Dr. David A. Rodriguez

Dr. David A. Rodriguez
EVP and Global Chief Human Resources Officer
Marriott International Inc.

Last Updated: 03/02/2018

Executive Summary

Rodriguez is Executive Vice President and Global Chief Human Resources Officer for Marriott International Inc., the Bethesda, Maryland-based lodging company with a portfolio of more than 6,000 properties in 30 leading hotel brands spanning 122 countries and territories. Rodriguez assumed the position in August 2006. He joined Marriott International as Senior Vice President, Staffing & Development in 1998. He was made a corporate officer in 2000, and in 2004 he was appointed to the board of directors’ Committee for Excellence that focuses on advancing global diversity and inclusion in the company. In 2003 Rodriguez was named EVP, Human Resources, for Marriott Lodging. Prior to joining Marriott International, Rodriguez held various human resources-related positions at Citicorp (now Citigroup) and Avon Products.  Rodriguez graduated from New York University in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts in degree Psychology and in 1987 earned a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. 

Personal Attributes and Interests

  • Rodriguez was inducted as a Fellow of the National Academy of Human Resources in 2014.
  • He was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL) in 2014 and achieved remission.
  • Rodriguez back in October 2015 told the Wharton Work/Life Integration Project’s Work and Life radio program in October 2015, “If you examine company documents and videos, you find a phrase that appears again and again: If you take care of the associates, they will take care of the customers, and the customers will come back again and again, and the business will take care of itself. If you talk to just about anybody in our business, and ask them what separates us from our competitors, they probably will say it’s our company culture, and our core values.  We are a very people-centric business. In essence, we believe the foundation of our business models never strayed from its early roots. And that’s a focus on employee well-being. This focus on well-being has never strayed from its roots, but it’s evolved. It has three components.
    • "First, we believe that people have to feel good about themselves. We provide resources to support physical, mental, and emotional health.” To help employees feel good about their physical and emotional health, he said, “We have a nationally recognized wellness program with a number of resources and activities directly related to helping people maintain good health. As you and I know, there is a big expenditure in this country in helping people who are sick get well. There needs to be more focus on prevention. Our wellness program, in part, helps people by giving them the knowledge, tools, and resources to maintain a good health.  We also have what we call our associate resource line. Let’s say you have elderly parents, then you need to become better educated and know what options there might be and how to consider, say elder care.  Whatever issues people face at different stages in their life, we know that to the extent we can help them to face those issues, it has a great impact on their general well-being.  We also provide courses and resources for people to become better financial stewards.  A big focus, particularly with our hourly employees, is on providing them with career development guidance and programs. Let’s face it, the path to a more secure retirement and to financial security – I think the minimum wage debate in the country is a very important debate - is for the private sector, for companies, to look at their practices and make sure they’re doing all they can to help people develop the skills that make them recession-proof and give them the opportunity to get higher paying jobs. It all falls under this umbrella: people have to feel good about themselves in order to participate fully and productively.”
    • The second pillar is, “I have to feel good about the workplace.” "A lot of that has to do with relationships in the workplace," Rodriguez said. "Our belief is: if our associates don’t have to worry about whether or how they can fit in, they can, instead, use that energy to build relationships in the workplace, be creative, be productive, and that creates a virtuous cycle for everyone in the workplace. That’s part of our approach to global diversity and inclusion. It is about making sure that we not only feel good about ourselves, but also that we feel great about the relationships in the workplace."
    • And the last pillar: people have to feel good about the company itself. That’s about the company’s mission in society, its purpose. "What we do for a living is providing a home away from home for people who can’t be home," Rodriguez said. "We help people who are on business travel. Or we provide great venues for family and friends to re-energize while on vacation, or for gatherings of people from across the world to share perspectives. People at Marriott feel very good about what we do in society, and feel very good about the company’s citizenship. When these three elements are in place, employees really engage with the company, the mission of the company. What we find is they also get very inspired to give back to the community.”
  • Rodriguez frequently posts blogs to LinkedIn. From January 2018: "As we enter a new year, here are a few other things for leaders to think about:
    • Embrace Intangibles. Are you so focused on tracking traditional metrics that you are blinded to some of the most powerful drivers of business value? For example, a 2016 study by Korn Ferry found that companies with the highest employee engagement achieve 4.5 times greater revenue growth than companies with the lowest engagement levels. In the book, Invisible Advantage, the authors estimate that one-third of an organization's value comes from things that do not easily lend themselves to direct measurement like quality of leadership and innovative culture. The best leaders summon the courage to go beyond hard measurements to develop a viewpoint on key issues that may be hard to measure, but may spell the difference between success and failure.
    • Eradicate Corrosive Biases. Assuming you have done a suitable job of selecting top talent, getting a good return on that investment is dependent on your choices about the organization. This includes things like organization design, role clarity, process effectiveness, etc. An often-neglected element is related to leaders’ biases that may undermine cultural elements such as teamwork. For example, expecting less from some functions may unwittingly create a caste system where some feel superior or more valued. Want to see an organization fail? Have some in the organization see themselves as entitled customers rather than mutually accountable partners. You rarely see it in a vibrant start-up or small company, but it’s amazing how often it is part of the lingo in larger organizations. Often these problems are started by outdated conceptions of functions such as marketing, information technology or human resources, and thoughtless leadership behavior. The best leaders build sustainable success by nurturing diverse teams of top talent as well as healthy “community” dynamics. They also use introspection to detect any other unconscious biases that are corrosive to organizational health.
    • Energize Superheroes. Many years ago, a leader told me about a time when she might have failed at a critically important initiative for her business. She succeeded in part, because unbeknownst to her at the time, a lower-level employee who was located hundreds of miles away went above and beyond the call of duty to ensure a mission-critical task was completed correctly and on time. The employee did this even though no one would have necessarily known either way. Although the employee had never met the leader, he was committed to her success because of the leader’s reputation for being a down-to-earth person who achieved remarkable business results while truly caring about her employees. Through the years, I have coached many leaders on the notion that their ability to achieve breakthrough results is directly proportional to the likelihood that people in their sphere of influence (and especially those outside their chain of command) are predisposed to go above and beyond to help them succeed. In a recent article, best-selling author Daniel Goleman noted that for top leadership positions, emotional intelligence-related competencies “made up 80 percent to 90 percent of those that distinguished the best leader from average ones.” The higher the leadership position, the more it matters.
    • Exercise Mindfully. Recently, I have had the great privilege to study mindfulness with Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter, both world-renown experts and leaders at the Potential Project. Research shows that 47% of the time we are mentally off-task – even though we convince ourselves that we can multi-task -- much the way a substance abuser may convince themselves that they can stop whenever they decide. I think I am a reasonably capable and accomplished person, but I now know that I can be more effective by better managing my mental focus. For example, in one telling exercise it took me half as long to complete a cognitive task – with higher quality – when I stayed present in the task and avoided distraction. Corporate warriors are notorious for doing the things that sap mental vitality like not getting enough sleep or allowing their attention to be diluted. The good news: Your brain can be rewired through practice to become sharper and more efficient. A bonus: mindfulness training is a terrific way to stay calm in those inevitable, anxiety-evoking moments we all face at times and may even help to get a better night’s sleep."
  • In September 2017 he wrote, "When I was a child, I remember being very proud of being an American. Every cartoon seemed to reinforce that we were special in the world. My family was financially poor, but rich in spirit. We were close-knit and flush in unconditional love. Even though there were hardships and we had to do without from time to time, I was mostly not cognizant of our financial fragility. All I knew was that America was the best place on the earth and because I was an American, I too must be special. That changed as I progressed through elementary school and began to see a consistent pattern: Other kids had plenty of toys, the latest lunchbox adorned by their favorite action hero, or went on vacations, while I had yet to experience these things. They chased the ice cream truck to buy their favorite treat, while I chased along mostly so I wouldn’t be left standing with those of us who had no reason to run. As a minority child, I began to experience more direct ways of being left standing alone as I became older. Whether it was because of my accent and difficulty pronouncing some words, a surname that seemed synonymous with “you are not one of us,” or the self-awareness of an active and questioning mind, I came into a new consciousness that no child should have to encounter. I came to realize that as a Puerto Rican American, my citizenship came with an asterisk in the minds of some. I would later hear my father called a guerilla, see my mother belittled at store checkout counters, have my face spat upon because I was different and my citizenship questioned. Over time, I began to cringe when others spoke of American Exceptionalism in a way that excludes more than it includes. I sensed that the way some invoke it is not so different from the way racist extremists separate themselves from the rest of our country. Is it reasonable to think we can lead other nations over the long term by placing ourselves above them? I believe we should hold ourselves to a high standard but only to serve the world community and not to feed our own need to feel superior. In the end, the latter may produce some semblance of shallow alliance but it will not truly unify, and certainly not in a way so that community can endure and continue to grow...as a business executive who among other things has responsibility for the health of my company’s people-centric culture, my paradigm for diversity and inclusion is shaped by personal experience. I believe that only by recognizing and valuing all we hold in common can we promote a sense of unity that better enables us to love the unique qualities that make each of us special. A commitment to inclusiveness – a sense of family in its broadest sense – must be the foundation for reaping the benefits of diversity. Throughout its existence, America’s success has been fueled by its rich diversity as various immigrant groups arrived and contributed significant building blocks to our country’s foundation. What is remarkable about our national success story is not as much the momentous achievements, but rather that they have been accomplished despite our relative immaturity in harnessing the richness of our diversity. For all America has offered the world, our potential is so much greater. Its realization is dependent on the quality of leaders that we elect, but perhaps even more by a commitment that every citizen must make to nourishing our diverse national community. We can heal our country and usher in an even greater era by promoting our common humanity and shared citizenship."

Current Focus

  • Invest in people:  Marriott employees should expect to see a financial benefit from the federal tax cuts recently enacted by Congress, according to a February 2018 Bethesda Magazine article.  The Company expects to receive a sizable windfall from the roughly 8-percentage point deduction in its effective tax rate, which was reduced to about 22 percent. Sorenson said that the Company will take $70 million from its sale of the procurement platform Avendra to Aramark and couple it with $70 million in cash to distribute a total of about $140 million to employees. Marriott sold Avendra to Aramark in December for about $1.35 billion. The $140 million will be distributed to the retirement savings plans of corporate employees and eligible associates at its hotels through a one-time $5-to-$1 company match of up to $1,000. Soreson said the “vast majority” of employees should receive the incremental company contribution. “As we considered how we might leverage this good news, we considered our long-term cultural maxim that in the hospitality business, strong guest loyalty and economic results are derived from high associate satisfaction and engagement,” Sorenson said. “To put it plainly, at Marriott, we try to take care of our associates, our associates take care of our guests, and our guests keep coming back. Attracting and keeping the best talent is critical for us, so we plan to invest roughly $140 million for 2018 in our most important asset, our people.”
  • Luxury hotel blitz: Marriott International is planning to open nearly 40 luxury hotels in 2018 in an effort to target affluent travelers, according to a December 2017 USA Today article. The brands include The Ritz-Carlton, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, St. Regis, W Hotels, The Luxury Collection, EDITION and JW Marriott. Marriott has a total of 31 brands that also include economy and mid-scale options. The Ritz-Carlton already has 94 hotels in 31 countries. In 2018, the brand will debut six properties, including one in China's Jiuzhaigou Valley. Existing properties such as The Ritz-Carlton, Berlin and The Ritz-Carlton, Istanbul will be renovated in 2018. The Ritz-Carlton Reserve brand, which has three properties in operation, will add the Zadún, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Los Cabos, Mexico, to its portfolio. St. Regis Hotels & Resorts, which has 42 hotels in 21 countries, will introduce new properties in destinations such as Cairo and Amman. The St. Regis Rome will also go through a renovation in 2018. The W Hotel brand will reach 75 properties by 2020. In 2018, the band will get eight new hotels in cities such as Tel Aviv, Dubai, Panama City, and Brisbane in Australia. EDITION, the brand co-created with hotelier Ian Schrager, will reach 20 hotels by 2020. Seven new hotels are expected to open in 2018. They will be located in Shanghai, Bangkok, Bodrum in Turkey, Barcelona, Abu Dhabi, New York, and West Hollywood. The Luxury Collection of independent hotels now has 102 hotels in more than 30 countries. In 2018, 10 properties will join the collection in locations such as Los Cabos, Savannah, Vail, and Okinawa. JW Marriott now has 79 hotels and resorts in about 30 countries. Slated openings for 2018 include locations in Nashville and the Maldives. Renovations are also in the works in places such as the JW Marriott Bangkok and Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel, in London.
  • Starwood integration: CEO Arne Sorenson told analysts in November 2017, “The Starwood integration is on track. We have identified more synergies and more business opportunities than we anticipated. We continue to believe we will achieve $250 million of G&A savings and expect to do that in 2018 and we continue to improve our products, services, and systems to enhance the value of every room night.” CFO Leeny Oberg added, “Hotels continue to benefit from synergies associated with the Starwood acquisition, including OTA and procurement savings, revenue management improvements, benchmarking initiatives, savings on maintenance agreements, and insurance savings. Our hotels are also benefiting from a 10 basis points reduction in our centralized charge-out rate for our loyalty program, and we expect to reduce such charges by another 10 basis points beginning in 2018. We expect additional property cost savings as integration proceeds.”
  • Expand portfolio in Asia-Pacific: According to a June 2017 Washington Business Journal article, Marriott's Asia Pacific operation is expected to nearly double in the next four years, the company said. Marriott said for 2017, its pipeline for Asia Pacific is on track with nearly 80 hotels set to open, including in India, that will add 19,000 new rooms. The company will also introduce two brands in Asia Pacific offering guests a total of 23 brands, it said. Debuting in the region this year is MOXY Hotels, a Next Gen boutique-hotel brand, which is expected to open with MOXY Tokyo before end of 2017. Further, Delta Hotels, a premium brand, is set to debut with Delta Hotels by Marriott Shanghai Baoshan slated for this summer in China. "We are looking at nearly 80 new properties slated to open their doors this year, which means an average of two hotels a week from now till December end," Asia Pacific President and Managing Director Craig Smith said. With over 550 operating hotels and more than 1,70,000 rooms, growth momentum in Marriott's Asia Pacific business remains strong, he added. Specifically in Asia Pacific, Marriott plans to further enhance its resorts portfolio with 16 new hotels expected to open in 2017, the company said. In India, some 10 new properties are set to open this year, across markets like Jaipur, Goa, Visakhapatnam, Indore, Coimbatore, Jodhpur and Srinagar, which will bring company's total portfolio to a 100 hotels by 2018. The 2017, pipeline of Marriott will increase the manpower in the Asia Pacific region to 1,40,000, the company added.
  • Attracting Employees and Helping Them Excel: "Marriott International is known for attracting guests to its many hotel locations, but what might not be as well known is the effort the company puts into attracting employees and helping them excel," Hispanic Executive noted. Rodriguez "knows about the company’s recruitment efforts all too well. After all, it’s up to him to ensure the company is run in a way that is attractive to talent and the marketplace. A job in human resources was a natural fit for Rodriguez, who is a trained psychologist. He received a doctorate degree in industrial and organizational psychology because it fed his interest in the inner workings of how people spent a big part of their life - at work. 'I was intrigued by that,' he says. 'We all know that people have an impact on an organization, but just as important is recognizing that the organization has a big impact on people’s lives. I was very much interested in how you run a company that maximized the outcome for both.' The past year has been busy for Rodriguez and Marriott. For starters, the hotel chain is in the process of acquiring Starwood Hotels & Resorts. Rodriguez has been tasked with making sure Marriott’s people-centric company culture is kept vibrant and relevant for current and future generations as well as to make incoming Starwood employees feel welcome after the merger is complete. 'The word that comes to mind is exhilarating,' Rodriguez says. 'There’s never been a transaction of this size to my knowledge in the hotel industry and it’s been exciting. Every day brings something perhaps you haven’t quite ever seen before. So, you know you have to figure that out. That’s been great.' It’s hard to match Marriott’s efforts when it comes to keeping its employees happy. The company’s 'TakeCare' movement puts an emphasis on three key components to help its staff members flourish. First, it promotes good health and good careers so employees feel positive about themselves. Resources and training on financial wellbeing are made available to employees to help them manage their finances and secure a sound retirement. Second, in an effort to help employees feel good about their relationships in the workplace, a large focus is put on making sure that each associate feels valued and included, like part of a family. The company wants everyone to feel accepted for who you are at work. The third leg of the 'TakeCare' movement falls under social responsibility and employees feeling good about Marriott and its role in society. For example, a group of employees recently helped raise money to pay for motorcycle helmets for women and young children in Bangkok - a luxury normally only afforded to men over 25 years old. 'What we have found is when all three of those elements are in place, people start to see something magical happen,' Rodriguez says. 'When you walk into a Marriott hotel, you are going to find a smile on the face of our associates that greet you because they think of that hotel as their home and they’re welcoming you into their home. That makes a big difference in terms of the experience our customers have.' It’s also not enough for Marriott just to see its employees excel in their current roles; Rodriguez and his fellow executives want them to have the chance to join the leadership ranks if they desire. To do that, the company has programs to build its talent pipeline and enable employees to develop and grow.  Leadership opportunities are there for those who want to advance their careers. This includes a variety of development programs, an online mentoring program, and Talent Network Teams at Marriott Headquarters where employees across different disciplines can work collaboratively to solve a business challenge. 'Everyone has to be accountable for their future and we think one of the most important steps is to have people understand how to build their careers,' Rodriguez says. 'We are getting phenomenal results, particularly with women and minorities, with this kind of guidance and support.”' Rodriguez has not only been at the forefront of leading these people-centric programs and initiatives, but also he’s been the beneficiary of them. He recently fought a life-threatening battle with leukemia and gave Marriott a lot of credit for his survival thanks to its TakeCare well-being movement. Before getting sick, he had been relatively healthy and was taking better care of himself through exercise and wellness programs offered at work. 'Having gone through that experience, I would say it’s impressed upon me the duality of we’re all very fragile, but resilient at the same time,' Rodriguez says. 'For us at Marriott in the way we run our company, it’s always knowing that everyone’s trying to do their best, trying to get through life. Every now and then they’re going to have a fall and those are the times we most need to be present for our employees.''
  • Double Workforce in Middle East and Africa: Marriott International announced plans back in 2016 to almost double its workforce in the Middle East and Africa over the next three years, reported Bloomberg. The company expects to add 30,000 more people to its regional workforce of 41,000 as new properties are opened, Marriott’s regional president Alex Kyriakidis said. About 6,000 of the new jobs will be in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates sheikdom. “Within three years, we are going to grow to 90,000 rooms and we are going to need another 30,000 associates’’ across the region, Kyriakidis said. “This company will be one of the most significant employers in the region and particularly in the U.A.E.’’ Marriott has 13,680 rooms in the U.A.E., with 9,616 more in the pipeline. The company’s portfolio of 52 hotels will grow to 80 with 23,000 rooms by 2025, according to figures it provided. The hotel industry in Dubai is facing an array of challenges. Revenue per available rooms, a measure of profitability, dropped by about 11 percent this year as demand fell because of the slump in the price of oil and the strengthening of the dollar, Kyriakidis said, but none of that worries him. The drop in tourism from Russia and other markets has been partially offset by a surge in bookings from within the region, he said. Demand from the U.K. has held up, and regional travelers are visiting Dubai in greater numbers because terrorism attacks have made it tougher to get visas to Europe and elsewhere, he added. The city won’t have a problem absorbing the thousands of rooms in the pipeline, he said. Some people are wondering “if this is the time to panic. The answer is no,’’ he said. Supply will outstrip demand probably until the end of 2017, and then the market will see “a reversal and growth’’ from 2018 until 2020, he added. Kyriakidis predicts hotel occupancy in Dubai will average 76 percent in 2016 with an average room rate of about $200 a night. Any market with such numbers is “a healthy market and a profitable market,’’ he said.

Key Challenges

  • Commission Cuts: Business Travel News reported in January 2018, "Marriott International is reducing the commissions it pays to group intermediaries from 10 percent to 7 percent beginning March 31, 2018. The policy change will be a brand standard that will take effect at all managed and franchised properties in the U.S. and Canada. Marriott global officer of digital, distribution, revenue management and global sales Brian King said the change is a 'reset and rethink' moment for the company. 'We've been looking at the demand that we're receiving from our customers and the amount of innovation that needs to take place in the group space from an end-user perspective, and then we've also been watching the pace of revenue growth and the pace of commissions, and they're just not commensurate with each other...We're very, very committed to intermediaries and our partners, we're committed to our customers and we're committed to our hotel owners,' he said. 'It's a three legged-stool, and we are trying to strike the right balance that we can appropriately take care of each of those audiences, invest in the hotels appropriately so those customers can have experiences that they desire which will drive demand to our partners.' But that consideration also had to make good economic sense for Marriott, he added...While Marriott is reducing commissions, King said, the company also has been investing to improve groups and meetings. He pointed to initiatives like its online meetings training program, Meetings Excellence, as well as its centralized group commissions and group intermediary website, which launched in 2008...Marriott's commission policy takes effect March 31 [2018]."
  • Disruption: CEO Arne Sorenson told analysts in November 2017, “We are not seeing project cancellations or any hesitancy to sign new deals, but shortages of skilled tradesmen, contractors, and subcontractors are delaying openings. This is particularly true of high-value, complex projects such as dual-branded hotels, urban properties, high rises, and large custom projects. Today, these non-prototype projects make up over half of our limited service openings in the U.S. Looking ahead, we believe the high demand for construction talent in hurricane, fire, and earthquake-damaged areas, continued political disruptions in the Middle East, and a growing proportion of complex limited service projects in the U.S. could further lengthen average construction periods by a few months. Despite these issues, we believe our leading 1.2 million room worldwide system will grow by nearly 7% gross in 2017 and roughly 7% gross in 2018.”
  • On Failure: In November 2017 he wrote, "I’m a believer in “fast fails” as one of a market leader’s most valuable assets – provided you extract lessons and apply them to the next endeavor. However, there are other times when you can’t afford to accept defeat. For example, you come to understand that your product is not resonating as well with a new and growing generation of consumers. Accepting defeat in that circumstance is often tantamount to certain demise, with the only open question being: “at what pace will it occur?...In a fast-changing environment, the risk is that you are consumed with exceptional execution of a dying business proposition. A leader’s priority, on the other hand, is to envision what is possible in the future and that often means courageously reinventing circumstances and future outcomes."

Biographical Highlights

  • Born circa 1958.
  • Rodriguez graduated from New York University in 1980 with a Bachelor of Arts in degree Psychology.
  • In 1987 he earned a Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. 
  • Rodriguez began his career with Assessment Systems Inc.
  • Later, he joined Avon Products, where he focused on the evaluation of human resources strategies and programs.
  • Between 1989 and 1998, Rodriguez held several senior roles in human resources at Citicorp (now Citigroup)
  • In 1998, Rodriguez joined Marriott International and has since held the following positions:
    • Senior Vice President, Staffing and Development (1998 - 2000)
    • Corporate Officer (2000 - 2003)
    • Executive Vice President, Lodging Human Resources (2003 - 2006)
    • EVP and Global Chief Human Resources Officer (August 2006 - Present)

Other Boards and Organizations

  • Member, Board of Directors, HR Policy Association
  • Member, Personnel Roundtable
  • Member, Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology
  • Member, American Psychological Association



Contact Information

10400 Fernwood Rd.
Bethesda, MD, 20817-1102
United States

301-380-3000

david.rodriguez@marriott.com


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