At hotel chain Marriott International, David Goodson has a vast geographical
remit – yet he remains unbowed. Lucie Carrington asks him how he does it
It is perfectly understandable for training chiefs to feel they are pulled
in all directions as they try to satisfy the often conflicting needs of
employees, managers, HR and, of course, the business. But as training director
of the Marriott International hotel chain in the UK, Ireland, Middle East and
Africa, David Goodson has more reason than most to wonder what day of the week
For Goodson doesn’t just answer to several customers, or even more than one
boss – he has to answer to two different companies as well.
The Whitbread Hotel Company – which includes Travel Inn – holds the
franchise to run Marriott International hotels in the UK, and Goodson finds
himself in the extraordinary position of having an employment contract with
Whitbread that is actually funded by Marriott. But he faces up to the challenge
with great diplomacy.
"As a product, Marriott is very different from Travel Inn," he
says. "But the Whitbread and Marriott values are closely aligned and it
would be hard to distinguish between them."
The result is consistency and synergy between the UK-based HR and training
"HR tends to be Whitbread-driven, whereas training is driven more by
Marriott, with its global agenda," Goodson says. And herein lies the other
unusual aspect of Goodson’s job – internationalism.
There aren’t many truly global HR roles, and probably far fewer training
ones – but Goodson’s job fits that category. And when it comes to the hotel
business, training is probably the HR specialism that lends itself most readily
to a global feel. For one thing, skills and competencies cross borders more
easily than pay and benefits or terms and conditions, for example.
"Some of our management competencies may not come naturally in some
cultures. We don’t change the competency framework because of that, although we
might change how it is delivered," Goodson says.
Much of his time is therefore taken up with developing, co-ordinating and
delivering worldwide training programmes.
To start with, all new employees undergo Marriott’s certified ‘new hire’
training. This covers the first 90 days that the new recruits – or assistants,
as Marriott prefers to call them – spend with the company, and focuses on the
technical side of the job.
"New employees go through the process with a buddy – a more experienced
colleague – to support them. And at the end of it all they are signed off as
competent employees," says Goodson.
Then there is what Marriott calls Daily Basics. This is a list of the 20
standards that all Marriott employees should be aware of, wherever they are in the
world. It covers such areas as appearance, cleanliness, and telephone
technique. A 20-day rolling programme encourages managers and team leaders to
focus on each one separately.
In addition, there is the ‘short-takes’ programme. These are 15-minute refresher
training sessions that all departments in every Marriott hotel are supposed to
carry out on a daily basis.
"In reality, it is not something that happens every day," Goodson
says. "However, the process is there, and it is up to managers to work out
how they can implement it to fit in with shift patterns and workloads."
The other major international training initiative for all staff is
Marriott’s ‘Spirit to Serve’. While the 90-day ‘new hire’ induction deals with
the technical skills side of working for Marriott, Spirit to Serve concentrates
on how employees work with customers and with each other. Every assistant
attends four three-hour modules during their first six months with Marriott,
along with refresher courses as and when needed.
Not all the training Goodson is responsible for is global. At the most
junior level, there is the Marriott Modern Apprenticeship programme. This was
launched last year to tap into government training funds for young people, and
supports 400 apprentices across the UK. Goodson plans to extend the scheme to
older recruits and has attracted funding to cover 100 apprentices aged over 24.
UK managers can also take advantage of a virtual university. This is a
Whitbread initiative delivered in partnership with Oxford Brookes University,
with Goodson acting as director of studies.
The virtual university has been running for three years and there are
currently about 30 managers – including Goodson – on the programme. They can
work towards a certificate in management studies (CMS), which takes a year, a
diploma in management studies (DMS), which takes two years, or a full MBA,
which takes three years.
"This is a Whitbread-driven training scheme, and the current group is
from Travel Inn as well as Marriott," Goodson says.
The curriculum has been designed to meet corporate development needs, and
was devised by Whitbread managers and participants as well as Oxford Brookes
tutors. Much of the course is delivered on the internet and there is a
dedicated intranet site for participants, although they are also encouraged to
get together in small groups to work through their assignments.
Goodson firmly believes in the power of corporate universities. "Any
firm that is serious about developing their managers should have some sort of
corporate university," he says.
"Ours very much fits with the demands of the business and all the
assignments and learning are driven by what is going on in the business rather
than by a traditional curriculum. There are certain learning outcomes we have
And the results speak for themselves – 60 per cent of participants in the
Whitbread programme have achieved promotion since they started studying.
Given that Marriott has developed global training products for its more
junior staff, it is hardly surprising that it also has a fairly sophisticated
offering for its managers. All are expected to complete 40 hours training –
roughly the equivalent of one working week – each year.
At this level, training tends to be off-the-job, Goodson says. For example,
there is a three-day event called a service leadership programme for
"This is not just about how managers work," Goodson insists.
"But about how they manage their priorities as managers and individuals.
It’s a holistic programme that encourages them to focus on their work, personal
and spiritual lives.
"One of Bill Marriott’s philosophies is that if we look after our
assistants, then they will look after our customers, and along with a lot of
our training, this programme is built around that principle," Goodson
More senior managers can participate in Marriott’s international leadership
programme which Goodson co-ordinates and runs within the UK, Ireland, Middle
East and Africa. He does so with a vast amount of internal support through a
network of international senior managers who have been taught how to be
trainers. This is certainly not a personnel club – some are general managers
and there are even some directors of golf among the 18 senior managers in the
UK network. "The idea is that three or four times a year, they come away
from their day job and run a programme for me," says Goodson.
Naturally, their training activities must fit in with their day jobs,
therefore trainers’ time and expenses are funded from the training budgets so
that there is no cost to their hotels. They will typically be called to work
within their own country, but it can sometimes involve international travel. A
manager recently came from the Caribbean to run a programme, for example, and
others have come from Europe.
There is considerable kudos to being in the network and it doesn’t happen
easily. Senior manager/trainers start by attending the programme they will
eventually deliver, as a delegate. They might then observe a programme and act
as a third or spare tutor before running their own sessions and finally
becoming certified to run their own programme.
Working for both Whitbread and Marriott International, Goodson has to fit
into two organisational structures. Within Marriott he is part of an
international training team reporting to Pam Jones, vice-president of
international training. There are three other training directors with the same
job as Goodson, based in Sydney, Frankfurt and San Juan.
They keep in touch regularly, with monthly conference calls. They also have
two strategy meetings a year to look at past successes and work out future
plans, as well as other meetings as and when required.
Back in the UK, Goodson has to fit into the Whitbread Hotel Company’s senior
HR team – which meets every two months and reports to HR director Amanda Ravey.
In addition, he is part of the Whitbread learning steering group that takes
a group-wide perspective and includes representatives from Travel Inn, David
Lloyd Leisure and the restaurant business.
"I need to have Whitbread and Marriott interests at heart. I have to
meet the requirements of Marriott as a brand, and fulfil the needs of Whitbread
hotels as a business," Goodson says. "It requires diplomacy and tact
and I have to be able to juggle priorities. But that’s what makes the job so
It also results in considerable cross-fertilisation between the two firms.
For example, Whitbread recently introduced a business acumen course to help
people make the jump from hotel operations manager to general manager.
"It was filling a training gap. Marriott saw it and decided it would
help the company too. So now it is being delivered worldwide," Goodson
Similarly, Marriott developed Impact, a leadership programme for team
leaders. Goodson attended last year as a delegate and realised it would meet a
lot of Whitbread’s needs too. Now it is run across Whitbread as well as
Goodson’s role, straddling both firms as it does, is to spot these opportunities
and recognise that if something is needed in one part of the business, it could
well be needed elsewhere. "It requires good organisation and planning
skills, but I also have to be quite strong at thinking and analysing
situations," Goodson says.
"It’s important that I don’t rush into decisions, but weigh up
situations. Most of all, I have to talk to a lot of people before putting a
proposal together. Ultimately, I have to be results-oriented and know what is
going to support the business."
Where Goodson goes from this job is unclear. "I could move into
Marriott International, which would mean a move to the US and more travelling,
or I could go back into Whitbread," he says.
Currently, he finds himself away from home about two nights a week, and much
of this time, though not all, is spent in the UK. He has no great desire to do
more than that yet, and there aren’t many equivalent jobs back in Whitbread.
But rather than concentrate on the dilemmas of an international career,
Goodson prefers to flag up the successes of training in Marriot within the UK.
"Our turnover is about 38 per cent – the lowest in the industry – and last
year, 83 per cent of management appointments were a result of internal
progression. This surely suggests we are successfully developing our
people," he says.
Jan 2001 Became director of training Marriott Hotels UK,
Ireland, Middle East and Africa
1997-2001 HR manager, Travel Inn
1995-1997 HR manager, Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel and
graduate co-ordinator for WHC
1991-1995 Group training manager, Country Club Hotels
1989-1991 HR manager, Forest of Arden Hotel
1989 Joined Whitbread Hotel Company
1984-1989 Queens Moat Houses, personnel manager at the Grand
Hotel in Birmingham
1981-1984 Hilton International – food and beverage manager