By Barbara Frankel
Oral Muir was a hot job prospect. He had completed his MBA at Johns Hopkins University and had several options. He chose Marriott International after meeting executives “because of their passion” for the company.
His exposure to Marriott occurred at the National Black MBA Association’s annual convention in 2000, and today he is Vice President, eCommerce Strategic Solutions and Business Development at Marriott, No. 16 in The 2014 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity.
“I fell in love with the Marriott culture and I see it happening at this convention every year. It puts our culture on display and people react the same way I did,” he says.
For Marriott, the relationship with the nonprofit has been an excellent strategic fit, raising its profile with a talent pipeline very important to its future.
More Than Money
The hospitality chain utilizes a best practice increasingly followed by DiversityInc Top 50 companies—instead of writing numerous checks to a multitude of charities, it chooses to align itself with a handful of organizations whose missions and goals dovetail with its business priorities.
“Hiring, engaging and retaining diverse relationships in those communities is essential to us,” says Maruiel Perkins-Chavis, Vice President, Workforce Effectiveness & Diversity.
Marriott’s involvement with the organization goes far beyond just writing checks. The company has an executive sponsor, Kevin Kimball, Executive Vice President of Finance, whose responsibility is to maximize the interface with the organization.
“I am an ambassador for this relationship inside and outside of Marriott,” he says, citing the company’s ability to provide speakers at conferences, host industry forums and encourage its members to support the organization.
Marriott has also been involved with the organization’s Leaders of Tomorrow, a program for 8,000 high-school students, and its Leadership Institute executive-development program.
Investment in Workforce Diversity
Jesse Tyson, CEO of the National Black MBA Association, says the meaningful partnership with Marriott has lasted more than 20 years now.
“They really get it in terms of what’s required for community involvement. Their investments in people don’t begin with the point of hire. They invest at the high-school level knowing they won’t get a payout for eight to 10 years,” he says.
The five-year strategic relationship the organization currently has with Marriott identifies Marriott as a hotel of choice as well as an employer of choice. In addition to hiring talent through the organization, Marriott also teaches its members to be business owners and entrepreneurs, which can also lead to opportunities to run hotel franchises or be a supplier.
What most impresses Tyson is that when he needs to talk to someone at Marriott, he gets through right away to a senior executive. “We are important to them and they show it,” he says. The organization, whose members are 87 percent African-American, works to put talented people, most of whom have MBAs or graduate degrees, in successful jobs or with their own businesses.
When partnering with an organization, Perkins-Chavis says “the process is to look at what the true ROI of the organization is. What’s the organizational alignment with values, missions and objectives. Will it provide a venue to reach the talent we need for our workforce?”
In addition to providing content for conferences, the company also works with the organization on supplier diversity, says Apoorva Gandhi, Vice President, Multicultural Markets & Alliances. “We’ll host a supplier diversity 101 and discuss the do’s and don’ts of corporate contributions. Those sessions at the conference are standing-room only.”
While Perkins-Chavis says Marriott’s involvement is mostly on a national level, there is local support as well. For those efforts, the Washington, D.C., chapter of the organization recently named Marriott as its Corporation of the Year.