The Secret to a Stellar Staff: New Approaches to Testing, Training, and Coaching

By Kyle Rogg President & COO, Value Place | July 13, 2014

In hospitality, our greatest asset can also be our most powerful threat. The hallmark of every respected hotel has always been its personnel; it's the empathy, the personal touch, the sunny disposition, and the individual commitment to creating a superior guest experience that differentiate a brand and earn customer loyalty. In today's world, customer experiences, both good and bad, can be shared virally in an instant, and the success of every hotel hinges on the delivery of effective customer service.

If your hotel is like most, now is the time to refocus your staff by taking a hard look at your employee training methods. Today the industry faces a consistently high turnover rate of 48.36 percent that can negatively impact customer-facing interactions, create inconsistencies in operations, and waste both company time and revenue when training and retraining staff. A revitalized employee preparation program, designed to not only teach personnel how to exceed every guest expectation, but also to become a living, breathing embodiment of your brand and take ownership for their role in the company's success, can cut turnover and foster a community of staff and managers that will win over the hearts of every guest.

Here are some of the novel strategies from our own front lines that have transformed our employee testing, training and coaching programs, and helped us achieve new levels of quality, consistency and performance.

Acknowledging that Every Employee Matters

Managers are the lifeblood of any hotel, playing a pivotal role in the success or failure of a property, and act as the first line of defense in fighting turnover. Managers must be properly trained to execute your hotel's strategic plan, but also be able to inspire their employees by cultivating brand loyalty and helping instill a sense of pride in their work because, in the end, it isn't just managers that interface with customers. At larger hotels, personnel have more specialized roles since the managers have the budget to accommodate a larger staff. But economy brands must retain employees that are proficient across many skill sets so that fewer team members can produce a similar level of output. To meet this challenge takes a commitment from employees at all levels of the hotel, and makes effective training programs even more imperative.

By merely preparing managers to run a property, you'll achieve the bare minimum in customer service. And while the day-to-day workings of a property are important to master, that training alone doesn't teach managers how to lead a property. If managers simply run on autopilot and spend the day putting out fires, there's no one driving strategy, imparting knowledge, focusing on guest experiences, or inspiring employees to take ownership of their responsibilities. Ironically, management is not what makes a good manager. Managers must be leaders. They must complete daily tasks, but also be able to view these daily events in relation to their operational excellence plan and overall corporate goals, and align their staff accordingly.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.