Cross-training and How it Affects Service
By Marco Albarran Managing Director, Remarkable Hospitality, Inc. | June 19, 2011
It is very interesting to see how hospitality service can be approached in several ways to positively impact your bottom line. One of these particular concepts that will help increase internal and external customer service is by cross-training your employees.
Cross training can unquestionably add value by giving an employee the opportunity to expand their career and skill sets in the workplace. This in turn helps boost their confidence level and promotes a positive attitude. They also demonstrate loyalty to your company, thereby providing quality service and value to your guest or customer.
Here is a concise case scenario as to how cross-training may be implemented to improve service. A luxury lodging facility was shutting down its beach club and hotel for a year and a half in order to remodel their facilities (keep in mind that their beach property is located about 1.5 miles from their main lodging facility, overlooking a lake):
Human Resources had over 100 employees working in the beach club and hotel (many of them were loyal employees, working in that particular section of the overall lodging facility for more than 25 years, in the same position) and only a handful would be kept on payroll to assist with remodeling and re-opening of this facility. Human resources had planned to layoff the remainder of the staff, as they figured they had no other choice at the time. During a conversation with their human resources director, there were concerns of losing key/valued, loyal employees that had been there for many years. It would be difficult to have them wait a year and a half without work, so hiring and training costs would be higher upon re-opening the beach club and lodging facility, if they were to hire new staff. In addition, the lodging facility has many loyal guests that had gotten to know and be served by the staff as well, so this would be a detrimental impact to the overall service environment. It was suggested that perhaps allowing the opportunity to fill part-time positions in their main lodging facility with the remaining staff that were to be laid off, as well as perhaps placing others in sister properties, would be an principle solution. However, human resources argued that most of the available spots were not the type of work that many of those affected employees were trained for and had been performing at the beach club and hotel. Cross-training was suggested as an ideal solution in an attempt to retain most of their soon-to-be-laid-off-employees.
During their employee monthly meeting, the news of the temporary shutdown was announced, and as expected, fear and concern haunted the staff members. However, having a third-party consultant come and speak to the group about the opportunity and benefits of cross-training, and how this would open new doors to try a new job within the company, even if it were part-time, would prevent any layoffs and reduce anxiety, as well as the opportunity to learn new skills to enhance themselves. Employees demonstrated excitement and interest about this opportunity after the meeting ended. Upon a follow-up meeting with the human resources director, they were happy to announce that all employees accepted the idea and were cross-trained, thereby successfully placing all staff members into new or similar positions at the main resort, and allowing for the opportunity to give them the chance to remain with the company.
Cross-training worked well in this scenario because the establishment retained all employees, trained them for new positions and added value by increasing employee morale and improving employee's skills. Management also had the chance to use these employees in different departments as well in the future. This in turn created an opportunity for developing internal and external customer satisfaction, since most of the staff members decided to go back to their former positions after completion of the renovation. Service levels from guest service scores actually increased upon their return. Of course, newly-renovated facilities (tangible service) contributed to the overall score, but the majority of the former staff members were able to come back more excited and fully trained in other capacities as well, and repeat/loyal guests truly appreciated seeing their favorite staff members once again and their superb service excellence in action, upon, the re-opening.