The groundhog, needing a stretch after a long winter nap, comes out of his hole. If he sees his shadow, he naps for six more weeks; if he doesn't, he stays outside to bask in the new and lasting springtime ... so goes Groundhog Day theory.
Marriott International, ranked No. 28 in Training's 2003 Top 100, has a slightly different Groundhog Day theory: Bring as many students as possible out of their schools and into Marriott hotels to shadow workers. If they like what they see and enjoy their experience, maybe they will return in a few years to become successful and aspiring employees.
In 1999, Washington, D.C.-based Marriott made a commitment in support of America's Promise—The Alliance for Youth, headed by General Colin Powell, to introduce at least 25,000 students to the lodging industry within five years. Four years later, Marriott has already surpassed the goal.
Each February 2, students across the nation can sign up to visit the Marriott hotel in their area for Groundhog Job Shadow Day. Depending on their interests, Marriott pairs each student with an employee—a manager, director of finance or maybe even a chef—to see what his or her particular job is like for a day.
"They're exposed to the business acumen needed to be successful in that career," explains Andy Chaves, Marriott manager of youth career development. "More importantly, the professionals talk to them about the importance of continuing education and what it takes to open doors to careers within Marriott."
Chaves and his team have created a resource on Marriott's intranet including best practices, varying agendas and other ideas so each of the 300 hotels can customize their own Groundhog Job Shadow Day. Hotels host anywhere from five to 150 students, and this usually determines the length and activities of the day, says Chaves.
Students who have participated in Marriott's Groundhog Job Shadow Day will often come home from college during the summer to work or intern for Marriott, and hopefully, they'll return for a permanent position after getting their four-year degree. Forty percent of Marriott's current managers began in hourly positions, and this proves to students that Marriott has a culture of upward mobility, says Stephanie Hampton, Marriott senior director of corporate communications.
Students are also encouraged by J.W. Marriott himself, who kicks off Groundhog Job Shadow Day by leading the opening meeting at one of the hotels and pairing with students for the day.
In the future, Marriott hopes former Groundhog Job Shadow Day participants will step out of school, see their job shadows and return to the lodging industry. —H.J.