4 reasons to use cross-training in your hotel
4 reasons to use cross-training in your hotel
06 AUGUST 2013 6:46 AM

Cross-training employees improves flexibility, productivity, bench strength and employees’ marketability.

Businesses continue to erase the practice of one employee doing one job. In the hospitality industry, cross-training is not only a good practice but necessary with today’s economic challenges and competitive work environment. To support this, I’ve identified four key reasons on why you should adopt cross-training at your hotel.

1. Improve flexibility
Cross-training is a great way to improve your team’s versatility. At our property, we work with assistant management level employees and workers in an up-and-coming development level. This is a good way to get each individual exposure in other key areas of management. Having a front-desk manager who can knowledgeably fill in as a housekeeping manager in an emergency benefits the business and operations while also offering guest benefits. When properly trained, the two should have an understanding in terms of the tasks involved and labor required to do one another’s jobs. The cross communication that results from a good cross-training program is invaluable when it comes to mutual understanding across departments. This gives each department manager’s more realistic expectations of what the other department can do in a given situation.

Improved flexibility also helps when scheduling managers. It reduces the need to schedule two full-time employees with similar roles. If they are cross-trained, they are able to fit into any role that needs to be filled leaving space for them both to be scheduled. Further, the cross-training program allows schedulers to have a qualified fill-in because of a planned absence or emergency.

2. Improve productivity
Having managers that are cross-trained allows a business to operate with less personnel and less expense. If managers are only trained in one area of expertise, it is essential to have backups for each discipline. If managers are trained in several areas, a business would require less backup employees. The greater versatility for scheduling is complemented by the individuals’ abilities to make decisions with a much broader experience level, and the overall team effort is much better.

In our operation, we define a clear training program that usually lasts between six to eight months. You cannot simply flip-flop your trainees for a week or two and expect them to gain the full benefit or knowledge that will help the operation or individual manager’s advancement.

We also ensure that food-and-beverage department management is trained in the rooms division and vice versa. This gives each department representative an advantage as they manage individuals from diverse backgrounds. In addition, working in a revenue-generating department such as housekeeping teaches managers the importance of expense management and how or why their actions affect the overall financial achievements for the property.

Being prepared allows the staff to be confident in their tasks no matter what department they are working. This confidence then translates to a happy client base and reduced stress on the team.

3. Improve bench strength
Employees with multiple talents create a stronger staff. This not only builds morale for the team as internal advancements are achieved but also provides increased flexibility for staffing. Should a front-desk manager take a vacation, it may be possible to schedule the F&B manager in that role if he or she has been properly cross-trained.

In our hotel, our restaurant’s executive chef was originally hired as the supervisor in the kitchen. She cross-trained in front-of-the-house management and experienced guest reaction to the food prepared and served. She learned how pace can affect the overall experience. Now that she has accepted the role of executive chef for the farm-to-table restaurant, she is in a better position to understand how best to please guests, inspire repeat visits from visitors and locals and understand the financial responsibilities she must meet.

4. Improve employees’ marketability
I am always interested in ensuring that our employees are inspired to grow and move forward in their careers, even if one day that means they leave for other opportunities. Employees that are trained in multiple disciplines are able to apply to a wider number of job openings than if they were experts in only one department. This versatility gives them a better chance of landing a new job opportunity within a specific hotel or group and sets the stage for transferability around the world if this is the path they wish to follow. Like in many other fields, being able to have a versatile background makes someone a better candidate when applying for new jobs or higher positions.

Cross-training is not only beneficial to managerial positions but it is also good for staff members in more basic positions. It gives them the opportunity to show the skills they have attained and can apply to higher managerial roles should they ever wish to advance. The hope is that when an opportunity presents itself, someone has the ability to move up.

Cross-training is beneficial to both the employer and the employee, improving workforce flexibility, overall productivity, the bench strength for an organization and it allows staff members improved marketability. It’s a win-win for all.

For over 20 years, Birgit Radin has focused her energy and talents on leading quality-oriented hospitality teams with the goal of creating employee engagement, memorable customer experiences, and maximizing profit for shareholders and/or owners. As a member of the Kokua Hospitality, LLC management organization team, she serves as the managing director for two properties in Chicago: The DoubleTree by Hilton Chicago Magnificent Mile and the Inn of Chicago. Reach her at bradin@doubletreemagmile.com. To learn more about Kokua Hospitality, LLC, visit www.kokuahospitality.com.

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