Fiona Smith Columnist

Fiona writes on workplace issues, including management, psychology, workplace design, human resources and recruitment. She is a former Work Space editor at The Australian Financial Review and has also covered property, technology, architecture and general news.

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Hotel mogul Bill Marriott: There’s always room for change

Published 03 June 2013 11:45, Updated 04 June 2013 08:07

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Hotel mogul Bill Marriott: There’s always room for change

Bill Marriott jnr says he’s never too old to change and be hip. Photo: Bloomberg

Bill Marriott jnr, executive chairman of the Marriott International board, places a picture of himself and his wife Donna with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler on his office window sill.

While other 81-year-olds may be more conversant with hip replacements,the photo is there to remind Marriott he is “never too old to change and be hip”.

The bejewelled and feathered rocker Tyler, 65, is not a bad role model in terms of refusing to get old, reinventing his career through teaming up with younger musicians and creating a new fan base with his seasons as a judge on American Idol.

As Marriott says, in his blog on the company website: “Every successful company is constantly changing, or they’re not successful for very long”.

Marriott Hotels and Resorts has added a “Best of the Best” accreditation in Australia from the Aon Hewitt Best Employers survey for a company culture that supports its customer service and its ability to attract and retain quality employees.

Marriott recalls his parents started the hotels empire with a nine-stool root beer stand in 1927.

“Mom and dad quickly learned to change when summer turned to winter and root beer sales dropped off. So they offered food – hot dogs, hot tamales and hamburgers,” he says.

“My mom cooked the Mexican food in their apartment and brought it to the store. From there, they opened the very first Hot Shoppes drive-in restaurant east of the Mississippi about 1930. The drive-ins were very popular.

“It was Hot Shoppe No. 5 on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, however, that really established the business. It had 120 curb boys running around the car parking lot delivering food to our customers. There was a vacant government lot next door that my dad sort of commandeered for parking.

“Nobody at that time had any air conditioning, and people living in the apartments along Connecticut Avenue had to go out to get dinner. So, they’d drive to the Hot Shoppes and sit in their car while the curbers waited on them.”

Marriott says his parents knew they had to keep looking for new ways to deliver their product.

“We noticed at our restaurant near where the Pentagon is today, that several customers were getting boxed lunches to take on flights from Hoover Field [Washington’s only airport at the time].

“So, my father went down to Miami, saw Eddie Rickenbacker, head of Eastern Airlines, and convinced him to buy boxed lunches from the Hot Shoppes to put on his airplanes. This launched our airline catering service.”

Employee Engagement Practice Lead at Aon Hewitt, Stephen Hickey, says in a statement that the best employers this year are achieving more with less, which takes a very different set of leadership skills than those that applied before the GFC.

“Difficult times are not the factor [in being a successful company]. It’s how we respond to them that counts,” says Hickey.

“Best Employers achieve four times higher profit growth than other organisations,” Mr Hickey adds. “And, when it comes to total shareholder return, we’re talking 50 per cent above average levels.”

The results this year show Best Employers achieve four times higher profit growth than other organisations and those with high employee engagement have 50 per cent higher total shareholder returns than other organisations

Despite the straitened times, in 2012 and 2013, 38 per cent of organisations improved employee engagement.

Of 125 organisations in the survey, 19 companies became Best Employers. They are:

  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Chorus
  • Cooper Grace Ward Lawyers
  • Employment Innovations
  • Express Data
  • FedEx Express (New Zealand)
  • Fiat Chrysler Group
  • Frucor Beverages Australia
  • Frucor Beverages New Zealand
  • Hilti (Aust.) Pty Ltd
  • Marriott Hotels & Resorts
  • Millward Brown Australia
  • Peoplebank Australia Limited
  • Shire Australia Pty Ltd
  • Silver Chef Ltd
  • Smartsalary Pty Ltd
  • STIHL Pty Ltd
  • The Wrigley Company Limited
  • Wood & Grieve Engineers

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