Industry Update
Opinion Article13 October 2020

Training: The Key to Maintaining Guest Satisfaction with a Strained Hotel Staff

By Robert Reitknecht, Hospitality Leader and Guest Experience Expert

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Hotels today are facing this major, prevalent problem: how do you maintain an unforgettable guest experience with a reduced and spread-thin staff? What can you do to get your guests to promote your brand during these difficult times while keeping staff morale up?

With just a skeleton crew of employees and no hotel recruiter, the challenge seems immense. But there are both short and long-term moves you can make to keep guest satisfaction high and employee stress low. Training directly im pacts your guests' satisfaction and their intention to return and recommend your hotel. Here are three suggestions for maintaining 5-star Forbes standards in today's trying environment:

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Reconfigure and reimagine training methods

Many managers are now performing line-staff duties, leaving them little time to train other staff under the traditional training structure we're all familiar with. Hoteliers need to take an opportunity to completely redesign training under different assumptions and expectations. Assume that you will have inconsistent and limited time for operational managers to train in their specific areas. Develop a more fluid and transparent system of training checklists so training assignments can be shared among managers and duties can be divvied up.

Take a note from independent hotels that are not beholden to lengthy corporate branding and traditional training programs. With more flexibility, they can adapt training to the mome nt. General Manager Tom Mulroy at the Plunge Beach Hotel in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, FL. takes a unique approach by bundling checklists and printed materials with online learning. He combines training from tech vendors with job shadowing and role playing with the majority of the training conducted on the job. Employees can train by doing - a proven way to produce results for the guest experience.

Recruit flexible people and stay transparent with them

When workforces are strained, employees tend to wear many hats. Make sure you're bringing on workers who are ready and willing to step out of the zone of their traditional roles and be more flexible with what's required of them. Look for people who are excited about learning new areas of work - ones that might even volunteer for it.

At the same time, stay transparent and clear with workers about what's going on at your hotel. Communicate through email, text, and any other preferred method so e mployees know what their efforts are producing and how their organization is doing. They will stay willing to be flexible the more open the lines of communication are with them. If they have a channel through which to vent when things get stressful, you will build trust and they will in turn uplift your guest experience.

Don't lose sight of leadership and give employees a stake in the outcome

Just because you're operating in crisis mode doesn't mean there's no opportunity to keep staff motivated. You must keep staff motivated or else exacerbate turnover, making matters worse. But how can you keep sight of this vital internal component when your plate is stacked?

Combine both your need to improve the guest experience and your employees' basic human desire to feel valued and autonomous. Give them a sense of ownership and authority by launching projects that task them with thinking outside the box to ensure even better guest experiences and impr oved operations. Create interdepartmental initiatives with measurable goals in which employees can come up with ways to save money, time, and support guests.

We all need to think differently about how we run hospitality organizations today. The traditional ways of doing things - especially training - won't work. Staying flexible and open to new ideas will be the keys for hotel managers to support a thriving staff, even if it is a strained one. Your guests will feel these efforts you make, and they will return the favor with recommendations and loyalty.

Robert Reitknecht

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    Hospitality Leader and Guest Experience Expert
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