How to Maximize Your Staff’s Conference Participation

By Susan Tinnish Senior Strategist, Minding Your Business | February 22, 2015

Hotels today scrutinize every expense — including educational conferences, workshops, webinars and educational meetings. Before sending a person to an industry/educational event (hereafter referred to as a conference), management wants to understand the organizational benefit. The benefit or return on investment (ROI) can take many forms including:

1. Accessing the Latest and Newest Information – At conferences, thought leaders speak about current trends and new products and information. This allows employees to reconsider or view their work or processes differently.

2. Developing Professionally – Conference attendance allows employees to access specific kinds of training or growth opportunities needed.

3. Learning from Luminaries – Whether industry experts or acclaimed authorities, conferences afford access to thought leadership (Marus, 2013).

4. Tactical Brainstorming – Conferences provide access to many different ideas; even when a specific idea does not apply it can trigger a creative spark. Fishkin describes conferences as “a brainstorming paradise and a terrific opportunity for new ideas to come bubbling to the surface.”

5. Increasing Motivation – Attending a conference can inject a new energy into an employee (Pavlina, n.d.).

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Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.