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Marriott's David Rodriguez on 'The Power of One'

By David Rodriguez, Executive Vice President & Global Chief HR Officer, Marriott International


David Rodriguez

I cannot think of a more exciting time to be at Marriott International (No. 9 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) than at this very moment! We have such a wonderful cultural heritage and an exciting future that has been made even more promising because of the recent arrival of our fellow associates from Starwood. As the title of our Executive Chairman Bill Marriott’s blog declares, “Marriott is on the Move.”

We have learned a great deal from the person we affectionately call Mr. Marriott. As we look to the future, I want to share one of the most important foundations to success that he has championed at our company. It is an area that his successor and current Marriott CEO, Arne Sorenson, has personally nurtured, and that I am particularly passionate about lifting even higher in the future.

In 2016, we held our 25th Awards of Excellence gala where we honor associates from around the world who best exemplify the ideals of Marriott’s people-first culture. The event is a sure-fire cure for any dry eye malady as it is a supreme tear-jerker. I am not ashamed to admit that I typically am wiping tears away shortly after the start of the event as honorees talk about how their life has been transformed through caring service to others. At this year’s gala, Tim Acton, our Lead Banquet Server at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel and Conference Center, inspired everyone in attendance as he told us about his passion to show that “even with a disability, you can work your way up.”

One of the awards is called the J.W. Marriott, Jr. Diversity Excellence Award and it is given for outstanding contributions to our company’s culture of inclusion and opportunity for all. Frankly, it is not an easy task to select one honoree out of so many deserving nominations each year. That mere fact is one of the things that make me so enthused about Marriott’s future. Let me tell you why.

Now that we have become the world’s largest hotel company, we continue to believe that the most important foundation for our success is ensuring the wellbeing and happiness of our associates. As our founders, J. Willard Marriott, Sr. and his wife Alice would say, “Take care of the associates, they will take the customers, and the customers will return.” It’s why I am personally fond of calling our company the world’s largest and best family business.

We believe there are three pillars to promoting employee wellbeing: We all need to feel good about ourselves, the workplace, and about the company’s role in society. All three are essential but let me touch on the second pillar, because I believe that by far the most important component to a great workplace is the commitment we make to create a better day for each other.

At Marriott, we want everyone to feel that they belong that they are family. Time and energy that does not have to be expended trying to fit in can be used instead to build relationships, contribute and grow. It is why no matter how large our company grows, we never want to lose the family-feel to the business that our founders so wisely and caringly cultivated. It’s about a sense of unity that better enables us to love the unique qualities that make each of us special. It’s about family in a very fundamental way. It’s about feeling you are home. It’s about feeling you belong.

If what I am describing sounds a lot like what some might call “diversity and inclusion,” it is because the true heart of an inclusive environment is about everyone feeling like family. In fact, our concept of diversity and inclusion is based on a simple premise and mutual responsibility: We all strive to be our best at our jobs and at being welcoming and supportive neighbors in the workplace. That’s it. We can overcome most anything if we are committed to this simple but powerfully unifying concept. Each of us has the power to make a positive difference for one another.

Earlier this year, at Marriott locations around the world we celebrated UNITY Day. In many ways, the day serves to remind us that our first calling is to cherish that we are all part of one family holding so much more in common that any differences that may exist between us. It also reminds us to rejoice in our personal uniqueness and all we have to offer one another because of our different perspectives, talents and characteristics. It is the power of one and it makes us all part of one very special group, our worldwide Marriott family of associates.

This is what we do at Marriott. We brighten the day for our neighbor, whether a fellow associate or hotel guest, and we make them feel like family. I think most would agree that our world could benefit from a resolve to make unity and a sense of family a more central focus in our daily lives perhaps now more than ever before. And, it’s up to each of us to make it happen because we only need to look in the mirror to see a person fully empowered to make a difference in the lives of all we encounter each and every day. It truly is the power of one.

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