The hospitality industry’s main selling point is its stellar customer service. Though most hospitality leaders understand that people – specifically, frontline employees – are at the heart of every helpful or above-and-beyond customer interaction, few employers have effective training initiatives in place to facilitate this success.
Case in point: Only 28 percent of hospitality employees have participated in training over the last year, according to Pew Research Center. In today’s job market, few hotels, resorts or casinos can afford a lack of on-the-job education. The hospitality industry is one of the fastest-growing U.S. labor sectors (projected to add almost 1 million jobs by 2024), amplifying the need for comprehensive ongoing training efforts.
Without the right training tools and procedures in place, hospitality employers risk inconsistent messaging and communication, potentially hindering customer experiences and employee skillsets. To thrive in this evolving industry, organizations need to prioritize how they educate their hourly workers, making sure they have the appropriate tools for development and growth.
New challenges put training front-and-center
The last few years have brought about tremendous change for hospitality organizations, but WorkJam found that two trends in particular instigated shifts that make frontline employees more critical to employers’ bottom-line success:
- The rise of private accommodation platforms: The rapid ascent of sharing economy companies such as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO upended travelers’ traditional lodging options. By some estimates, this emerging private accommodations market grew almost twice as fast as the total U.S. travel market in 2016. But what these platforms offer in terms of competitive pricing and flexibility they lack in on-site employee service – making friendly, knowledgeable and service-focused staff a top differentiator for hospitality brands.
- An industry-wide technology takeover: As hospitality businesses battle for travelers’ dollars, they’ve invested plenty of their own into digitizing the customer experience. From tablet-based check-in kiosks to digital key cards and mobile apps that command every part of your stay (i.e., adjusting in-room lighting, booking spa services, chatting with concierge bots), technology is transforming most aspects of hospitality operations. The challenge for many employers, however, is striking a balance between technology and the human touch – something customers still crave.
These competitive forces are motivating hospitality brands to transform their customer experiences, and experiment with new concepts and tools along the way. But it’s the employees on the front lines – in hotel lobbies, casino floors or resort spas – who are under the most pressure to understand these operational changes and adapt their skills accordingly.
Writing a new training rulebook
The fact that so many hospitality employers lack formal training for their frontline employees presents a unique opportunity. Other service sectors including retail and restaurants frequently suffer from outdated, manual training practices that do little to encourage employee learning or loyalty. Rather than overhaul legacy professional development initiatives, hospitality leaders can take a advantage of new technology and build relevant programs that pull from modern, proven training best practices.
Here are three qualities hospitality employers should strive for in employee training initiatives:
- Accessible: Bootcamps, binders and traditional learning management systems are falling out of vogue for multiple reasons – they’re time-consuming, difficult to update with new information and often cumbersome to navigate. Instead, hospitality employers should develop programs around the channels many workers already use. With an online or app-based training platform, employees can access course material from any device at any time, giving them the flexibility to learn at their own pace. A digital training tool also helps employers atomize training material into bite-sized modules that are easier to swallow on an ongoing basis than an hour-long tutorials or half-day workshops, making the training more efficient and effective.
- Interactive: Passive learning (be it listening to an instructor or reading chapters of a training manual) does little to encourage knowledge retention or cement new skills. Especially when it comes to learning the ins and outs of new hospitality technology or service processes, hands-on participation is key to reinforcing end user information. New digital training and employee engagement platforms support a variety of learning formats, from short polls to longer assessments and interactive modules. Interactive training also lends itself to gamifying the learning experience, further motivating employees to improve their skills over time.
- Measureable: Effective training programs generate tangible insights into employees’ (or a specific location’s) performance. By embedding technology into hospitality training, managers and corporate teams can more quickly and closely track workers’ progress, collecting details that fuel meaningful data on the readiness of their workforce. With quantified results available in real-time, employers can also easily identify employees’ particular strengths and weaknesses to develop personalized training paths.
No matter how much the hospitality industry evolves, their employees will continue to be the essential ingredient for superior customer service. Investing in the right technology for robust training programs ensures that staff are always equipped to deliver just that.