The JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong was the first venture in the Asia-Pacific under the Marriott International umbrella. Opened in 1989 as the group's flagship hotel in the region, it has gradually been joined by more than 30 hotels across China, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Worldwide, the 2,600 Marriott hotels deliver the same basics and consistent service to guests. Whether on a global or regional basis, the hotel adopts one strategy for all staff - to treat them fairly and with respect. This has produced some remarkable results. 'Around 30 per cent of our existing staff joined us on the first day of operations, and 35 per cent have worked with us for over 10 years,' says the general manager of the JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong, Mark Conklin. 'We have probably the lowest staff turnover rate among five-star hotels in Hong Kong. Ours is 8 per cent versus the industry's 29 per cent.' The Marriott group's staff strategy is rooted in the founder's philosophy when he established the company 75 years ago. At the time, all J Willard Marriott wanted was to build a simple premise: to take care of his employees, who in return would take care of the business. 'Mr Marriott's belief system is to treat people in a fair and respectful manner, for them to have the spirit to serve,' says Mr Conklin. This strategy begins with the selection and assessment process of new hires. From among the pool of applications, the human resources department will screen and shortlist potential candidates for interviews. Before meeting the line managers and senior managers, candidates have to pass several interviews and assessments. 'It is a meticulous screening process. Much value is placed on a candidate's attitude, a friendly and positive one. It is the predisposition to serve our guests well,' says Mr Conklin. In addition, candidates have to show they are energetic, enthusiastic and willing to work with others. 'It is also important if one has a great smile,' he says. New employees are trained to equip them with the right skills and knowledge. All new employees undergo a 90-day extensive orientation and training programme. The training professionals and line supervisors present clear overviews of the hotel's core values and job components, as well as staff benefits. 'This 90-day period is crucial to us and new hires because we need to further assess and determine if this is the right place/personnel for long-term development. This is to ensure a win-win situation for both parties,' says Mr Conklin. In addition, extensive training programmes are offered to all staff to upgrade their competencies. All staff are required to attend a 15-minute training session every day, and all the supervisors have to attend five training modules on supervisory skills a year. Managers are required to attend 40 hours in management training. The hotel commissions regional trainers for their management training programmes. 'Historically, we spend 2 per cent to 3 per cent of our sales revenue on training, which is a fairly big investment,' says Mr Conklin. 'My belief is for one dollar invested in training, we will get three dollars' worth in return.' Besides job-related training, the hotel organises interest or hobby classes to help staff develop personally. 'It is our core aim to expand our staff to their fullest potential. When they benefit from our investment and commitment in training, they would not leave us easily.' The hotel regularly recognises and celebrates contributions from staff. 'We organise fun and meaningful gatherings to express our gratitude to staff. Another way is through promotion. Among our 700 staff, 10 per cent have been promoted recently. Half of our management staff started with us as junior associates a long time ago.' Outstanding staff are also offered opportunities to work in start-up projects or sister hotels in the region. The recognition can also come from the global headquarters. 'Our director of rooms operation received the JW Marriott Award of Excellence in 1996. This is the highest recognition for the global Marriott family, with only 10 awardees among 15,000 associates,' says Mr Conklin. 'At the time, she flew to Washington DC for a week to receive the award.' The internal promotion scheme has shaped the hotel's recruiting needs. 'Most of our hiring is for entry-level positions. We need staff to speak the local language. We sometimes recruit directly from school, or referrals from other properties, or graduates come back to us after summer internships with us.' Besides a long-term career path, the hotel offers competitive remuneration packages and a balance between work and staff's private lives. 'We stress a good balance of work and personal life. We offer a five-day work week, which is very rare among Hong Kong hotels.' Mr Conklin shares Mr Marriott's opinion that the 'general manager is not the most important person. It is the front-line staff who make the difference for the hotel. We compete with our rivals through our people and our genuine care for the guests.'