Getting into growth mode
As part of its ambitious growth strategy, earlier this year Marriott acquired the 116-hotel Protea Hospitality Group (PHG), Africa’s largest hotel operator. This enabled the hotel chain to jump its presence in its MEA region to more than 160 hotels and 23,000 rooms.
Its pipeline of new hotels in the Middle East and Africa to add to this total, including Protea’s pipeline, is now more than 65 hotels and 14,300 rooms. Dodds explains that the aim is to have 200 Marriott hotels operating in the MEA region by 2020 – a target his President is confident about achieving.
Dodds describes some of the HR merger process. “Acquiring thousands of people in one go is a challenge for any business, but from an HR perspective, we completed due diligence over 2-3 months,” he says. “We were excited to find a similar culture to Marriott. Protea is run like a family business and it cares about its employees in the spirit of serving the community, as we do.”
For Dodds, putting people first is what sets Marriott apart from its competitors – indeed, the company was listed as one of the top places to work in the UAE in the Great Places to Work awards earlier this year and the top hotel group, and won the Caterer global's best hotel group to work for in 2012 and 2013. However, although the company has built on this philosophy over the past 87 years with huge success, Dodds is keen to point out the value of taking a cautious approach when it comes to acquisitions.
“Protea has been successful for the last 25 years. We [Marriott] are new to South Africa so who are we to come in and impose as our senior leadership agreed? Yes, we’ve had to make some alignments straight away such as with our global reservation systems, marketing etc but everything else is to follow slowly. Right now, we are looking, asking and learning,” he says.
The organisation will go through a careful process to identify what value over time can Marriott processes add – something which Dodds anticipates will take at least 1-2 years. “As with any change project, you have to tread carefully – everyone needs to feel comfortable so that you build on your global, customer and employer brand loyalty, and bring them seamlessly together.”
Back to Marriott International overall in the Middle East and the Gulf in particular, top of the priority list for Dodds to address is the following questions: ‘How can we enhance employee career experience?’, ‘how can we position Marriott as an attractive place to work for nationals?’ and ‘how can we build the talent and skills we will require for the future?’