Program: Franchise General Manager Orientation

Timeframe:  2013 - 2016

Participants: Over 400

Industry: Hospitality

Program Partner: Organization Systems International (OSI)


Starwood executives wanted to introduce new franchise property General Managers to the power of a branded guest experience. Two custom WholeWorks hotel simulations gave the GMs hands-on experience in selecting and leading creative initiatives at their properties while improving bottom line results - lessons that participants are successfully applying at their properties. 

In 10 years with the company, the single most impactful program I had the pleasure to be a part of was the GM Simulation.  From the massive events in Orlando and Buenos Aires to ongoing programs for our College Interns and of course the Starwood Executive Training program every six weeks, the feedback continues to be phenomenal.
— William McKnight, former Director Franchise Human Resources and Asset Elevation 


  • Starwood's strategy emphasized creating a unique brand experience for guests at each of its nine hotel chains.
  • Executives at Starwood wanted to provide a more hands-on orientation experience for new franchise property General Managers joining the system.
  • For specialty select properties (Four Points by Sheraton, Aloft, Element), new GMs needed business acumen training to manage key metrics such as Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) and Gross Operating Profit (GOP). They also needed to learn to provide guests with localized brand experiences that would drive financial results.
  • New GMs of full-service properties (e.g. Sheraton, Westin) also needed business acumen training and a working understanding of how a branded guest experience could help improve RevPAR. But because their properties were more complex, a more sophisticated decision-making simulation would be needed.
Aloft Lobby

Aloft Lobby

Program Goal

Orient new franchise GMs to the Starwood system and show them how creating a unique branded experience at their property could drive financial results.

Our Approach

  • In partnership with Organization Systems International (OSI), WholeWorks worked with Starwood to develop two different hotel simulations modeled after actual Starwood properties: one for a full-service brand, the other for a specialty-select brand. Each simulation combined computer and behavioral simulation to create a realistic practice field for GM decision-making. (See sample course materials below.)
  • For each simulation, a realistic but fictional property/brand identity was created to represent the corresponding Starwood brand. The fictionalized approach freed participants to explore strategies for creating unique guest experiences while still managing the bottom line.
  • Participants worked together in teams as the Executive Committee, managing their virtual property over an 18 month period (6 quarterly rounds of decision-making). They rotated roles each round to experience the interaction between GM and EC from multiple perspectives.
  • Starwood senior leaders provided context and presented essential corporate information via mini-workshops spread across the two-day programs.


  • More than 300 GMs and senior EC members have participated in one of the Starwood GM Orientation simulation programs.
  • During each simulation, GMs came up with numerous practical ideas for local brand-enhancing initiatives that they took back to their properties and implemented.
  • A preliminary analysis showed a potentially significant increase in RevPAR at properties where the GM attended the specialty select GM Orientation program.
  • The GM Orientation simulations have also been incorporated into other training events held at Starwood for property sales managers, interns, and executive committee members.


Sheraton restaurant/bar

Sheraton restaurant/bar