Hoteliers encourage staff to further skills development
Hoteliers encourage staff to further skills development
14 NOVEMBER 2016 8:48 AM

Employers in the hotel industry offer a number of career development opportunities to help employees improve their skills and take a greater role in their companies.

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Once a person lands a new job, there can be a strong tendency to let that be enough. He or she might have just finished school or perhaps couldn’t afford college and went straight into the workforce.

A recent Pew Research Center study reported that only 47% of adults working in hospitality “see training and skills development as an essential part of their future work life.” But employers in the hotel industry are doing their part to encourage their employees to better themselves, and to help them climb their career ladders and serve guests better.

A desire to learn, a desire to teach
On the other side of the statistic, millennial employees are looking for more opportunities to continue learning and to grow, said Nancy Curtin Morris, VP of training and people development at Hotel Equities.

“They want to stay as current and connected to an organization as they can, either through skillsets or being part of something bigger than just coming in to work every day and just doing their jobs,” she said.

Her company has worked to create an in-house leadership development process, she said, taking employees from their first day on the job throughout their career. One of the first steps is the individual development program, she said, which helps the company to know that the employees are committed and vested in trying to develop their skills. All of these programs are self-directed, she said, because while the company wants to help, the onus must be on the employees to move their development along.

“That does a couple of things for us,” she said. “It shows us those who truly are committed. It becomes a partnering relationship between the supervisor, or anyone providing the training, and the associates themselves.”

The company offers several programs, including:

  • A management program to help those in the No. 2 position at hotels learn how to become a GM;
  • Programs for those managing numerous hotels;
  • Executive programs that include the company’s CEO, president and COO to work on vision and strategy development; and
  • A new pilot management training program that partners with five to six universities across the U.S. to feed Hotel Equities’ pipeline of college graduates.

Another program called “Feeding the Talent Pipeline” offers a bonus to GMs who commit to helping mid-level managers at the hotel advance to GM. The incentive is dependent on the new GMs hitting key metrics at their hotels within six months.

“We’re not only doing it for the good of the associates, managers and company. It’s financially beneficial to those who help and participate,” Morris said. “Our belief is we would rather put money into that than putting it into turnover. We can incentivize GMs to, in effect, train future GMs. That’s money well spent.”

Encouraging women to advance
When she started out in the hotel industry, Peggy Berg of Rosedale Enterprises, said it was mostly men in dark suits on stage and few women in attendance. At the time, she said, she thought she would see that change over time, and that she eventually would make it behind the podium.

“Now today when I go to the conferences, there are a whole lot of men in dark suits and a smattering of young women, with a few of them at the podium,” she said. “With as many years as investment conferences have been going on and as long as we’ve been working on this, we should be making a path.”

A majority of women in the hotel industry fill roles in the lower- and middle-management levels, she said. In higher positions, the number of women thins out.

Berg is part of a group creating a nonprofit called Castell Projects, the purpose of which is to work on diversity in the hotel industry’s senior executive and leadership roles. The program has been in the works for about eight months, she said, and the goal is to have the first round of clients come through in January or early February 2017.

One area of focus will be to help female executives who have been with their companies for between seven and 12 years to develop their negotiation and communication skills, Berg said. The program also will provide clients with a “champion” sponsor to lend support as they advance in their careers.

What it offers employees is a chance to develop their own career goals and paths with the training to back it up, she said.

All women cross inflection points in their careers when something pushes them down and distracts from their goals, or opens up a door for them, Berg said.

“I think that as we approach these inflection points, if you have the right skill set to evaluate an opportunity or hurdle, you can find a way across it and make it a launching point,” she said.

The industry in general is better at moving young male executives through these inflection points than young women, she said. That’s partly because their bosses are men who brought themselves through similar points, she said. But there’s a benefit to the company in teaching all employees how to navigate potential hurdles, she said.

Financial aid
Many people forget the most important part of the hotel business is the front-line employee, said Navin Shah, chairman of Royal Hotel Investment. Most of these employees are in their lower to mid-20s, he said, and they have graduated or are going through school.

He said he decided to take an interest in their future and offered to cover 50% of tuition for classes they take if they stay with his company for more than a year. He also offered to cover 100% of the cost for English classes for Spanish-speaking employees and Spanish classes for English-speaking employees, regardless of tenure.

“It has made them believe they are part of my family,” he said. “All front-line employees are happy to perform …. We’re taking an interest in their future. That is a great motivator.”

A hotel’s most important asset is its employees, he said. Employees are the ones who make money for the company, he said, and employees who have an education and continue to develop their careers will make more money for the company.

Shah said many of his Spanish-speaking employees have been on the housekeeping staff. Those who only speak Spanish have trouble communicating with English-speaking employees and guests, he said, so that is why he offered to cover the cost of language classes.

The classes help employees communicate and understand each other and guests, he said. When housekeepers can clearly understand what a guest wants, it makes a huge difference, he said.

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