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Technology helps hotelier thrive in a pandemic.
By Linda Currey Post | April 2021
Karen Nelson never imagined she would lead a global human resources IT project from her dinner table.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever spent that much time in my dining room,” recalls Nelson, senior vice president for human resources systems and compensation at Marriott International.
Marriott was operating on legacy HR systems that were nearing end of life and service contracts that were expiring. The status quo was not an option: The hotel chain’s current platforms were not going to meet the long-term demands of the global workforce. As a result, when Marriott—the world’s largest provider of hotel rooms, operating 7,600 hotels in 130 countries—sent workers home to shelter from the pandemic, Nelson’s team was within 100 days of launching a new Oracle Fusion Cloud Human Capital Management (HCM) system.
Nelson shared her story with Steve Miranda, executive vice president of Oracle Applications product development, at an Oracle Live virtual conference called “Build the future of business” in late March.
The pandemic brought Nelson’s launch plans to “a screeching halt” for four months, while Marriott managers helped employees adjust to working from home and devised new safety policies for employees and hotel guests. The hotel activated its “Marriot Global Cleanliness Council,” a group of internal and external experts who applied current best practices and the latest scientific data about how to manage the chain’s business safely through the pandemic. “We had to pivot to worrying about how to quickly source cleaning supplies in a short period of time,” says Nelson, whose team worked closely with Marriott property owners and franchisees.
The team eventually announced a new launch date of December 26, 2020 for Oracle Cloud HCM, reinstating the “big bang” plan that called for all the HCM modules to go live at the same time in all locations. Nelson remembers the intensity of the big day. “We had more than 700 people sitting around the world in their homes with their kids and their dogs, helping to support us,” she says.
Since the launch, Marriott managers and employees in the US have been using a full range of HCM modules to automate the organization: core HR processes, recruiting, payroll, absence management, performance evaluation, compensation, and learning. All modules are available in 15 languages.
“So far, we’ve had tremendous feedback from our associates,” Nelson reports, with many employees using the self-service capabilities of the software. She says the HR team is looking forward to expanding access to the new Oracle HCM system so employees outside the US can learn new skills and expand their career opportunities at Marriott.
The HCM software, Nelson says, fits right into the HR team’s culture to “take care” of employees. “It’s our global commitment to ensure that our associates are afforded opportunities to develop skills, to build meaningful relationships, and to have a positive and sustainable impact on the world. And, frequently, the way we do that is through the use of technology.”
Nelson says she’s looking forward to using some of the new features of Oracle Cloud HCM, particularly the new Journeys capabilities, which enable HR teams and managers to guide employees through personal and professional events, including returning to physical workspaces.
“We’ve had tremendous feedback from our associates.”
“There’s so much opportunity, and it’s nice when the hardest thing we have to do is prioritize which new capability we’re going to bring forward first,” she says.
Now that 95% of Marriott hotels are open to guests again, Nelson says, employees are beginning to apply once more for one of the most “beloved benefits” the company offers—a program that allows them to stay at Marriott hotels around the world at a substantial discount. In just two months, she reports, employees have downloaded 650,000 hotel discount forms.
“That gives us a little green shoot of hope that we’re going to start seeing the travel industry come back” she says.
Photography: Marriott International