Training for consistency: hotels

Learning from other operators and sharing best practice can help hotels improve staff training

With a hotel’s reputation increasingly made or broken in a single tweet or TripAdvisor review, increased guest expectations and the need to provide as good an F&B offer as any restaurant or bar, staff training is arguably more crucial in hotels than other hospitality businesses.

In the second part of our feature investigating the latest trends and case studies in training for consistency in the hospitality sector, we speak to a number of hotel operators, both small and large on the key areas they are focusing on, and seeing success in, when it comes to staff development.

Big boys and small fish

With news stories written every week on the latest schemes and projects the so-called ‘big boys’ are using to ensure their employees are up to scratch, the average hotelier might be forgiven for thinking the only advances are at the higher end of the market.

Whilst it is undeniably true Accor and Hilton Worldwide made waves with the Government and helped the cause of the industry by creating academies this year helping to kick-start careers and apprenticeships for young people, there is activity at all levels of the sector.

What do France-based global operator Accor and the remote Summer Isles Hotel in the Scottish Highlands village of Achiltibuie have in common? The gulf in numbers of bedrooms and staff is vast – while the Summer Isles Hotel has around 20 employees on its books tending to three bedrooms and a number of suites, Accor now operates 185 UK hotels alone and has pledged to create 3,500 jobs over the next three years.

However both were named as the only two hospitality entries on the latest list of the best workplaces in the UK. Both were also praised for staff training.

Increasingly hotels are learning from the successes of others, coming together to share best practice, developing blended as well as focused learning and, with the growth of e-learning, the best training is no longer limited to those with the most staff.

Leap of faith

“There is something of a quantum leap of faith and you are exposing yourself warts and all to the other greats in the industry,” Sue Williams, general manager of Cliveden House, says as she extolls the virtues of sharing best practice.

A number of years ago, at a gathering of like-minded small country house hotels in the south east and west, Williams, who was at the time in post at the Bath Priory, suggested an idea that became Ten out of Ten – a recruitment and training scheme to ensure the best quality staff in ten venues.

The two-year programme sees ten individuals with some experience in the industry work in placements in five of the ten properties, which includes Gidleigh Park, Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and The Fat Duck, with the aim of producing the finest hotel managers in the country.

The scheme started from an informal meeting of minds – something Williams says small operators can have a go at in their area to help take on the might of the bigger hotel groups.

“There is a lot of merit in sharing best practice. It is about being magnanimous and baring all. We are seeing a year in that the growth in our staff is just tremendous.”

Sharing knowledge to get better at training does not just have to be between hoteliers either but between trainer and trainee. Williams explains many of the first batch of Ten out of Ten candidates, the second intake begin next week, have given their input to improve the training – something that should be encouraged.

“The kids that are on it now have really taken on that mantle and have said ‘this would work really well’ or ‘that wouldn’t’ and they are then excited and proud in being part of the process.”

“They have to make a good contribution – the more they put in the more they get out. A busy head of department might miss a stage of training but we tell them they have to flag it up and make sure it is achieved.”

Broad vs. specific

One of the biggest dilemmas for hotels is whether to have a broad or specific approach to training.

Williams’ Ten out of Ten programme trains students in food and beverage service, reception and guest services, events and marketing and housekeeping with property management. This approach can be perfect for creating well-rounded and flexible managers.

However with the growth of high-quality food offerings in hotels, led in part by celebrity chefs, many operators, including Barcelo Hotels, have chosen to launch a ‘chef academy’ to plug an obvious skills gap and ensure the best new chefs earn their keep behind a stove in a hotel kitchen.

Although Hilton Worldwide has recently launched a broad Apprenticeship Academy it too has seen success with a specific chef programme with 95 per cent of the trainees on the scheme gaining employment with the business.

Ben Bengougam is vice president of human resources for Europe at Hilton Worldwide and says the success of its schemes is based on the needs of the company and the nature of the changing workforce. Many with the most quantifiable success have been specific in their focus.

“We introduced a new food & beverage programmed called FAB to our UK hotels to help develop waiting staff to F&B supervisor positions, and in some of our UK divisions the scheme has helped fill 80 per cent of these roles.”

“We also introduced Junior Managers in Training to up-skill and retain individuals with the intention of fast tracking them to a junior management position within two years, which has proved very successful,” he says.

With 80 per cent of hires to director level and above coming internally, Hilton Worldwide’s training success clearly has self-benefits but other operators and smaller hotels can easily adopt its approach.

Future trends

After becoming the first hotel group in Europe to set up an integrated training centre in 1985, Accor has developed a reputation for strong training and will invest £5m in training in the UK between now and 2015.

Christine Lewis, training and development Manager for Accor UK & Ireland, says graduate schemes, apprenticeships, e-learning and so-called blended learning, using different teaching environments, are likely to be the big future trends for operators to be aware of.

“We will continue to use a “blended” approach to training combining both active sessions with digital learning in one centre, giving us an opportunity to re-enforce our service standards in a dedicated centre.”

“More and more learning takes place digitally through our e-learning initiatives as well as through traditional training methods. We must to be in line with the changing ways of communicating and reaching information.”

Bengougam agrees: “Many organisations, including Hilton Worldwide, are increasingly moving away from traditional, classroom-based learning methods to focus on experiential learning, which is often more participatory and engaging, and we see this trend continuing.”

The benefit of the growth in social media, video and e-learning in training environments can only benefit hotel companies and particularly small and independent operators who can easily replicate the successful schemes with the only criteria being internet access.

“I am certainly a massive advocate of social media,” Williams says. “I have done a presentation to the students and got them all engaged with it and realize the importance of it. It should be used for connectivity, engaging with your customer base and managing your property’s reputation online – it is a generational thing.”

“For our induction day we have three bits of video – Rick Stein’s property is now involved so he will do a piece to video, Raymond Blanc will as well – inspirational dialogue.”

With many hotels now well on the road to developing high-quality training schemes, that last point from Williams could be the most key – rather than trying to compete with fellow or larger operators coming together, sharing knowledge and harnessing industry connectivity are undoubtedly the big future trends for hotel training.

Affordable advances

It is clear not every operator can follow the lead of the groundbreaking Edge Hotel School which took its first students last month or the similar project in Manchester.

However as Fred Sirieix, general manager at Galvin at Windows at the Hilton London on Park Lane hotel, points out there are plenty of ways of training on a budget.

Taking on accredited training can be expensive but organisations like Concord Hotels can help operators do things on a bigger scale while Williams and Ten out of Ten show hoteliers the power of working together.

To read all our articles on training for consistency click here.

Related News

Ann Robertson and Matthew Ingram, the first two apprentices to complete the BII's Licensed Hospitality Apprenticeship Level 2 training scheme

Training for consistency: pubs

Rick Stein (left), who presented the Independent Hotelier of the Year award to Peter Hancock of Pride of Britain Hotels in Jeremy Goring's absence, plans further partnerships to operate hotels and accomodation

Rick Stein on the hunt for further accommodation partnerships

Global hotel operator Accor, which this year opened its first UK training academy, has been named on the list of the World’s Best Multinational Workplaces

Accor and Diageo named among World’s Best Multinational Workplaces

The Luxury Academy's latest course is designed for staff at four and five star independent hotels who need help with grooming and how to communicate with guests

The Luxury Academy launches finishing school style training course for hotel staff

Staff can complete the WorldHost Insights programme online within about an hour and a half

E-learning customer service course for SMEs launched by People 1st

Students from South Downs College took over the running of The Langstone Hotel in Portsmouth for a weekend

Student Takeover: South Downs College students run The Langstone Hotel for a weekend

Marriott Hotel County Hall has announced a new partnership with The Edge Hotel School which will hopefully see the hotel giving internships to a number of students

Marriott Hotel County Hall to take on The Edge Hotel School students

Hugh Baird aims to combine academic studies alongside vocational studies with a hospitality and catering specialism

Hospitality and catering Career College to open in Liverpool

Investing in training staff at all levels can have multiple benefits for your business

Training for consistency: why it’s so important

Staff training is the bedrock of good service

Training for consistency: restaurants

Helping staff develop and climb the career ladder can keep them happy and keep staff retention levels high

Recruiting and retaining staff: How to develop employees and cut turnover rates

Blue Training UK led by Philip Healey (far right) has completed the purchase of The Bower Hotel and will open a hospitality training academy on site

Hospitality training provider buys Manchester hotel

Accor has launched its first UK training academy with a pledge to create 3,500 new hotel jobs and take on a number of young, unemployed people in London

Accor to create 3,500 hotel jobs in three years

InterContinental Hotels Group announced the creation of 3,000 new UK jobs at the launch of a new academy programme, attended by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and IHG chief executive Richard Solomons

InterContinental Hotels Group announces 3,000 UK jobs to be created over three years

Submit a comment

Your comment has been saved

Post a comment

Please note that any information that you supply is protected by our Privacy and Cookie Policy. Access to all documents and request for further information are available to all users at no costs, In order to provide you with this free service, William Reed Business Media SAS does share your information with companies that have content on this site. When you access a document or request further information from this site, your information maybe shared with the owners of that document or information.