Workplace Culture

Marriott Hopes to Win With Facebook Game

By Andrea Siedsma

Jul. 11, 2011

Marriott International Inc.’s launch of its own Facebook game to attract thousands of potential employees is scoring points quickly.

The novel interactive game, called My Marriott Hotel, was born out of the mega-hospitality corporation’s quest to fill 50,000 jobs worldwide by the end of 2011. And it is spreading rapidly across the globe. The game, which was officially launched June 6, had players from 58 countries within the first 48 hours, including Germany, Hungary, Malaysia and South Africa. That number grew to 99 countries in the game’s third week.

Communications consultant Jen Benz also gives the game high marks. Benz, president of San Francisco-based Benz Communications, sees such Facebook applications as the face of the future for firms.

“I think it’s unique to have an organization the size of Marriott to invest in something as dynamic as their own social media game,” Benz added. “Within the next couple of years more companies will realize social media is not an option. They have to be engaging. They will realize that there are tremendous rewards and benefits.”

Marriott’s game allows players to first manage a “virtual” hotel restaurant kitchen before moving on to other areas of hotel operations. Gamers can create their own restaurant, where they’ll buy equipment and ingredients on a budget, hire and train employees, and serve guests.

Players earn points for happy customers and lose points for poor service. Ultimately, they are rewarded when their operation turns a profit. The game can be played in English, Spanish, French, Arabic and Mandarin.

My Marriott Hotel is similar in concept to the highly popular Facebook games FarmVille and CityVille, which have grown to a combined 135 million monthly active users.

Marriott, which teamed with San Francisco-based branding company Evviva Brands to create its game—is the first in the hospitality industry and one of the only companies worldwide to use gaming for talent acquisition and employer brand awareness.

However, several recent surveys show that social media in general are on the rise for company recruitment, marketing and customer engagement. According to public relations and communications firm Burson-Marsteller’s 2011 Global Social Media Check-up, 77 percent of Fortune Global 100 companies are using Twitter, 61 percent have company Facebook pages, 57 percent have YouTube channels and 36 percent have corporate blogs.

Among the Global 100, most corporate social media accounts are used for news, updates and customer service issues, while only 1 in 10 of these companies mention career information or jobs. Burson-Marsteller expects this number to grow as big employers realize the benefit of integrating social recruiting with other social media initiatives.

Marriott spent 10 months developing its Facebook game and Facebook career page. The company declined to divulge how much money went into the project.

“We worked with Evviva Brands and traveled around the world last year to spend time with our associates and talk to them about what they do outside of work, how are they using social media and how they felt about Marriott,” said Susan Strayer, senior director, global employer brand and marketing for Marriott International. “We wanted to uncover some patterns. For example, we found that in the Middle East, Facebook is the No. 1 activity outside of work. That was great fodder for us.”

Marriott, which has 129,000 employees in 70 countries, hopes its Facebook game will help the company become more competitive in regions such as Asia where there is a tight war for talent, Strayer said.

“For example, in China we struggle in the hospitality industry,” she said. “People there want their kids working in a prestigious job. They don’t realize that hospitality can be prestigious.”

While My Marriott gives players a virtual taste of jobs and opportunities, the game is not designed to be part of the company’s hiring process, Strayer said. If players are interested in working for Marriott they can click on a link that takes them to the company’s career site.

Strayer said the company is still working on its Web analytics to determine how the game is affecting brand awareness as well as how many potential employees are clicking on Marriott’s career page from the game. She said it’s too early to determine how many employees have actually been hired after playing the game.

Marriott—which is looking to fill a wide range of positions including cooks, chefs, sales and marketing staff, lifeguards, resort staff, front-desk associates and housekeepers—is targeting potential employees up to 35 years of age, Strayer said. For the younger crowd, Strayer said the Facebook game is ideal for attracting their early interest in hospitality careers.

“We have been spending a lot of time to make sure we’re equipped to pave the future of hospitality,” she said. “Even in a troubling economy, we are still recognized for our service. That’s what’s driving our growth.”

Marriott has been recognized for its customer satisfaction, and continues to earn awards as an employer. It is one of only 13 companies to have made the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list every year since it launched in 1998 and was named one of the Hottest Employers of 2010 by Bloomberg Businessweek.

Increasingly, earning those kinds of awards will require an openness to social media, experts say.

Social media networks such as Facebook help facilitate worker freedom while engaging employees in the corporate conversation, said Polly Pearson, a Boston-based consultant who advises companies on social media at work, reputation management and employment.

But, she adds, a company that launches a Facebook page and advertises games must also give employees the same freedom and capability once they are hired. Pearson calls this walking the talk.

“If a company uses social media to attract potential employees but it doesn’t allow any social media use within the company, then it has damaged its brand,” she said.

Marriott walks the talk, Strayer says. The company has social media guidelines for its associates, but doesn’t seek to squelch workers’ use of Facebook and the like. In other words, if and when successful My Marriott Hotel players actually take a job at Marriott, they don’t have to check their social networking identities at the door.

Score another point for Marriott and its cutting-edge game.

Workforce Management Online, July 2011Register Now!

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