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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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.