Mielle Batliwalla has worked with Marriott for 15+ years across Marriott hotels in Mumbai, Pune, Goa and Delhi. In her current role, she oversees the Human Resources and Training function at JW Marriott, New Delhi.
Q. Could you tell us about the talent challenges facing the tourism and hospitality sector?
A. When we talk about hospitality, it is not just about the availability of talent, but also the quality that hotels are looking at today where we face a challenge. And the problem of talent crunch is normally during busy seasons, which are the last quarter of the year and the first quarter of the year. So it’s about finding the right fit at the right time. If you look at Aerocity, as an example where there are 12-13 hotels in the same space, there are challenges in attracting talent due to the proximity of the space too.
Q. Marriott has consistently ranked among the best hotel chains, and a best place to work. In terms of your talent strategy, could you highlight what stands out?
A. Our hiring philosophy is very simple, “We hire for attitude and we train for skill.” That’s our company’s core hiring philosophy and that’s common to all of our hotels irrespective of the country we are in. When hiring, we want the candidate to have technical expertise, but at the end of the day we don’t want them to come with the level of knowledge that they think their job is easy.
We would rather have people with the right attitude, the ones who are willing to work hard, to grow with the organisation. So even if you are a fresh pass out from college but you have the absolutely right attitude, you are hungry to learn and keen to grow, that’s a better fit than having somebody with three years of experience with the same job.
Q. Could you talk about how do you assess talent fit?
A. Our interviews are very structured. The application process is a fairly simple one. It requires an online application and an aptitude assessment which is taken online through our career portal, its targeted selection. All of our hiring managers are trained to conduct the interviews.
In fact, only those who are certified by the Director of HR are allowed to conduct interviews. Every function head is trained on the interviewing requirement for Marriott. And every single position that we hire for has a set interview guide. This lists down all the questions that you can ask all the key attributes that you are looking to assess through very open-ended questions.
We have a rating scale and a consensus meeting after every selection. For E.g. If I am interviewing somebody for Food &Beverages, I will have the restaurant manager, the head of F&B, myself, and the GM – four people who would interview one person and we would all either agree, disagree or agree to disagree. In all our hotels, all our GMs interview every person. That ensures there is a quality, profile and fitment check that is done.
Q. Could you talk about the second part of the hiring philosophy which is about training for skills?
A. Marriott has a big emphasis on training. Whether it is discipline-specific training or function-specific training, or behavioural training, there is a lot that goes on at every single level. There is a whole training plan that is carved out for every individual who joins the hotel.
There’s a 90-day plan – divided into the first 30, 60 and 90 days. In each of these pockets, there is a set path made for every individual as to what he or she needs to learn in order to settle down. And every associate is assigned a buddy for the first 90 days. A buddy is a similar level associate who has been in the hotel. That person is senior in tenure, and an expert in what he or she does. Training happens at peer-peer level, and from the top-down level. And then training happens in various forms – it is online, classroom, and on-the-job.
We send associates for cross exposure to other hotels where we know they can learn and benefit from places where things are done differently compared to us. Training is constant, it doesn’t stop.
Q. How does a hotel chain ensure a consistent experience across the world? How do you ensure that the core is still the same, and how does it work in a context like JW Marriott?
A. HR, the GM of the hotel and the hotel senior leadership, they play a very critical role in ensuring that the Marriott culture is alive in every single hotel of ours.
Our core philosophy of the company “If you take care of your associates, they will take care of the customer, and the business will take care of itself.”
Whatever we do in all forms of engagement activities or whether it is the benefits or the welfare activities that we have, or the policies that we put in place, or the training, development and growth opportunities – everything centres on the associates. It is what they see, when they see it happening, they hear it and correlate that what we say is not just what we say but we also do – that really ensures that the culture is alive in the hotels.