Marriott International Manager and Leadership Development Programmes

  • Marriott systematically uses internal mobility to develop its general managers and to develop leadership talent, while ensuring that leaders are optimally matched to positions.
  • Within a global region, mobility occurs both across functions within properties and across properties.
  • Between-region global mobility occurs most frequently for general managers and other executive-level personnel, although some global mobility is supported and encouraged for non-executive personnel.
  • Marriott collaborates with educational institutions around the globe to support successful talent mobility.
  • Marriott International also collaborates with the Marriott Foundation – an independent entity – to facilitate the movement of people with disabilities into the workforce.
The problem addressed by the campaign: 
  • The quality of general managers running hotels and leading functions at Marriott is central to the company’s profitability and brand reputation.
  • Developing and retaining the best talent, especially for property operations, is a key continuous challenge.
  • Developing leadership talent often requires exposing managers to the breadth of work and functions within a hotel as well as elevating capabilities by progressing individuals to increasingly challenging managerial assignments, as are found in larger, more complex properties. 
  • Mobility into the workforce is enabled through collaboration with an independent entity that prepares and supports people with disabilities for productive roles in the workforce.
  • Marriott exploits its enormous scale to develop breadth of experience in its managers and leaders by strategically managing the scope and sequence of roles and responsibilities they assume.
  • Marriott organizes its management development programmes around two types of moves:
    • Within-property moves from one function to another, to broaden the nature of work performed
    • Out-of-property moves from one location to another, typically from smaller, less complex to larger, more complex properties.
  • Marriott posts job openings internally for all employees to see – including positions outside employees’ current country of residence – thus communicating opportunities for internal mobility.
  • Internal training programmes (e.g., for language skills and for cultural awareness) support global mobility for non-executive employees.
  • Executive-level global mobility is more centrally coordinated.
  • The opportunity to advance to management roles in high profile, complex and top brand properties motivates ambitious managers to perform well.
  • Recognizing the need to tailor manager development to the realities of each regional marketplace, Marriott focuses more on cross training of managers within properties outside the United States. Often, this is where  there are fewer brands, but each property may involve more extensive and more complex management functions. Greater within-property variance outside the United States creates an even stronger need to produce more generalists within the management ranks.
  • Disciplined management of this development process, backed by constant measurement and tracking of results, are key to programme effectiveness.
  • Marriott has experienced strong positive outcomes from its mobility programme.
  • Statistical modelling of the workforce impact of mobility shows that this approach to development helps the company retain its good and higher-performing general managers and accelerates their advancement through the organization.
    • Specifically, retention rises with the number of jobs performed.
    • Those who have made an out-of-property move in the last year are more likely to stay as well.
  • Analysis of the impact on property performance shows that this higher retention is not achieved at the expense of performance. There are no productivity losses attendant to the planned movement of a general manager out of a property or a similar movement of a new general manager into a new property. 
Why has it worked?: 
  • The programme involves “sponsored mobility” – that is, it is focused mainly on identified high potentials and top performers and managed deliberately to build experience and capability within this cadre of employees.
  • The sheer scale and reach of the Marriott organization in terms of roles, functions, complexity of operations and geographic footprint affords a substantial opportunity to broaden the experience of managers and future leaders and to undertake extensive cross training.
  • The approach is adapted to the realities on the ground, recognizing differences across geographies.
  • State-of-the-art measurement and modelling methods are used to ensure leadership can track the actual workforce and business impact of their mobility practices and, thereby, can make course corrections.
  • The best managers know that their success is measured not only by how they perform in their role, but how well they manage transitions to new management when they leave for new assignments. Good managers leave in place good operations and tend to issues of succession.
Conclusions and Recommendations: 
  • When planned properly and executed with discipline, internal mobility can be an excellent way to develop managers and business leaders because it broadens experience and knowledge and provides a good way to test the abilities of managers to be effective under varied conditions.
  • But mobility only works if organizations avoid the common tendency of mobility to become “churn” and other unintended consequences of mobility.
  • “Sponsored mobility,” focused on identified high potentials and top performers and executed with careful sequencing of opportunities, can help avoid the common hazards of churn.
  • Careful planning of mobility based on hard measurement of its drivers and consequences enhances the prospects of achieving intended outcomes.
  • Tailoring of mobility and related career development programmes to the business and cultural realities of different locations is critical for achieving success.
Foundational Issues: 
Critical skills gaps
Level of Collaboration: 
Level 2: Collaboration across organizations within a country
Global (all of the above)
Economic and political context: 

Marriott International financials (2010):

  • Sales: US$ 11.7 billion
  • Profits: US$ 458 million
  • Assets: US$ 9.0 billion
  • Employees: 130,000
About the Author(s): 

Marriott International Inc. is a worldwide operator and franchisor of hotels and related lodging facilities.