Hotel Staff Training Can Make or Break a Hotel
April 2003by Tory Parks, Director of Sales & Marketing, Benchmark Hospitality at Del Lago Resort
A staff's training level can make or break a hotel. No matter
how exclusive or expensive the property, poor service at any level (from
housekeeping to sales) can mar a guest experience to the point that it
reflects in the property's bottom line. On the flip side of this
equation, even the most modest properties can shine in
Investing in training
In today's high-turnover environment, it's far less expensive to invest in good employees than to continually retrain new hires, which is one of the reasons why Benchmark Hospitality believes in the value of continuing education. One of their guiding management principles is to provide the necessary support and training for employees to build their own futures. By investing in training programs specific to hospitality issues, they've demonstrated that they value the professional growth of their employees, which pays off in increased loyalty and tenure.
However, as with any property, costs play a significant role in determining when and how much training is allocated. And let's face it, instructor-led in-person training can be expensive; and with everyone doing more with less, taking select employees out of the office for several days can put undue strain on the remaining team members.
Yet even though the cost of instructor-led in-person training can be high, Benchmark still recognizes the value of immersing its employees in an intense learning environment that includes one-on-one coaching, conferences and specific skills training (such as technical skills, computer training, guest service, managerial, legal compliance and communication skills.) Not wishing to eliminate that benefit, but still looking to reduce costs, they turned to online training or e-Learning.
By combining in-person training with online self-paced courses hand picked by Benchmark's management team, a healthy balance has been achieved.
In the beginning, the Benchmark e-Learning team outlined a list of courses that would most benefit hospitality employees and act as a supplement to their existing in-person training. The team decided that all courses in the curriculum would be mandatory, but obviously pertinent material would vary by job description. Additionally, they felt it important that the material be available in several languages as to not exclude their international employees.
However, they also knew in order to gain employee buy-in, the curriculum would have to be interactive. Most people learn by "doing," not "watching" and their interest would be nil if the courses consisted of nothing but staring at a computer screen. Therefore, the actual self-paced course itself included an interactive demo video, a PowerPoint narrative and a quiz. The courses were designed to be taken in order, as some have prerequisites, and that they would be short as not to interfere with daily responsibilities.
Now that the program is well-underway, any employee at any of Benchmark's properties has access to training at anytime via the Internet. Courses can be accessed from work, from home or while traveling. Employees using e-Learning take courses at their own speed, but are required to complete scheduled courses by a predetermined deadline. Additionally online discussion groups offer feedback and answer questions on any topic covered. Some of the topics Benchmark chose to address included:
e-Learning provides Benchmark employees with the ability to focus on and learn what is relevant to them and skip unnecessary or already-learned information. Also adding to the effectiveness of e-Learning are enhanced retention levels achieved by students learning chunks of information over short periods of time. Even if the new information is not readily top of mind, completed course transcripts can be printed or accessed online for a quick refresher prior to a meeting or sales call.
The option to train on the fly
With in-person training, scheduling can conflict with events at the office. If employees are pulled away from the office during peak business times, the training is often less effective since the employee's focus is not on the course material but rather the things left undone at the office.
At Del Lago Resort, our team has found that the biggest benefit has been the convenience and flexibility of being able to do the training "on the fly." Since the classes are short (12 - 20 minutes each), it's easy to slip them in during slower portions of the day or week; so the team can take advantage of the downtime by increasing their knowledge level.
Due to liability issues, property managers must ensure that proper procedures for handling sexual harassment, violence in the workplace, interviewing and terminating issues are adhered to and enforced. With online, one-on-one coaching, conferences and specific skills training, Benchmark has been able to keep every necessary employee current on a myriad of sensitive issues.
Blending two disciplines
When online training first entered the market, the demise of the in-person training was shouted from the rooftops. But much like TV did not eclipse radio, what Benchmark found is that combining the resources of instructor-led training and e-Learning appeals to a wider range of students and learning abilities. Including human interaction with the ability to try hands-on exercises and simulations provides a learning environment better suited to meet the needs of their learners.
e-Learning can also used to determine current skill level and areas for growth. By "pre-testing" employees in an online environment, a HR manager can more readily place employees in an appropriate level in-person class. To take that idea one step further, e-Learning can also be used as a prerequisite for an instructor-led training course, allowing students to gain a minimum level of understanding of a certain topic.
As with any learning environment, every student processes information differently, so Benchmark makes a point to offer multiple types of learning opportunities. With hard work and the drive to continuously improve their skills sets, many entry level employees have enhanced their careers and advanced up the corporate ladder. By blending online training with other types of in-person training, Benchmark has found a way to appeal to not only their employees, but their bottom line as well.
Tory Parks is director of sales & marketing for Benchmark Hospitality
at Del Lago Resort, a 300-acre self-contained retreat nestled along the
shores of Lake
Benchmark Hospitality, an international hospitality management company
based in The Woodlands, Texas, operates luxury resorts, hotels, spas, golf
Director of Sales & Marketing
Benchmark Hospitality at Del Lago ResortTory@dellago.com.
|Also See:||Performance-based Sales Compensation Strategies for the Hospitality Sales Professional / Tory Parks / February 2003|
|Never Underestimate the Power of PR / Tory Parks / December 2002|
|Sales & Conference Planning - Teaming up to Maximize Sales / Oct 2002|
|Safety & Security Issues Surrounding MOD Programs / Aug 2002|