ATTRACTING and retaining a workforce that is motivated to provide a high level of service excellence is a top priority at the Singapore Marriott hotel, which has been on Hewitt’s Best Employer list for two consecutive years.

Says Mr Antony Page, the hotel’s general manager: “Given the competitive environment we are in, talent is always in demand. To provide the best experience to our guests, we need to attract, select, retain and groom the best talent we can get.

“Nothing could be truer than J. Willard Marriott’s adage, ‘If you take care of your associates, they will take care of the customer, and the customer will keep coming back’. This is the company’s most important and enduring principle. And it has worked for us!

“We are celebrating our 15th anniversary this April, and I am most proud of the fact that we have more than 50 associates who are celebrating their 15th year of service. The dedication and hard work of all our associates are the bedrock of our success.”

To be a “best employer”, organisations can use the following principles to engage and retain their staff:

Training culture

At The Marriott, training begins on the day a new associate joins the hotel. Programmes at different levels ensure that all employees are equipped with the required skills and knowledge to perform their roles effectively while at the same time ensuring brand consistency across the globe.

All associates begin their training with the “In the Beginning” programme and Daily Basics before moving on to additional training such as “Passport to Success”, “Get On Board” and “In Motion” that is required in their development process.

Open approach

Adopting an open approach in career discussions helps to give employees a clear vision of their progression with the company.

The Marriott uses a talent development and pipeline succession plan, where the managers act as mentors to their direct reports to help each individual associate fulfil his career plans and goals.

This helps associates learn and grow with the company. Within the Singapore Marriott, 60 per cent of the current managers have been developed from within the hotel.

Ms Julie Yeong, the hotel’s director of marketing, is a classic example of an employee who has risen through the ranks. She began her career as a sales secretary in 1995 and currently oversees a 30-person strong sales and marketing team.

She clinched the coveted Gold Award in 2004 and the President’s Award in Marriott International’s Golden Circle Program from 2004 to 2007.

Says Ms Yeong: “It has been an amazing and fulfilling journey. There were many opportunities for me to learn and grow.”

Friendly workplace

This means putting in place a corporate culture with a high emphasis on employee welfare. Some organizations offer well-stocked kitchens, cafeterias with wholesome menu choices or fully equipped games rooms as part of their staff perks.

The Marriott has Club B2, the dedicated staff area that was refurbished at a cost of almost $1 million. The hotel’s owner, Mr Tang Wee Kit, who is also the chairman of Tang Holdings, was personally involved in each step of the project.

He says: “We wanted the staff to experience as many of the features we provide for the guests as possible. Then we went further by providing LCD TVs and massage chairs. We are all in a position to make someone else’s life better.”

Reward system

Appreciation and recognition of a job well done are two of the most important elements in nurturing employee loyalty and motivation.

The Marriott honours its staff in a myriad of ways. In particular, the company marks the anniversary of its founding by setting aside a week, know as Associate Appreciation Week, to express appreciation to its worldwide family of employees.

Other forms of recognition include the Chairman’s Award, which recognises an associate’s life-saving efforts; long service awards and the Alice S. Marriott Award for community service.

Take care of your people and they will take care of your business. This simple truth leaves a powerful legacy.