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Marriott Flex Options for Hourly Workers

Accommodation & food services
Large (20,000 or more)
  Mentoring, Training, Workplace flexibility
Flex Options for Hourly Workers: Innovative options for scheduling, career, and work design flexibility.

Marriott Flex Options for Hourly Workers


Industry: Accommodation & food services
Profit Status: For-profit
Region: Multi-national
Workforce Size: 100,400 employees

  Mentoring, Training, Workplace flexibility

The business drivers for Marriott International included:

  1. A rapidly aging workforce.  Mature workers at Marriott were staying on the job well into their 60's, 70's, and even 80's.  Workforce analysis showed that 43% of employees were 45 and older, and 18% were 55 and older. 
  2. One of the fundamental goal of Marriott’s corporate culture is to put people first.  The company found that there is a correlation between employee satisfaction and positive experiences of the guests.

Goals  & Objectives

  • Create innovative and adaptable flexibility programs that increase employee engagement and satisfaction while generating positive business results. 
  • Help managers address the concerns of older workers in physically-demanding jobs. Employees in the housekeeping, kitchen, and banquet divisions do work thats requires constant movements such as bending, stretching, lifting, pushing, and pulling. 

Project Highlights

For years, Marriott has offered a traditional portfolio of flexible work arrangements, including flextime, core hours, shift trading, compressed work weeks, reduced work schedules, job sharing and teleworking.  At the same time, they focused on flexibility innovations in scheduling, careers, and work design for hourly associates.

Key features of the Flex Options for Hourly Workers include:

  1. Cross-training enables associates to pick up shifts in other functional areas. For older workers, cross-training helps them continue to maximize their hours and develop new skills without completely changing jobs.  Additionally, associates in physically-demanding jobs such as engineering might cross-train in a job that doesn’t require as much heavy lifting. 
  2. Job rotations often develop out of cross-training when associates move to another position for a period of time, or a specific number of days a week. For example, a housekeeping associate who works in laundry might cross-train as a lobby attendant and then rotate to that job two days a week, working the other three days in laundry.
  3. Work process redesign resulted in a team room-cleaning approach employed at some hotels with various adaptations:
    • Pairing a younger associate with an older associate.
    • Dividing time and tasks, such as 10% of the time spent on general cleaning, 20% on messenger and other delivery tasks, and 70% on cleaning rooms.
    • Teaming up for a specific task (For example, a team of three might handle turndown service:  one straightens the bathroom; one straightens the bedroom; and the other obtains ice and water.  Team members proceed in this manner for five rooms and then switch roles, repeating the process for a total of 35 to 40 rooms.)
    • Categorizing tasks according to those that require reaching (such as high, deep cleaning) and those that require bending (such as cleaning under beds).
  4. At-home agent positions for sales and customer care attract hourly workers on both ends of the generational spectrum: younger workers in their early 20s with children and retirees older than 50.  At-home agents can bid for a variety of shifts with the flexibility to build in one half-hour increment so they can step away from the phone.  They can also call in and request a block of one to three hours off, with the option of making up the time later in the week.
  5. Flex coupons available to associates in Marriott’s reservations centers enable staff to log into an automated system and sign up for time off, in one- to three-hour increments, a half day, or a full day, either on the “day of” or for a future date.
  6. Down time without pay is offered to staff in reservations centers during slower times in the form of extended breaks, shorter shifts, leaving early, or extra days off.  This option is also informally offered to hotel staff during slower periods.

The outcomes and impact of the Flex Options for Hourly Workers include:

  • A majority of the employees feel they have the workplace flexibility they need, according to Marriott’s annual associate engagement survey. 
  • Responses to the survey, including those from associates aged 55 and older, were above the external vendor’s best employer benchmarks. 

Editor’s Note: The Sloan Center on Aging & Work recognizes that age is a multi-faceted concept. For a discussion of the aging experience, see our issue brief, Through a Different Looking Glass: The Prism of Age.  The innovative practices adopted by employers might address one or more than one of the different aspects of age.

The lessons learned include:

  • Because guest satisfaction is paramount and most of the interactions associates have with guests are face-to-face, the flexibility options the company offers to employees cannot compromise the guest experience. 
  • Providing flexibility options for mature workers is a challenge for the corporation; this segment of the staff needs options that enable them to be productive and continue to have opportunities for learning and development as they age.

Marriott International anticipates that the next steps of the Flex Options for Hourly Workers will include:

  • Developing new communications to encourage use of the innovative options for hourly worker scheduling flexibility.
  • Soliciting and communicating flexibility success stories.
  • Providing additional tools to help managers understand, innovate, and implement a broad range of scheduling and career flexibility options.
  • Launching the next phase of their Aging Workforce Project, which focuses on a wide range of initiatives, including manager and associate awareness of aging workforce issues, health and wellness programs, and workplace flexibility communications.

Marriott International is recognized as a national leader in investing in creative approaches to workplace flexibility and other initiatives that support associates in managing work and life responsibilities.  These practices have been recognized by Fortune magazine each year since the inception in 1998 of its “100 Best Companies to Work For” list and by Working Mother magazine since 1991, when Marriott first made the national “Working Mother 100 Best Companies” list.  Marriott was also selected for the inaugural “Best Companies for Hourly Workers” list in 2010 and received this honor again in 2011—notably for best practices in the areas of workplace flexibility, training and development, and supportive benefits for all associates.

For additional information, contact The Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College:

In addition to Marriott International, we would like to thank Abbott, AstraZeneca, Central Baptist Hospital, CVS Caremark, MITRE Corporation, and Wells Fargo for sponsorship of this entry.

Copyright ©2012 Boston College The Sloan Center on Aging & Work

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