How Careers Become Voyages at Marriott International

Problem: Marriott needed an onboarding and career development platform
to replace its dated, paper-intensive one. The process offered little collaboration, interactivity, social media integration or mobility.

Solution: The company’s Global University Relations and Recruiting program
is one of its key recruiting tools, used to attract graduates from schools worldwide. Once hired, new employees participate in Marriott’s leadership development program through its virtual onboarding environment. The platform helps accelerate new-hire career development and increases retention of future leaders.

New-hire onboarding has long been recognized as a mission-critical process, central to the talent management lifecycle. Virtual onboarding sets the stage for a positive professional development experience and, according to a November 2012 survey conducted by virtual communication company ON24, where the author works, virtual onboarding is one of the fastest-growing technology applications in HR management.

One organization embracing virtual talent development is hospitality company Marriott International. Marriott has simplified and streamlined its onboarding process, with an emphasis on more effective connections with millennials just starting their careers.

Prior to implementing its virtual talent development strategy in early 2013, Marriott used three different intranet-based onboarding programs, designed for separate hotel brands and targeting separate geographies. These programs were paper-centric, and recruits were required to print materials and review the documents on their own. This provided little opportunity for leadership development or for new hires to communicate or collaborate with global colleagues, managers or company leaders.

Further, the paper-based programs did not scale to match Marriott’s growth rate and lacked the interactivity, social media connections and mobile accessibility desired by millennial employees. Millennials often like to work in team-centric environments and tend to gravitate to employers that are in step with their lifestyle — plugged in and on the go.

To begin revamping its onboarding process, Marriott’s global talent leaders conducted focus groups with key constituencies such as college students in their recruitment pipeline and its own managers and recruiters. They also conducted follow-up research with previous onboarding participants. Based on feedback, the company extracted the most effective components of its intranet-centric, paper-based programs and evolved them into the Voyage virtual onboarding environment.

Virtual Onboarding Changes the Game
Voyage is a virtual learning environment for onboarding that offers new hires a centralized online destination to access the training and HR resources that will get them started on their career with Marriott.

The program was implemented in January with 65 new hires, with the expectation that approximately 500 recruits globally will enter it annually. As a Marriott management trainee, each “voyager” completes the program, guided by a coach and champion, and then transitions to a leadership role upon completion.

Voyage features social media integration, webcasting, mobile device access and access to traditional learning management system functions. The Voyage environment is built around the social aspects of communication, participation and connection.

Whether they are working from the office or using a mobile device from home or another location, the system enables new hires to quickly, effectively and confidently assimilate into Marriott’s culture.

Voyage also offers onboarding to employees working in Marriott properties around the world. It is available in 30 countries and 22 languages. For graduates, successful program completion ensures they will find the supervisory or entry-level management position that’s right for them within the global organization.

For new graduates looking to make a career in the hospitality industry, Marriott positions Voyage as the way to “turn your degree into the ultimate opportunity.” The program is also a showcase for the company’s global business. It offers new grads a number of career enrichment opportunities, including:

• Hands-on, discipline-specific training to support individual interests, such as food and beverage operations, human resources, engineering, event management, sales and marketing.

• Immersion in individual hotel property operations.

• Participation in the Voyage online environment, which contains all program curriculum materials and connects participants around the globe.

• Comprehensive understanding of the global scale of Marriott’s operations.

• Exposure to and understanding of Marriott’s broad portfolio of global brands.

Voyage is designed to complement new hires’ on-the-job experience with learning activities and resources created to rapidly increase their knowledge of Marriott’s myriad functional areas. Once new hires are enrolled, the system offers required and self-selected optional learning opportunities. The environment features the Hub, an online gathering space, the Network Cafe for networking, a Learning Library for accessing videos, interactive tutorials, quizzes and document downloads, and the Town Hall, where presentations are viewed.

Voyage uses the platform’s global reach and 24/7 availability to enable new hires from around the world to access training materials at a convenient time and place. Employees spend an average of 35 to 40 minutes per week in the Voyage environment.

The platform also provides access to learning paths and a variety of learning resources, including PDF learning guides, e-learning coursework, webcasts, self-study materials, traditional classroom sessions and access to events such as The Leadership Series featuring senior executives, including the CEO, in addition to live chat capabilities with company leaders. Marriott has crafted the content to support tailored and role-based curricula and learning paths, as well as networking and collaboration that involves coaching from Voyage program mentors.

Marriott’s executive leadership team uses the online destination as part of the company’s recruitment strategy. There is a link to the online environment from the company’s global HR Web page inviting candidates to experience the virtual destination for themselves. Candidates can navigate around the environment and observe and experience available resources. This underscores Marriott’s management support and commitment to the program.

Managers are given a detailed understanding of how, where and when new hires are using Voyage. They can see the amount of time employees spend in the online environment, what specific training materials are being consumed, pinpoint which geographies users are coming from and what type of device they are using.

This increased visibility into usage and content engagement allows Marriott’s training team to fine-tune educational content and allows for proactive new hire management and supervision. For example, Voyage can alert a new hire’s manager when that employee is not making use of all the learning and communication resources relevant to his or her job, enabling a supervisor to step in and take corrective steps. System usage statistics and regular reports help managers encourage active participation and engagement and catch any issues earlier to avoid problems down the line.

Grooming the Next Generation of Leaders
Voyage gives new college hires a platform to accelerate their career development and progression. It also increases overall retention of future leaders and sets them up for success.

Internal survey data from Marriott shows Voyage was successfully completed by the inaugural class of 65 new hires, and the company expects that approximately 550 recruits globally will enter the 12- to 18-month program this year. The first class praised the ease of use of the onboarding system, including the ability to access training content via mobile devices, to obtain training at any time and to revisit it for a refresher. Social media sharing built into the virtual talent development platform is a heavily used feature, allowing new hires to share their successes with each other, as well as friends, colleagues and professional acquaintances.

Marriott training and HR leaders report that Voyage participants demonstrate greater effectiveness much more quickly and have bonded as a virtual community because of the experience. The company plans to ensure that its onboarding structure and content remain relevant and current going forward and will monitor new hires’ progress closely through the system.

Tom Masotto is vice president of product management for virtual communication company ON24. He can be reached at