Making guests happy is a noble pursuit for any hotel as we all know this translates into higher occupancies, the ability to grow rate, more asset value and quite a few other monetary advantages. While we can talk to no end about physical and operational upgrades that contribute to this goal, perhaps none is more impactful than having motivated and attentive associates servicing your customers. After all, this is a people business, so your guests’ experiential satisfaction will ultimately be influenced by the happiness of your very own employees.
This leads to the question about how to keep your staff happy? While this necessitates a multifaceted answer identifying both long-term and short-term tasks, one that has gained a lot of recognition of late is using ongoing education as a means to heighten motivation. As is very often the case, though, this is far easier said than done, and nurturing a culture of continual retraining requires a wholehearted and passionate commitment from senior executives if you are to achieve any semblance of fruitful results.
While in the past, ongoing education might have meant organizing a few days outside the office for teambuilding activities and some outdoors exercise with a few intensive instructional sessions sandwiched in-between, nowadays the younger generations want to learn in a different way.
The two buzz words that best describe the current mindset are ‘microlearning’ and ‘bite-sized learning’ where instead of the hours-long concentrated classes, employees are left to learn the syllabus on their own time, cramming while in transit to and from work or during the few available minutes each night before bed. For example, instead of a two-and-a-half-hour tutorial, a new recruit might be left to his or her own devices and given a two-week deadline to complete the course, followed by an online test and a compressed interactive component with a supervisor.
At this stage you might point out with a slight whiff of cynicism that this mentality is a negative result from all the attention-depleting, dopamine-inducing bombardments from the glut of instantly gratifying technologies like social media, video games and helter-skelter television programs that today’s youth enjoys so much. While you wouldn’t be wrong in recognizing millennials’ lowered attention spans versus those of older generations, psychological evidence has long since shown that bite-sized learning is actually far better for memory retention. Thus, while adopting a microlearning culture might be better for attracting and keeping younger team members, it can also be quite beneficial for veteran hoteliers.
And of course, the key facilitators for this contemporary proliferation of microlearning environments are the very same digital innovations that have given millennials their ADHD stereotype, including online blackboards, short training video libraries on websites and mobile apps, to name three. Knowing that such devices can enhance so many other aspects of your operations, applying their merits to set up an incremental training program for all employees – young or seasoned, staff or manager – will likewise achieve incredible results.
One critical aspect of these microlearning platforms is that, through automation, they help to drastically cut labor costs associated with internal education. For instance, if you set up an online team training app that new associates can download onto their smartphones (the device through which young staffers prefer most for bite-sized education), then the initial phase of job shadowing can be cut in half because so much of the grunt work is shifted out of the classroom setting and onto the cloud. In an ongoing capacity, such apps might also be used for lateral promotions as team members opt to explore new expertise in other areas of operations while staying in their current roles within the organization so that there aren’t any ‘hiccups’ when it comes to succession planning.
Concurrent to the cost savings in supervisor or manager manhours devoted to training, there’s also the motivation angle which needs some further substantiation. Like any family – albeit one that may be a tad dysfunctional given how frenetic a hotel environment always ends up being – we want those closest to us to experience personal growth and enrich their lives on a meaningful level. For this reason alone, any resources you devote to upgrading your training programs will make everyone involved all the happier. Aside from the abovementioned reflection on guest satisfaction, increased morale also means a more productive team and less employee turnover – two elements that not only play a large role in labor costs but can also factor into what ideas your team brings forward to help improve operations.
With all these advantages, it’s clear that migrating your instructional programs to an online platform is a worthwhile project. However, agreeing to this initiative is the 1% inspiration, yet it still leaves out the 99% perspiration to make it functional.
First is you need a project leader – someone to make the decisions about what training platform to setup and who’s accountable for its success. Next, and equally as vital, you need a content supervisor, which is often the same as the project leader. This is the individual who is responsible for uploading all the necessary materials and designing the training courses in addition to performing regular upkeep of the platform and completing enrollment. Lastly, there is the recurrent issue of ensuring sustained engagement or daily active use; this is another topic altogether but, to give you an idea here, some worthy tactics include staff rewards, internal gamification mechanisms, regular in-person prompting or even the establishment of consequences for inactivity.
Above all, don’t assume that it is a cinch to transition to a cloud-based learning environment. The results, however, will more than compensate for any headaches in this regard. And once you are in a groove with such new age incremental training platforms, you’ll find that your team is happier, more motivated and fully ready to rise to the challenge of making your hotel better.
(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in HOTELS Magazine on October 13, 2017)