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Vancouver Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Hotel Ranked #2 (Top Companies with More Than 100 Employees) - Best Companies to Work for in B.C. 2007.

In the lobby of the Vancouver Marriott Hotel, four people smile and say “Good morning” to me. I’m often taken for someone else, so I shrug it off. But as I’m led through what is known in the hotel biz as the “heart of the house” – a secret, windowless maze of tiny, cubicle-filled hallways, staircases, kitchens and offices that no guest ever sees – about 20 more people say “Morning” to both me and Mike Truscott, 26, the HR director who’s leading the way. Many put their hands out to shake. “It’s just the culture here,” says Truscott. “When I was being interviewed here last week, dozens of people said hello to me,” says Norman Fox, 47. Many even knew his name and that he was applying for a dishwasher position, information they had gleaned from their daily briefings. Truscott and Ken Cretney, the GM, go on daily walkabouts, shaking hands and stopping for chats with the 190 full-time and 60 part-time “associates.” “If you take care of the employees, they’ll take care of the guests,” says Cretney. It’s a phrase I hear again and again that day; turns out it’s one of the founding principles of the hotel chain from 80 years ago. Cretney started out as a dishwasher while in graphic-design school and 30 years ago chose a career in the hotel biz because of the people. “Management knows we’re an employee, but in the R & D department we know better than anyone what will make things better,” says Samantha Hardy, a concierge lounge attendant whose blonde hair is pulled back in a neat, tight bun. She has been here two-and-a-half years. In addition to the daily informal walkabouts, there are daily, weekly and monthly meetings, along with a yearly survey to find out how things are going and what ideas people have. Last year the employees in each department made long equipment wish lists, and the hotel bought every item. As we emerge through a whirr of pans, chefs, servers and dishes from the kitchen into the restaurant, which is quiet, spacious and opulent, it feels as though we’re going from theatre wings onto a stage. I have a sudden anxious urge to check that I’ve remembered to put my costume on. But everyone backstage works on complex, intricate tasks without bumping into each other, then emerges gracefully. “There’s no learn-as-you-go here,” says Truscott, smoothing his immaculately pressed suit. Employees get at least a month of on-the-job training, and CDs explain each job at the hotel in detail. “Because it’s so organized, there’s no frustration,” says Hardy, who adds that, partly because of the efficiency, “it’s more like working with best friends than colleagues.” But in addition to being part of a happy hive, staff also work very independently. “If I have a guest make a request, whatever it is, I’m empowered to say yes – I never have to call management,” says Hardy. Recently, a couple was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, recounts Mona Bechervaise, the resident manager. One department sent them a card signed by several employees, another gave them free dessert and another sent up champagne. No one checked with other departments for overlap, and they didn’t have to, says Bechervaise. Instead, the hotel rewarded all three, as it does every time a guest writes in or when another associate nominates an employee for “bait bucks,” which are redeemable for everything from movie tickets to Mini Coopers, depending on how many they’ve earned. As I look out at the harbour from the 26th floor, in one of the 434 rooms, I want to stay here, where everybody now knows my name. Back to Best Companies to work for in B.C.