of the few major organizations who hire for attitude and train for skills.  You’ve heard me harp on this in past newsletters, often citing the same “hire for attitude, train for skills” approach also used for decades by Southwest Airlines.  This is also the same approach to assessment solutions E.A.S.I-Consult® offers its own client organizations. (See Hiring Exceptional Employees Requires Exceptional Tools.)  For example, we assisted a major Midwest healthcare organization to make significant improvements in their hiring process with this design.  After developing and implementing a pre-employment test measuring work attitude, we followed nursing assistants for one year. Those who were screened by our assessment tool were found to be significantly better at their jobs. At the same time, voluntary turnover was reduced by 17%.

Attitude, or work attitude, is all about the willingness to learn, having the initiative to assume ownership and responsibility, and valuing relationships to solidify teamwork, along with other attributes, so often called “soft skills.”

We know it is easier to train for skills than to change someone’s attitude and obviously so does Marriott. For example, Marriott runs a 12-month career development program to nurture employees that have demonstrated interest and ability to take over the next role to get ready for the job. Don’t get me wrong, ability is important, but employees can get this through training programs and, especially, learning from experience on the job. If you can find someone with strong skills and abilities, and the right work attitude that fits with the culture of your organization, you’ve “hit pay dirt.”

About the Author

David Smith, PhD, is the founder and CEO of E.A.S.I-Consult®. E.A.S.I-Consult works with Fortune 500 companies, government   agencies, and mid-sized corporations to provide customized Talent Management solutions. E.A.S.I-Consult’s specialties include leadership assessment, online pre-employment testing, survey research, competency modeling, leadership development, executive coaching, 360-degree feedback, online structured interviews, and EEO hiring advisement. The company is a leader in the field of providing accurate information about people through professional assessment. To learn more about E.A.S.I-Consult, visit www.easiconsult.com, email ContactUs@easiconsult.com or call 800.922.EASI.