Regan has 28 years of experience in human resources, with the last 21 years at Marriott International in various HR Business Partner roles in Thailand, Hong Kong and the United States. During this time, he has led Marriott’s Asia Pacific growth from less than a hundred hotels to over 800 hotels in 23 countries and territories. His current responsibilities as chief HR officer include developing, formulating, and implementing human resources strategies to support Asia Pacific’s current priorities and future growth. Regan served as the Global President of the Cornell Hotel Society in 2012 and was on the Dean’s Advisory Board from 2013 to 2016. Edited excerpts:
What’s the current state of DEI in the remote and hybrid working world?
One of the most noticeable observations is the effect of the pandemic on working mothers. According to a McKinsey survey, working mothers reported larger increases in their time spent on household responsibilities since the pandemic began. Recognising the pandemic’s impact on working mothers, we leveraged our signature ‘TakeCare’ programs regionally and locally that provide support to meet the needs of our associates. Our leaders are open to discussing with our associates their specific needs, including shift preference and work arrangement. In locations like Australia, we are also extending flexible working options to hotels for our frontline associates. Confidential helpline and counselling services (our Employee Assistance Program) are also available in some markets to associates.
Research shows that while many companies believe that DEI is valuable, leadership is not investing adequate resources to create significant change. What’s your take on this?
When Marriott International was founded more than 90 years ago, one of the first and most important core values for us was (and still is) “Putting People First”.
We believe that companies, especially fellow industry players, should invest in and promote DEI because of the power of travel and the role hospitality plays – to build connections, open perspectives and promote understanding.
In early 2019, Marriott International achieved our global goal of investing USD 5 million in partnerships and programs that support hospitality skills and opportunities among youth, diverse populations, women, people with disabilities, veterans, and refugees. We aim to increase this investment to USD 35 million by 2025.
I believe that most companies today are becoming more committed to DEI and are doing their best to build and strengthen their DEI efforts. It is an area where I see companies across different industries coming together to learn from each other and share ideas on how to accelerate change within the organisation and community. However, it is also a complex issue that would most probably take years to tackle. With the world evolving and changing at a faster pace than ever before, there’s always more that we can do.
Now, more than ever, organisations are recognising the urgency of advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion. What should companies be doing to accomplish more effective and measurable change?
Commitment and accountability – Have a clear and compelling vision that ties back to business strategy and brand purpose, set tangible and measurable goals to review the impact of DEI policies, and form committees or engage external auditors.
A top-down/bottom-up approach – Define focus areas from the top/corporate level and empower employees in the markets to come up with initiatives that resonate with local needs to help drive these priorities.
Talk about it – Engage in open dialogue with employees frequently to address their concerns, throughout the organisation, at every level. We’ve got to Walk the Talk.
Empower activation – Engaging in open dialogue also means we’ve got to tap into “The power of listening” to foster mutual respect, encourage an open-door policy, listen to opinions that differ from your own, and learn from your employees.
Industry benchmarking – This is to understand where the company stands and help identify opportunities for improvement and moving the needle.
Despite spending billions on diversity training, many businesses have failed to create an environment that attracts and maintains individuals from underrepresented backgrounds. What’s your take on this?
We believe there are two common challenges when it comes to implementing DEI.
Thinking of DEI as a function of HR: We believe that everyone at the company should play a role in shaping the company culture. For example, to promote DEI across all levels, our leaders and managers are held accountable and responsible for collecting constructive feedback from employees and ensuring a culture that values diversity is in place.
Falling short with training: Some may think that DEI training is a one-time event or only provided to the management team. Instead, DEI training should be accessible, and everyone should be encouraged to attend. At Marriott International, our digital learning platforms offer a single point of entry to enable growth and professional development for all associates in 17 languages.
Are you moving beyond gender parity to include underrepresented groups like people with disabilities?
Guided by our core value of “Putting People First”, we believe in hiring a diverse workforce. Our DEI efforts go far beyond the recruitment process; as we want to ensure that everyone from guests to associates feels welcomed, seen and heard every day. Aside from our efforts in gender inclusivity, we are reigniting our focus on the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities and refugees in various ways.
We’ve formalised an LGBTQ+ committee to increase the visibility of the LGBTQ+ community and promote the importance of allyship within the workplace.
Our Greater China team is especially passionate about this area and has been leading the region with more than 1,100 people with disabilities working at our hotels.
How do you measure the impact of your DEI initiatives? Can you share the impact of your initiatives?
In Asia Pacific, we’ve made significant progress towards gender parity for management positions. Around 40% of women are in management positions and there are nearly 100 female GMs in the continent with a robust pipeline of top talent. We’ll continue to increase the presence of women in management and other key decision-making positions.
What are your top priorities in 2022 around DEI?
Firstly, we will continue to focus on strengthening our people-first culture – to grow great leaders, invest in our associates, and provide equal access to career opportunities. Secondly, we aim to achieve global gender parity for all executive positions by 2023 – two years earlier than when we first established this goal a few years ago. Thirdly, we will continue supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion. Fourthly, we aim to invest $35 million globally by 2025 in programmes and partnerships that develop hospitality skills and opportunities among youth, diverse populations, women, people with disabilities, veterans, and refugees. Finally, we believe that “Success is never final”, and there is always more to be done.