People Innovators at Marriott International and Delta Air Lines Win Irresistible 2024 HR Hero Awards
People Innovators at Marriott International and Delta Air Lines Win Irresistible 2024 HR Hero Awards

  • Coping with the pandemic posed a huge challenge for organizations, particularly in terms of human capital management
  • While there are numerous examples of success on that front, two organizational success stories stand out: Marriott International and Delta Air Lines
  • The CHROs of these pandemic and post-pandemic recovery stories are this year’s “HR Heroes,” according to the organizers of Irresistible 2024 future of work conference

OAKLAND, Calif., May 28, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — The world’s most trusted human capital advisory firm, The Josh Bersin Company, has presented its “HR Hero” awards to two highly impactful HR leaders at the Irresistible 2024: The Global Conference for HR Leaders and Their Team. The award calls out the huge care and support for employees these leaders drove across their organizations during and after the recent global pandemic.

The recognition acknowledges the significant impact each leader has made in enhancing the employee experience (EX) within their organizations, making them so exceptional that employees never want to leave. This transformation has rendered their workplaces truly “irresistible.”

The Josh Bersin Company is delighted to announce that the recipients of the 2024 Irresistible HR Hero award are: Ty Breland, the EVP & Chief Human Resources Officer for Marriott International and Joanne Smith, EVP and Chief People Officer at Delta Air Lines.

Marriott International led a swift but sensitive response to the pandemic. The hospitality company’s revenue dropped by 90% in March of 2022, necessitating the furlough of a significant portion of its workforce. However, as sharply as business fell, it rebounded as restrictions eased, leading to a surge of customers returning to its hotels.

As soon as they could travel, Marriott’s Senior Leadership Team went back on the road, embarking on an extensive listening tour to ask, “What’s going on?” and “What can we do to help?” They also explored, “How do we need to think differently?”

From that exercise, a new strategy emerged: Growing Forward. Marriott International’s Ty Breland said, “We’re very purposeful with the words we use. This was at a point in time where a lot of individuals were looking backwards when we wanted to go forward.”

Under these signature elements, a series of programs were launched:      

  • A refreshed well-being program focused on physical, mental, and financial well-being.
  • A new employee stock purchase program, enabling associates to invest in the company’s success.
  • Innovative leadership programs were introduced to help the workforce thrive.
  • A new people brand, “Be,” aimed at attracting, inspiring, and retaining top talent.
  • A reboot of the company’s Associate Resource Groups, fostering inclusivity and belonging.
  • The launch of “Elevate by Marriott International,” a program designed to accelerate career growth for non-management employees into early management and beyond.

Joining Breland as an Irresistible 2024 HR Hero is Delta Air Lines’ Joanne Smith. Her organization faced similarly severe challenges due to the global economic shutdown. Consequently, everyone at the company transitioned into what she refers to as “pandemic support mode.”

Recruiters, for instance, shifted their focus from traditional recruiting tasks to supporting vaccination or Covid testing sites. They also dedicated themselves to addressing the inquiries of the 20% of the workforce that departed within a few months of the pandemic’s onset.

Smith’s HR colleagues played a crucial role in managing unpaid leaves of absence arrangements, involving an impressive 50,000 Delta employees, so averting the need for furloughs. Once this support concluded, HR swiftly transitioned to a massive new employment and onboarding initiative. They meticulously sifted through millions of applications to identify the 40,000 new individuals who would join the Delta family.

Smith attributes all this success to the organization’s 100-year-old core corporate values. During the coronavirus pandemic, the value of “perseverance” evolved into “resilience,” achieving remarkable outcomes.

Josh Bersin, global industry analyst and CEO of The Josh Bersin Company, says:

“It is a testament to the passion and energy of the modern HR profession that as remarkable as these stories are, in terms of the sacrifice and care HR leaders displayed during the pandemic, they are actually far from unique.

“Nonetheless, Ty and Joanne went even beyond that high bar, and truly embodying the promise we all made to ourselves during what we called The Great Reset to be more human and connected.

“It’s a genuine pleasure to single out the achievement of the Marriott International and Delta Air Lines teams.

“They truly are HR Heroes.”

About the Irresistible future of work conference

Irresistible 2024, held from May 20 to 22 at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, is the Josh Bersin Company’s annual event focused on the future of work, specifically designed for HR leaders.

In its third successful year, attracting CHROs and CPOs from leading global brands, participants engaged in candid discussions about their experiences in addressing the most significant drivers of change within their organizations. Topics included the emergence of the need for truly Systemic HR, the increasing prominence of AI, the advent of the Dynamic Organization, and other strategic issues.

The conference also marked the official launch of the Josh Bersin Company’s innovative new HR Assistant, Galileo.

Irresistible 2025 will take place at the University of Sourthern California from Monday, May 19 through Wednesday, May 21, with a corporate member experience on Thursday, May 22.

About The Josh Bersin Company

The most trusted human capital advisors in the world. More than a million HR and business leaders rely on us to help them overcome their greatest challenges.

Thanks to our understanding of workplace issues, informed by the largest, and most up-to-date data sets on workers and employees, we give leaders the confidence to make decisions in line with latest thinking and evidence about work and the workplace. We’re great listeners, too. There’s no one like us, who understands this area so comprehensively and without bias.

We help CHROs and CEOs be better at delivering their business goals. We do that by helping you to manage people better. We are enablers at our core. We provide strategic advice and counsel supported by in-depth research, thought leadership, and unrivaled professional development, community and networking opportunities.

We empower our clients to run their businesses better. And we empower the market by identifying results-driven practices that make work better for every person on the planet.

For more information, visit or email [email protected]

SOURCE The Josh Bersin Company

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