Bringing hotel training into the 21st century

by Brett Henebery21 Jul 2017
The employee training programs that are used in the hotel industry today still largely follow the structure pioneered by the hotel schools in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Up until the Industrial Revolution, hotels served as little more than places where travellers could keep their horses, enjoy a drink and bed down for the night.

Yet by the 18th and 19th centuries, hotels became more sophisticated with electricity, ensuite bathrooms and a higher level of cuisine.

However, while the training techniques pioneered in the 19th century still provide employees with essential skills, training regimes have not kept pace with other departments, and need to be brought into the 21st century.

David Topolewski, CEO of Qooco – a company that provides Hospitality skills training – says every general manager should implement regular staff training sessions throughout his or her property, both to keep employees motivated, and to ensure that their skills are up-to-date.

“Skills that are not consistently practiced or used on the job will degrade over time, and desired behaviors will deteriorate unless they have become second-nature to the employee,” he said.

Topolewski says that if a regular training regime is not in place, there are often tell-tale signs that one should be implemented:
Sales of higher grade rooms are trending down
The makeup of most hotels consists mainly of lower rate deluxe or executive deluxe rooms, followed by slightly higher-grade rooms commonly referred to as suites. Suites are priced marginally higher than deluxe rooms, and are usually much more profitable. While many are sold online, the most effective method of selling these rooms is upon check-in, with front office staff upselling to guests who have booked lower-rate rooms. Upselling a guest from a deluxe to a suite takes a certain amount of skill and is something that doesn’t come naturally to many people. So, if a hotel experiences a dip in suite sales, it may be time to refresh their front office team’s upselling capabilities.
Increase in valid guest complaints
Guests will complain about a myriad of things, some of which may be out of your control (poor location, small rooms, the weather!). Some complaints, though, are entirely within your control to fix, and are often indicative of a lack of staff training. Staff rudeness is the most obvious one. Guests may at times be unreasonable, and even rude themselves, but it is a sign of a well-trained employee that they are able to keep calm, and stay polite at all times. While experience helps, this also takes practice and learning how to handle different situations. Dirty rooms are also another tell-tale sign that your housekeeping department need a refresher course, and repeated guest complaints that staff do not understand what they have asked for, means language learning courses are needed.
Higher than usual turnover
High staff turnover is common in the hospitality industry, and reasons behind this vary – including low pay, long hours, increased competition etc. There will be times, however, when higher than usual numbers of employees choosing to leave may be down to a lack of training, resulting in more stress and poor job satisfaction. Staff training programs show employees that the company is invested in them and willing to spend money to ensure they have the skills to do their job. Furthermore, regular training ensures employees are able to build on skills that they acquire on-the-job, and learn new tricks of the trade, as well as reinforce old ones. This leads to better job performance, and most importantly, less stress – a key factor in retaining staff.
At the end of the day, staff training should not be ‘reactive’, rather general managers should proactively ensure their staff are trained on a regular basis, so that they can avoid many of the pitfalls an untrained workforce can bring.

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