Inspired by Human Performance

Greatest Challenge: With 20 unique brands, 3,000 hotels in 60 countries and an average annual applicant flow of 2 million, Marriott's selection processes needed to be globalized and enhanced.

Greatest Accomplishment: Wrote and communicated Marriott's global-selection strategy and spearheaded the development of a global-selection-program business case.

By Michael O'Brien

Adam Malamut has definitely come a long way since joining Bethesda, Md.-based hotelier Marriott International in 2001 as an hourly paid analyst supporting the company's employee-survey program. In fact, he's now running an entire department as the company's vice president of human capital planning, development and analytics.

But it's what he's managed to accomplish in between those two employment events that has garnered him praise from his peers and inclusion as a member of HRE's 2010 HR's Rising Stars.

Those accomplishments include the implementation of a global-selection strategy that has been instituted companywide, the development of a workforce-analytics and program-evaluation discipline within the company's HR function and the creation of a bridge over a "digital divide" that now makes it easier for Marriott's hourly workers (approximately 85 percent of all the company's employees) to have their voices heard -- all feats that could appear on any CHRO's curriculum vitae.

Malamut, 37, says his current work in measuring employee performance stems from an interest in the hows and whys of human behavior that he developed as an undergraduate at Penn State University, where he received a degree in psychology. (He also holds a Ph.D. in industrial and organizational psychology from George Washington University.)

"I was very much intrigued by psychology and philosophy courses and understanding the human condition," he says. "I've always been inspired by human performance and what people can achieve working together, and I wanted to make a difference in how companies perform, starting with what matters most in my opinion, and that's the human side."

Considering Marriott's annual estimated applicant flow of 2 million, Malamut was quick to realize the selection processes for its 20 unique brands and 3,000 hotels in 60 countries needed to be enhanced and globalized, so he created the Global Selection Program that includes 14 job-category-specific online assessments that measure critical performance in 22 different languages, an interviewer-certification program (which is available in 10 languages) that is now administered to all hiring managers, and job-specific interview guides that are also available in 22 languages.

But it was his development of the GSP business case that became a crucial lynchpin in gaining companywide acceptance for the new strategy.

"Adam was instrumental in positioning the business case as an efficiency, customer-service and risk-mitigation initiative," says Peter Schiffrin, Marriott's global human resource officer.

Not only did company leaders come on board, but the firm's bottom line got a boost as well when it was determined that, within three years of implementation of the GSP, the cost savings over prior selection programs will have paid for GSP's development. And by 2012, the company's annual selection costs will be at their lowest in more than a decade, while also yielding better talent, says Schiffrin.

Malamut's development of the workforce-analytics and program-evaluation discipline has also yielded benefits to both HR and non-HR programs through business-intelligence research. On the HR side, for example, the discipline helped to support the business case for the company's employee-engagement initiative by showing the causal impact of employee engagement on employee turnover, productivity and customer-problem resolution.

And that discipline's effectiveness now reaches far beyond HR's door, thanks to the company's use of it to support ongoing business-impact monitoring and action planning. When Marriott added a restaurant and bar concept to all 300 Courtyard-branded hotels, Malamut's team developed a program-evaluation process and reporting system for hotel managers to compare, among other things, employee-satisfaction levels before, during and after the renovations.

"Strong measurement gives you the business intelligence you need to really understand and guide the mission in order to have the intended business impact," Malamut says.

Despite his love of metrics, Malamut maintains a compassionate and egalitarian view of the workforce and HR practice, Schiffrin says, adding that he spearheaded -- along with an academic colleague -- a research program to study the dynamics of workplace diversity and inclusion on hotel-business performance, which was awarded a support grant of $260,000 by the National Science Foundation in September 2005.

His commitment to diversity and inclusion was also evident when his team set out to improve and simplify the user interface of key HR online technologies used by the hourly workforce and applicant pool, many of whom may not speak English or know how to operate a computer.

Through the use of pictures instead of words in online tests, his approach essentially removed the need for applicants to be language-literate and it simplified the Web-site navigation for applicants with limited computer experience.

But lest anyone think Malamut is made up of little more than a series of numbers and theories, Schiffrin says nothing could be further from the truth.

"He's got a great sense of humor and he doesn't take himself too seriously. We've all met very smart, accomplished people who thought the world revolves around them. He's not one of those guys," Schiffrin says. "He is an extraordinary professional and person."

These are the other 2010 HR's Rising Stars:

A Dynamo in The Energy Field: Tana Cashion

The Quintessential Collaborator: Nancy Wolfe

The Innovator: Prasad Setty

The Change Agent: Kevin Close

Jul 1, 2010
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