As the appetite for travel increases, yet continues to be challenged by rapidly-changing market conditions, consumers are more demanding than ever. It’s vital that every step of the customer experience is optimized, from online search to pre-booking, to check-out, and beyond. Although innovative hotel technology can largely optimize your guests’ online journey and experience, these tools are only as powerful as the people who operate them.
Without the right technological training, tools, and skills in place, hotels risk hurting the guest relationship with poor employee knowledge and misuse of solutions designed to improve the guest experience. Furthermore, our ongoing Hotelier PULSE research highlights the increasing need for hotels to upskill the workforce to meet the current travel demands.
In this article, we outline what you need to think about before implementing a new technological solution and how you can successfully train your hotel staff on new technology and ultimately optimize the guest experience.
Hotel Technology – 6 Steps to Upskill the Workforce
From managing your hotel’s website, online presence, and reservations, to attending guests and performing all front desk operations, failing to perform these tasks in sync often leads to confusion, guest dissatisfaction, and a tarnished brand reputation. Therefore, it is crucial that your employees are sufficiently trained on new technologies you implement across your business.
If you motivate employees to embrace a new solution, that is half the battle won. Achieving this, however, is not quite as easy as we would like it to be, and therefore requires a comprehensive plan of action that addresses learning difficulties, rewards achievements, and motivates employees to continue learning and growing.
The following 6 steps will help get you started:
1. Generate Excitement Through a Launch and Rollout Plan
Much like in customer-facing sales and marketing initiatives, the biggest hurdle is raising awareness of a new solution and clearly communicating how it will be implemented and add value. Therefore, it is important that you generate excitement for the new platform with a comprehensive launch and rollout plan.
Your launch and rollout plan should map out the who, what, where, and why of your integration and implementation. Below is a checklist of what your launch and rollout plan for training employees on new technology should entail:
- Gather information: About the platform’s organizational benefits, pain points it solves, and all involved stakeholders.
- Establish important dates: When you will be launching the new technology solution when employees will be expected to fully utilize the solution, and If applicable, at what point you will shut down your current solution.
- Identify how training should be delivered: Determine whether it would be best to roll out your new solution to all users at once or to onboard specific groups individually for specialized training according to their learning needs or level of enthusiasm to adopt the new technology.
- Offer diverse training opportunities: To accommodate different learning styles by individual or department.
- Reward early adopters and nurture resisters: Not everyone adopts new technology at the same rate. You will have early adopters and people who fall behind. When you set internal expectations for technology adoption, be sure to recognize and reward early adopters but also nurture those who resist.
- Ensure manager involvement and participation: Without the direct involvement and engagement of your hotel’s management team(s), it’s very easy for a training initiative to quickly fall by the wayside. Therefore, hotel managers must continuously help employees understand the value of training by promoting the importance of skills development, regularly checking on their team’s training progress, and taking skills development into account in their performance evaluations.
It’s worth mentioning that people are unpredictable and as such may alter the circumstances around how you onboard, integrate and train throughout the implementation of a new solution. Therefore, it’s important to maintain realistic and flexible expectations.
2. Motivate Your Team With How Hotel Technology will Improve their Working Conditions
Change is never easy, even for those who claim to embrace innovation. However, science tells us that humans are guided by their emotions and will use data to support their perspectives. For this reason, it is vitally important that you understand the challenges your staff face in their day-to-day operations and showcase a compelling vision of how the new solution will improve their work, the customer’s experience, and overall business performance.
If you start the conversation with how the new solution will improve someone’s work, you will eliminate the narrative that changing a certain way of working will slow people down.
Employees need to understand what they’ll enjoy about the technology, how it will increase productivity, minimize weekend work, or meet quotas easier and faster. You need to convince them that this new technology will make their lives better. Although everyone is different, they all ask the same question: “What’s in it for me?”
3. Appoint Hotel Technology Training Champions to Motivate Other Employees
Appointing internal champions who are genuinely motivated and enthusiastic about technological change can dramatically impact the hotel-wide adoption of a new solution. It will also help you avoid too many barriers of resistance from people who may be reluctant to implement the new solution.
To achieve this level of advocacy, create a pilot group of employees from different teams to use the technology. Try not to only select employees who are instinctively interested and enthusiastic about technology.
Ideal candidates are those with strong communication and interpersonal skills that work with employees across the organization and have contact with many people. Word will spread far and wide, and people will become more enthusiastic about the new solution. Remember, you want your employees to think: “I want what my colleague has.”
4. Use Interesting Hotel Technology Training Formats and Reward Performance
As mentioned above, it’s often challenging to get new employees excited about a new hotel technology solution. However, gamifying the training and implementation process can significantly impact your success in this regard.
Acquiring skills in a fun and interactive way creates an environment of light, seamless learning where staff is educated, but don’t feel like they’re being drilled from a dry and boring textbook. As a result, the training is less tedious and regimented and employees are more likely to pay attention and retain information.
Gamification, the application of game elements such as rules, challenges, a leaderboard, and prizes to regular tasks and operations, is a great way hoteliers can educate staff without the monotony previously associated with training. Gamification exercises also allow operators to assess and even reward employees without their even realizing it.
5. Continuously Request Feedback at Every Stage of Learning
Everyone wants to be heard, so it’s important that you request feedback to identify learning and implementation challenges and determine how to improve. You should make a plan to collect feedback at every stage of learning, training, and implementation.
To determine how well the training is going, be sure to collect feedback after every training session and periodically throughout the roll-out period. But don’t stop there. Keep checking in with your employees – particularly those you know are struggling with adoption – so that you can provide additional training as soon as they need it.
Training can always be improved, and so too can technology. Getting feedback from users will also allow you to advise your technology partner on potential new features to introduce to a platform to make it more intuitive and user-friendly.
6. Make Training Engaging and Test Different Learning Formats
When it comes to training, there is no one size fits all approach. Each individual is different and therefore has diverse learning styles and preferences. You need to ensure that your training engages your staff and doesn’t bore them.
Choose your trainers wisely. You’ve invested a lot into this new tech so you want to make sure the person training your employees is not only knowledgeable about the tech but can inspire enthusiasm in your employees. Advise your trainers to regularly take a few moments to “read the room.” If they notice employees’ attention drifting—or worse, their eyes glazing over—it’s time to shake up the training.
It’s also worth mentioning that for many, the best way to learn is by using the technology itself. Reading training materials and attending presentations helps educate and prepare employees, but getting “hands-on” with technology is often the most successful format.
Remember, Training Should Be Ongoing to Adapt to Continuous Change
As the online travel market continues to rapidly change and evolve during the industry’s recovery and beyond, so too will hotel technology. Therefore, training and development should never be viewed as a one-off exercise, but an ongoing strategy to ensure everyone across your hotel keeps their knowledge and skills up-to-date.
You should also establish benchmarks and continue analyzing performance to identify gaps and areas for improvement. Throughout the process, remain open to feedback and be willing to act on valuable suggestions. Remember that employees who feel that their concerns are heard and respected will ultimately be more engaged with the new technology than those who feel overlooked throughout the adoption process.