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The Insider caught up with Peppy Dosanjh, Vice President Talent Acquisition, Talent Planning and Employer Brand for EMEA at Marriott International, to find out how the industry’s biggest player is fighting back in the global ‘war for talent’…

 

For Marriott International, the dark days of 2020 and 2021 are being consigned to the memory banks as hospitality’s recovery from the pandemic gathers pace.

Today, many of the properties in the company’s portfolio are seeing strong occupancy, and Marriott’s Q1 earnings saw the largest surge in global demand since the pandemic began, with a higher proportion of the more lucrative leisure stays.

There’s just one issue, and it’s an issue that dominates the thoughts of Peppy Dosanjh, Vice President Talent Acquisition, Talent Planning and Employer Brand for EMEA.

“We need talent, and lots of it. We are in a ‘war for talent’, but – as someone point out at a panel discussion I attended recently – in reality the talent has already won this war. Companies like ours need to respond to this by working harder and more effectively to capture, retain and develop talented individuals.”

As well as the need to replace those who left hospitality during the Covid crisis, the numbers required to fill Marriott’s future talent requirements are truly eye-catching. With ambitious plans to open another 200 properties in 2022 and 2023 Peppy points out that this alone means 200 new GMs will be required, plus approximately 2,000 managers and many thousands more staff for front of house and back of house roles.

In response, hospitality industry leaders like Marriott are transforming the way they recruit, in order to ensure that the talents they target are not lured elsewhere before signing on the dotted line.

“The days of lengthy application processes, assessment centers, three weeks to send out offer letters… they are well and truly gone,” Peppy notes. “Today, if you don’t respond to someone within 24 hours, and if you don’t get the offer letter out within a few days of interview, they’ll likely have an offer from somewhere else and so you’ll miss out.”

“We need talent, and lots of it. We are in a ‘war for talent’, but – as someone point out at a panel discussion I attended recently – in reality the talent has already won this war. Companies like ours need to respond to this by working harder and more effectively to capture, retain and develop talented individuals.”

Peppy Dosanjh

In many ways, hospitality is following the direction of industries like technology, which have led the way in ‘smart’ recruitment. One of Marriott International’s most successful ventures has been the pop-up Recruitment Day, where it creates an event in a particular city – London for example – and puts the word out to all previous applicants as well as engaging in heavy promotion on traditional and social media.

“The twist is that these are genuine hiring events,” says Peppy. “This is not just ‘drop your CV off and we’ll get back to you’. Those attending will get an interview on the spot, with a hiring manager, and if they meet our criteria they leave the building with a job offer in their pocket. On average, we’ll get around 600 people turning up for an event like this, from which we’ll usually hire a couple of hundred. That’s an incredibly useful number of new recruits for us; it also creates its own momentum, because word gets around that we are serious about hiring so there’s value in coming along to this type of event.”

Hollow middle

While initiatives like these move the dial in overall terms, an area that Peppy admits is especially challenging can be found midway up the managerial ladder.

“I believe that the entire industry has a lack of middle managers, because this was the level which saw particular attrition during Covid and a lot of these people are not coming back to the industry. In response, we have to find good management trainees who we can develop into those roles – otherwise things will become even more challenging in two to three years’ time.

“Basically, there’s no better time to be a management trainee at Marriott International, because the shortage of middle managers has made the pathway up the career ladder that much clearer.”

Opening in 2023, Nujuma will be the first Ritz-Carlton Reserve in the Middle East and one of only five worldwide.

For hospitality school graduates – who by definition are already equipped with many skills and attributes of a middle manager – the net result is an abundance of opportunity.

“We’re developing ever-closer relationships with the major schools such as Glion, Les Roches, SEG, and others, because we want the best of the best for our graduate trainee schemes. Every intake is increasing hugely – in September 2021 we hired around 50 graduates for our management development program, Voyage; earlier this year our first intake was 65 and if you look at the next intake it’s going to be around 150 people.”

As well as spreading the candidate search more widely, and speeding up the recruitment process, another major focus for Peppy and his colleagues is centered on changing perceptions of the hospitality industry – perceptions that he admits can cause people to overlook the sector as a career option.

“We want to get across that this can be a sexy industry. We have a great story to sell: in this business you can live and work in amazing places, travel with your job, and you have genuine potential for career development. Everywhere across Marriott you can find individuals in senior leadership roles who came in at the lowest rungs of the ladder and worked their way up. The numbers back this up – some 55% of our managerial positions are filled internally and if you look at our GMs, around 75% are internal promotions in EMEA. We have a huge internal capacity to grow leaders.”

In the longer term, does Peppy think the ‘war for talent’ can be won?

“Absolutely! I wouldn’t be in this job if I didn’t believe that. As an industry we have something great to sell; and as a company we do also. With all the different brands we now operate, including the more causal, lifestyle luxury concepts, we can offer positions to a much wider variety of personalities than was the case a generation ago. We say ‘come as you are, with your personality, and we will find a brand for you’.

“We need to continue articulating this message to the market, get the right candidate profiles in front of us, and then also work at areas such as retention and training. For example, we’re developing initiatives that will enable our management trainees to work in different countries and continents as part of their program. So, you could spend the summer at W Barcelona and then the winter at one of our properties in Dubai. Imagine that as an opportunity!

“I simply cannot think of another industry right now which offers a better place to grow your career, to be successful and to travel the world.”

Main image: The Westin London City became Marriott’s 1,000th hotel in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), as well as the first property to carry the Westin Hotels & Resorts brand in the UK.

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