This elephant in the room has been frantically waving its trunk (decorated with fairly lights) at us for over 20 years. Is the industry in self denial?

This blog is about training, learning and developing people as you look to achieve a stable workforce, and an aspirational, successful business model, even within the cost of living crisis and with war in Europe. Payroll is likely to be your biggest outlay. So what are you doing to optimise the yield on the salaries you pay your staff?

I’ve seen pretty much every hospitality training model over the last 36 years. Training both myself and others to unleash potential has been something I’ve been obsessed with. Training is also something I’m deeply passionate about. When training and learning stick it changes peoples lives, expands their personal options and increases their earning power. Nothing bad comes from good, effective, measurable training and learning.

Sadly, my passion for training isn’t shared by all and across industry there are great swathes and wastelands in which people just muddle along the best way they can.

If you want a successful business training needs to sit at the heart of EVERYTHING you do. It’s not something you schedule for a rainy Monday in November. So many businesses also shirk at the cost of training, blind to the reality that the cost of not training is always significantly more.

There are so many training models out there, some formal, some informal, but nowhere have I seen the model that I benefitted from, that I have driven through all of the hotels I’ve managed over the last 10 years.

Training models.

1. The ‘do as I do’ learning by rote model. This is the most informal method that attracts no cost. However, this model takes forever to cover all skills and knowledge and is at the mercy of the associate colleagues (no HR or Managers involved) doing the training, including the sharing of bad habits. This approach rarely includes SOP’s or checklists. The trainers in this scenario were also taught by rote in an environment often lacking energy, documentation or innovation. This model rarely keeps ambitious, skilled staff and proves very difficult when targeting increased standards and stretching change.

2. The ‘Spectacular’ corporate HR model. With this model, paperwork is the byword and not one detail is missed. However this model often involves trainers (not managers) whilst group training sessions focus on the training BUT not necessarily the learning. This is a key error. So often the company culture lacks the agility to understand how each individual actually learns. But as long as the training has been completed, HR (and management) can tick the boxes. The caution with this model is that it might miss some potential super stars simply because you trained at them, rather than understand how they needed to learn on an individual level. Further, without digital training systems/models, Gen Z are going to become disinterested very quickly and also become discouraged and bored. In large hotels this model is popular in handling large team numbers but often struggles to inspire. When staff struggle to develop in this model everyone points to them ‘having had loads of training’, so it must be their fault. Appraisals within this model take place like clockwork but often again generally address the process rather than the individual. Equally, this model comes with a random scattering of SOP’s which aren’t distributed consistently for sign-off and are kept in dusty box files in various offices.

3. The third model is the first two models that purely focusses on role processes and tasks and at no point include any detailed sales or commercial awareness. That is, knowing how to upsell specific side orders to specific main courses, linking drink sales to food, being aware of empty glasses and swooping in for that second round etc. And what is also not rarely found within either of the first two models is the coaching and mentoring required to build a positive relationship with guests and clients and in doing so building a collaborative mini sales pipeline. You just have to look on Trip Advisor at all the amazing reviews and yet few staff names are mentioned. This is because your staff are predominantly focussed on the task, for better or worse.

4. This model is the model I promote as it’s an amalgam of the best training I’ve experienced (received and delivered) over 36 years and works every time. There is significant cost to this model but the returns are generally amazing.

Key points to this model.

1. Before you start your managers need to have documented their entire SOP playbook. It’s a big job to be done off-season if you have one.

2. All of these SOP’s need to be stored within an online portal for staff access and reference 24/7. Each SOP to have a digital sign-off feature. When staff have high levels of access to training materials they’ll begin to learn in their own way which relieves the pressure on the training function. Remember that the majority of your team are addicted to their smart phones. Exploit this as a learning channel. 

3. Develop an SOP video library so you establish legacy training. Why train 30 when you can train 300. This takes a little more time but everyone has a smartphone.

4. You ditch the annual or 6 monthly appraisal schedule and move to a live appraisal system. This system places 100 KPI’s on every team member. These KPI’s represent the HOD’s operational red lines/minimum standards that are measured on a 1-4 scale, Below, Core, Supervisor & Manager. An update on achievement scores takes place with a coffee chat every six to eight weeks.

5. These KPI’s are introduced at the interview stage along with a demo of the online staff portal. The live appraisal system throws down the gauntlet to staff and let’s them set their own pace of achievement and reward.

6. Online testing. Over a period of time HOD’s create knowledge and skills tests to keep the staff engaged and constantly refreshed with everything they need to do the job well today, and moving forward. These tests compliment and add to the compulsory tests online around drinks awareness, allergens etc. These tests can also create a departmental or hotel wide league table which adds to the energy and culture of learning.

7. Training takes place daily! I see training like brushing your teeth. A little effort daily and you’ll eradicate major issues. The format of this training is that the shift leader focusses on one subject for 5 minutes in a shift pre-briefing session. The learning/training is planned to cycle repeatedly across 30 days, again and again. This cycle will ensure across a 3 month period that staff on days off or annual leave get the info they need.

8. Be prepared to change your operating model. 5 well trained waiters will do a better job than 7 untrained waiters. (£40k saved just there!)

9. If you’re keen to change your culture and implement this scenario, your HOD’s will require training. Don’t worry, I have all the tech and content to ensure they have everything they need. But it may be a game changing move for both them and your business.

In my experience the fourth model creates its own energy and agility to consolidate and galvanise team spirit, wall to wall quality, staff retention, genuine careers for people, and a prosperous business model . If everything we’ve discussed in this post focusses on the pipeline of your people and how they operate, the output of the pipeline is an incredibly rich and commercially astute guest experience. 

In my experience learning and training standards have weakened over the last 20 years. It seems that with every generation a little less is passed on, but enough for it not to be obvious. This negative skills creep is actually killing property payroll as we’re simply not yielding enough commercially through our staff like we used to. When staff had strong product knowledge, commercial awareness and a genuine connection with the guest. 

Sure, slash costs (including payroll) during these tough times, but slash them proportionally to the rise in sales you should also be focussed on. If you do nothing with your staff, expect nothing. 

If you’d like me to train your trainers and install a model of laser focus, get in touch today. 

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