Big accomplishment often catapults the person behind it to a position of influence in the industry. This is true of the high powered HR VPs who have worked over years to achieve industry prominence. It also happens to entrepreneurs who sell their companies.
Susan Strayer, Marriott International’s Senior Director, Global Employer Brand and Marketing, is going places fast because of what she accomplishes. In an extremely short time, Strayer has added dramatic energy to Marriott’s employment branding endeavors. When the company recently launched a game to drive employment branding, Susan was behind it.
While the Military (both ours and theirs) use gaming for recruiting purposes, it’s hardly a conventional approach to employment branding. Susan’s accomplishment suggests an inflection point in corporate recruiting. Whether or not companies choose to ‘game-ify’ their online efforts, the drive to build a loyal cadre of potential employees (by making the relationship fun and educational) is now on in earnest.
Speaking about the game, Susan said,
"It’s not a simulation, test or training, and it’s definitely not meant to be. Further, we’re not looking to immediately correlate hires to game play. What we do want to do though is twofold: first, create brand awareness (in global growth markets where the Marriott name isn’t well-known) and engagement where it is. Second, we want to reinforce the pride our employees have in working for Marriott. Many of them have a deep connection and affiliation with the company and the brand and in combination with the power of employee referrals we see it as a great opportunity."
The most interesting thing about the game is that it serves related but different functions in Marriott’s various global markets. In some countries (China, India) the game is positioned to help potential employees demonstrate the status of work in a hotel. By showing the managerial complexity of the job, prospective team members can garner parental support. In other, more mature markets, the game shows that Marriott has a surprising edge.
Listening to Strayer describe her project, you can’t help admiring the simplicity of the solution. While the market by market requirements are complex, the game functions admirably to deliver a variety of objectives.
Part of the accomplishment involves helping a large conservative company execute nimbly in the fast paced web markets. While Marriott operates one of the top 25 largest ecommerce sites, it’s not a brand that immediately suggests innovation or quick market adaptation. For an HR operation to make a move like this from a platform like that suggests some interesting things.
Strayer is quick to tell you about the support and encouragement she gets from her management structure. It’s a universe that includes a blogging CEO and an array of social media experiments. But, make no mistake, subtlety, finesse and sheer determination play a great part in Susan’s success.
Influence can come from a position, an audience, through sponsorship, because of credibility, a reputation built over time a relationship with a powerful person and a host of other channels. It can be seen in the way that ideas travel, conversation spreads or things get done. In Susan’s case, per stance and vision gave her a shortcut through the noise. Delivering a solution that raises the bar for competitors is hard to do in our industry. The Marriott game definitely raises the bar.
Susan’s story includes time at Home Depot, Arthur Andersen, the Corporate Executive Board, Ritz-Carlton and now, Marriott. Throughout her journey, she’s published (here’s her Amazon page) and built a side business in career coaching/personal branding.
Recently, Susan focused her external projects into a new company, Exaqueo. In Latin, ex +acqueo means something like ‘standing out from the familiar’.
"Each contender has a chance to step above the fray. Stand out. Get picked. Contenders have to show specific strengths, characteristics and qualities. Ones that are remembered. That’s the essence of a brand. Brands thrive on being unique. On getting noticed. In a good way. In a way that connects the brand with the right customer or the perfect opportunity.
The idea of the company is to deliver powerful competitive advantage to people who are willing to invest in their personal brands.
That’s where Susan shines. From innovation in employment branding technique to personal branding, she is laying the path for the emergence of branding as a discipline that is woven throughout HR.
With the release of the employment branding game, she’s earned her place in the larger industry conversation.