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Marriott's intense work ethic was driving away talented managers.
Transforming that culture wasn't easy, but the change led to happier
employees-and better results.

Changing a Culture
of Face Time
by Bill Munck

THE HOTEL BUSINESS is relentless.
We have to provide 24/7 service
365 days a year, and every single day is
just as important as any other. So when
a problem arises late on aFriday afternoon,
someone has to fix it that night or
over the weekend. Managers who have
an attitude of "I'll get to it on Monday"
don't last long in our industry.
Not surprisingly, Marriott, which
prides itself on providing excellent customer
service, for many years had a
deeply ingrained culture of
"face time" - the more hours
you put in, the better. The
typical workweek exceeded
50hours for many of our
managers. That philosophy
of "see and be seen" was effective
for serving customers, but it
had a price: By the mid-1990s, we were
finding it increasingly tough to recruit
talented people, and some of our best
managers were leaving, often because
they wanted to spend more time with
their families. Employees are the foimdation
of any business, but nowhere isNOVEMBER 2001
this more true than in the hospitality
industry. Our sole product is the service
we provide to families and business travelers.
If we were to lose our ability to attract
and retain the best managers and
staff possible, we'd be in trouble.
So we knew that our emphasis on face
time had to go. In early 2000, Marriott
implemented a test program called
Management Flexibility at threeofthe
company's hotels in the Northeast. The
goal ofthe six-month pilot was to help
Marriott's managers strike a better balance
between their professional and personal
lives, all while maintaining the
quality of our customer service and
the bottom line of ourfinancial results.
We found a lot of quick fixes by eliminating
redundant meetings and other
inefficient procedures. The toughertask
was overhauling the fundamental way
we thought about work. Transforming
a company's culture can be harder than
changing just about anything else; people's
natural inclination is to hold on to
whatever feels familiar, even when there
are better alternatives.
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BEST PRACTICE • Changing a Culture of Face Time
Because of the pilot program, managers
at the three hotels now work
aboutfive hours less per week. More important,
they perceive a definite change
in our culture, with less attention paid
to hours worked and a greater emphasis
on the tasks accomplished. Furthermore,
through surveys and anecdotal evidence,
we found that those managers
are experiencing significantly less
job stress and burnout. Because of
this early success, Marriott is implementing
ManagementFlexibility
at hotels in the western,
south central, and mid-
Atlantic regions, and the
company plans a wider
rollout in 2002. The
pilot taught us an invaluable
lesson: Not
only is it possible to
change deep-rooted
attitudes about work,
but doing so can lead to
improved business practices
and higher efficiency.
A Moment of Revelation
About two years ago, I had one of those
"bing!"moments-when the lightbuib
inside your brain goes on. At the time,
I was in charge of the Copley Marriott in
Boston, a 1,150-room convention hotel
that is one of Marriott's largest properties.
I was having a one-on-one rap session
with the person who oversaw our
switchboard operations, a young guy in
his twenties who was one of our best
entry-level managers, and I asked him
where he sawhimself in five years. He
said he really wasn't sure that he would
still be with Marriott. "I'm working a
minimum of 50 hours a week, sometimes
55 or 60 hours," he said. "And I
commute an hour each way, so it's not
just ten-hour days for me; it's 12-hour
days. I don't know if 1 want to continue
doing that, because I want to have a life
outside of work."
Bill Munck is a vice president and...
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