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Our First Core Value: Put People First - David Rodriguez

  • Our First Core Value: Put People First - David Rodriguez

    I love to hear the passion in the voices of our associates as they enthusiastically greet you with “Welcome to our hotel!” Why? Because behind those words is the true foundation to our success: Associates who are moved to receive guests like dear friends to their own home, completely dedicated to bringing the very best that Marriott has to offer.

    What we offer the world and what defines our company culture is captured by the ideals of our five core values: Put People First, Pursue Excellence, Embrace Change, Act with Integrity and Serve Our World. These are the expectations that we have for each other and what shapes and preserves the exceptionalism of culture. But what is it that inspires associates to bring those values to life in their day-to-day work? What causes associates to choose Marriott as not just any employer, but also as a partner in their journey to live their best life? What does it mean to Put People First?

     As a child I was curious about what my parents – both hourly employees – did at work. Over time, I became more sensitized about the impact the workplace has on people and families, and what helps people to excel in their work. It is one of the reasons I became an organizational psychologist and human resources professional. I can tell you that science has a lot to say about the conditions for a healthy and inspirational workplace.  But much of what I have learned also comes from a personal habit that I practice almost everywhere and with nearly everyone I meet in business and other settings – and not just at our Marriott locations.   

    The moment I arrive at a hotel my immediate instinct is to wander around and ask associates “what’s it like to work here?” The most instructive responses are almost always stories that are especially meaningful to them, sometimes told with emotion. For instance, there was the single mother in India, excited to have the opportunity to escape poverty and to build a new future for her children and herself, or the manager at our Frankfurt office, thankful for the mentor who helped open the door to a fulfilling new career opportunity. I suspect that these days, if I wasn’t sidelined from visiting hotels by the pandemic, I would hear appreciation for programs and resources to deal with the emotional and mental toll that that the pandemic has had on us. No matter where I have traveled in the world, I have found that everyone longs for the OPPORTUNITY to live a happy, healthy and more hopeful life.

    A common response I get from associates is about having found family at Marriott. Often, they will point to a colleague to let me know they have been close friends for decades or to tell me about co-workers who on their personal time are helping out a colleague who has been stricken by illness or other adversity. An associate in Mexico once told me that the difference between her former employers and Marriott is the way associates care about each other. She said, “How could I ever leave Marriott? Here, I have found a family.” A COMMUNITY of caring relationships is so vital to our personal wellbeing and there is so much that we can do together with our associates to build much needed inclusiveness and sense of belonging.

    It always brings a smile to my face when I see pictures of associates working together on Spirit to Serve projects. It reminds me that employers should seize the role to grow and inspire people to make a positive difference in their community. Our founders were ahead of their time with their civic mindedness.  It is notable to me how much more frequently associates respond to my question by expressing pride in Marriott’s sense of public service and outreach. It turns out that sense of PURPOSE and leaving behind a personal legacy of service to society is also an essential ingredient to wellbeing. In a sense, it is an affirmation of our common need for inclusive community and connectedness to others.  

    Our most precious cultural legacy is our commitment to Put People First by delivering Opportunity, Community and Purpose to our associates. It is what leads them to choose Marriott and what inspires them to live our core values and bring the best of Marriott to the world. It is a powerful, self-replenishing dynamic. It is our secret sauce.

    As we usher in the next exciting chapter at Marriott, let’s recommit ourselves to our first core value to Put People First by delivering the Opportunity, Community and Purpose that our associates seek for their lives.


    Written by:

    Executive Vice President & Global Chief HR Officer and Board Member at American Woodmark

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