20 tips for smoother employee training

As travel resumes and hotels reopen, managers will be faced with training an influx of new team members. Some experts offered their advice for making the process go more smoothly.

  1. Have a planned training agenda. Trainees should know exactly what to expect each day, said Cheryl Martin, general manager of the Kimpton Key West in Florida. “The unknown can be scary, so putting them at ease on day one helps set the tone.”
  2. Get your ducks in a row. “Training is a process and requires planning and preparation,” said Adam Bocken, director of human resources and training at Margaritaville. “Training outlines, materials and trainers all need to be prepared for when a new team member starts ... Being ready for a new hire when they start training shows them you are committed to creating a great work experience.”  
  3. Rehearse the whole training in advance. A run-through will ensure you’re ready to start training. “It makes sure you are well prepared with all the material and computer needs in advance,” said Greg Fregoso, managing partner at Hospitality M.D. “It's not fun looking for a slide changer 20 minutes before you present.”
  4. Teach one role at a time. Mark Heymann, CEO of labor management software company UniFocus, suggests spending one week on each of the responsibilities a new employee will have until all training and certifications are complete. “The amount of time on the specific job will depend on its complexity and if it is guest-facing or non-guest facing,” he said.
  5. Allocate enough time to train effectively. Don’t get so lost in the whirlwind of the day-to-day operations that you cut your training short, Fregoso added. “Invest the time necessary to get your training through to your employees. The time you spend at the front will save you countless hours in retraining after the fact.”
  6. Take time to know your team. Dennis Hernandez, director of sales and marketing at the Kimpton Banneker in Washington, D.C., learns the personal tastes of new hires, from drinks to books to favorite colors. “This has helped me to engage the joy of starting the first day of work and exemplify the importance [of] listening to what’s being said,” he said.
  7. Emphasize culture. “We spend a considerable amount of time with new hires discussing what makes each property special,” Bocken said. “Continual training of our core purpose and values during the entire team member life cycle is one of our competitive advantages.” 
  8. Prevent distractions. Make sure your training is conducted in a location that will be distraction-free, said Fregoso—especially from mobile devices. “This is especially important when training senior leadership as they are more likely to be worried about checking in on their operations and their emails.”
  9. Learn how they learn. “Understanding how someone learns is key to ensuring new employees are learning effectively,” said Garison Beale, general manager at Greydon Hotel Group. “Whether by taking long notes by observing, or doing actions hands-on, asking the new hire how they learn best is one of my first questions on day one.” 
  10. Train with a variety of methods. Fregoso agreed that people learn in different ways. “Some people need visuals, some can learn just by reading and some need to do things hands on to figure it out. Try to hit all the bases in your training for the greatest chance at success.” 
  11. Train interactively. “I like to have each new hire not only sit in classroom-style training but also shadow different employees to learn how each person plays a role in the guest experience,” said Ken Merkel, director of operations at Avocet Hospitality Group. “It provides them with perspective while also giving them an opportunity to bond with their teammates.” 
  12. Take time to absorb the details. When training front-desk agents or concierges, encourage them to thoroughly research on-site activities or local sites of interest. “Pick a few that you would recommend and know them perfectly,” Beale said. “Talk about those first until you start developing your expertise on more local experiences. Basically, don’t get out of your depth right away.”
  13. Train managers as coaches. “In hospitality, there's always more to learn, and you're dealing with so many different types of people from all over the world every single day,” said Dwight Zahringer, president of concierge service group Pure Cabo. “You'll never know it all, and that can be humbling, but it's also a great opportunity to develop a coach mentality in your management staff.”
  14. Partner new hires with veterans... “Once trained, teaming with an experienced person will speed the learning and ‘muscle memory’ attainment,” Heymann said.
  15. ...And encourage them to spend time together. Plan lunch with another employee if you cannot be there yourself, Martin said. “We never want our new hires to eat alone.”
  16. Remind staff that guests have their eyes on them at all times. “They must conduct themselves as if they are always in the spotlight,” said Laura Mooney, owner of The Mohicans Treehouse Resort in Glenmont, Ohio. “If a guest sees a staff member conducting themselves in a safe manner outside of the immediate guest interactions, it reinforces their belief in the resort's commitment to safety.” 
  17. Be patient. The industry will see an influx of individuals who may not have worked in the industry before, said Raeshawna Scott, general manager at The Banneker. “There has been massive unemployment. Remember each person’s learning curve is different. Cater your training plan to the individual, not a one-size-fits-all plan.”
  18. Schedule a recap at the end of each training shift. Take time to ask new hires how they are feeling and what concerns they have, Martin said. “It is not about what they didn’t get, but rather, how [they are] feeling about the training experience ... Based on their feedback, trainers can then adapt their style for the next series of training sessions." 
  19. Have fun. Fregoso recommended making the training as fun as possible. “Have a fun ice breaker activity. Make jokes. Keep the attention on you. The more you can do that, the more likely it is that your employees will retain the information.”
  20. Offer a branded welcome gift. “We usually provide a Kimpton Hotels insulated water bottle or floating key chain, along with a Payday candy bar, and a personalized, signed ‘welcome to the family’ card from the hotel team,” Martin said.