In a recent interview with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Marriott International’s CEO Arne Sorenson discussed how digital technologies are transforming hospitality, how the firm interacts with its customers and employees, as well as his own leadership philosophy.
“Digital transformation is not only speeding up, but it is broadening; it’s in every aspect of our business,” says Sorenson. “We see it with our relationships with our team… who increasingly want to deal with us in training [and] managing their careers. We see it with our customers who want not only to stay in our hotels but want to be able to communicate with us constantly through technological tools…and want to have the breadth of tools across the entire digital landscape available to them through us.”
While speaking about digital transformation hypothetically can be easy, making the first step onto that journey can be difficult. Sorenson believes that data is an important starting point.
“For a long time, our customers have said ‘We think you know us but we’re not sure you use what you know about us enough,’” Sorenson explains. “The challenge for us is, how do we take the data that we have, make it accessible, fast, accurate and feed that data with new information that we gain, so that we can then apply these tools in a way that allows us to deliver value.”
In addition to the importance of embracing technology in the evolving digital landscape, Sorenson also values the lessons he has learned throughout his career.
“What I’ve learned most is you’ve got to listen and you actually have to let people take accountability for the decisions that need to be made,” he says. “There are times when I’ll sit and hear a vigorous debate about A or B. I might have a slight preference for A but someone else has done all the work and B is their recommendation. It’s not crystal clear that B is wrong, so let’s let them own that decision. Let’s listen to them and make sure that they are empowered to make those choices.”
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