The Marriott Corporation Human Resources Department (a): Managing a Low-Wage Work Force

6 Pages Posted: 21 Oct 2008  

Patricia H. Werhane

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Orson W. Watson

Independent

Jenny Mead

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business

Abstract

The Marriott Corporation, family owned and run, has always had a nonunion stance. Its "welfare-to-work" programs have angered unions but have also created a more reliable low-wage workforce. These cases (see also the B case, UVA-E-0130) deal with the company's efforts to reduce turnover in its low-wage positions (thus saving money), help those on welfare find employment, and maintain its traditionally high standards of operation.

Excerpt

UVA-E-0129

THE Marriott Corporation Human Resources Department (A):

Managing a Low-Wage Work Force

In 1989, Marriott was at the top of the food and lodging business. Few companies, let alone family-operated ones, had achieved Marriott's stature and maintained a deeply felt sense of history and security. In its 62-year history, Marriott had earned a level of shareholder trust that no other hospitality company had even approached. Yet as a premier services company, Marriott's success depended on the people who actually delivered the service—the maids, janitors, kitchen workers, porters, waiters, delivery people, telemarketing representatives, and front desk clerks—the fastest growing and least appreciated segment of the U.S. labor force. Under pressure to please value-driven customers, Marriott was forced to scramble to hire, train, and retain average people capable of performing extraordinary service with a smile. To fill most of these low-level service jobs, Marriott did not need workers with high levels of education, experience, or technical expertise. Instead, in an era of flattening hierarchies and heightened expectations, Marriott needed low-wage-earning people who were also resilient and resourceful—skills previously demanded only of managers. In the 1990s, Marriott faced the challenge of not only finding, but also retaining people willing to work for low wages with few benefits.

The major task facing Marriott's senior vice president for Human Resources, Clifford Ehrlich, was to help his people-dependent company ensure itself an abundant supply of well- trained, loyal, and content workers, dedicated to the overall success of their employer. This would not be an easy task because his job as a human resources manager had undergone a transformation in the 1980s. Ehrlich stated:

Ten years ago, there was still a large part of human resources that had a compliance (EEO compliance) cast to it, wage and hour compliance, compliance with the National Labor Relations Act . . . Then the world started to change . . . While you still had to have this compliance feature, you had to ask what are the things we can do to help create an environment in which people do get excited about coming to work?…As business strategies changed, you had to be sure that the human resource efforts were geared to the change.

. . .

Keywords: ethical issues, human resources, management of, labor relations, labor unions, management philosophy, managerial ethics, service industriees, management of

Suggested Citation

Werhane, Patricia H. and Watson, Orson W. and Mead, Jenny, The Marriott Corporation Human Resources Department (a): Managing a Low-Wage Work Force. Darden Case No. UVA-E-0129. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=908399

Patricia H. Werhane (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States
434-924-4840 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.darden.virginia.edu/faculty/werhane.htm

Orson W. Watson

Independent

No Address Available

Jenny Mead

University of Virginia - Darden School of Business ( email )

P.O. Box 6550
Charlottesville, VA 22906-6550
United States

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