Why learning and development are essential to employee retention

For years, the crucial aspect of learning and development lingered in the shadows of the overall associate journey. Far too frequently, new hires were hastily embraced, introduced to the team, and subjected to brief and ineffective training, essentially being cast adrift in the expansive realm of hospitality. Lacking the essential training and resources, associates found themselves navigating their roles with minimal guidance. Moreover, in bygone decades, there existed a predefined trajectory for success, compelling associates to merely tick boxes. I vividly recall my initiation into the hospitality industry, wherein my first general manager emphasized the necessity of adhering to a linear path for success, conspicuously devoid of any emphasis on continuous learning and growth.

The assigned brand training for associates predominantly revolved around systems training, which, frankly, proved more effective when acquired through on-the-job experience. There was a glaring absence of education or dialogue on the art of genuine hospitality and the heartfelt delivery of service. Simultaneously, there was a noticeable dearth of training in areas such as wellness, de-escalation/conflict resolution, and risk management and safety. The so-called "red" emergency binder, designated for critical situations, often lay untouched beneath a layer of dust. Training was unequivocally relegated to a lower priority, and even those who espoused its importance often perceived it as a necessary evil—a mere checkbox on the quality audit.

Growing and Learning

Historically, in 1820, a mere 12 percent of the global population was literate. Remarkably, today, while the literacy rate has significantly improved, 14 percent of the world's population still grapples with illiteracy. This underscores an enduring human thirst for knowledge. In a world boasting 250 channels and outlets dedicated to 24-hour news, it is evident that the desire to learn and grow remains palpable.

The landscape of learning and development has undergone a transformative shift since the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It is no longer confined to a mere onboarding process but extends to an ongoing journey, acknowledging that learning is a continuous endeavor. A robust learning and development program harmonizes with corporate culture and strategies, aligning with business needs. It not only identifies associate weaknesses but also champions individualized training tailored to their needs.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a staggering 87 percent of workers deem learning and development crucial to their career decisions. Furthermore, 59 percent of workers assert that the opportunity to learn and grow significantly influences their choice to remain with an employer. This is especially pertinent considering the substantial annual cost of training in the United States, amounting to a staggering one trillion dollars. In 2018, one in four associates departed from their roles due to a lack of learning opportunities, emphasizing the critical role of associate retention.

Numerous companies proudly declare their associates as their "greatest asset," recognizing the immense potential within their teams. With the right team, possibilities are boundless. A well-executed learning and development program not only fosters a skilled workforce but can also enhance a company's margins by a substantial 14 to 29 percent.

At the core of effective training lies culture and strategy. While each component can function independently, the synergy of both is the linchpin for success. A comprehensive learning and development initiative that seamlessly integrates culture and strategy ensures a buoyant ship navigating the currents of progress.

During the summer of 2022, PM Hotel Group marked significant achievements in its commitment to maintaining a prominent position as a learning organization. This dedication to innovation and the provision of extensive opportunities for professional and personal development for all associates was underscored by the appointment myself as the corporate director of learning + development. With this strategic hire, PM Hotel Group aimed to cultivate a culture of continuous learning and sought to establish an inclusive and adaptable learning platform accessible to associates at all levels within the organization.

The primary objective was to deliver comprehensive development opportunities covering professional growth, personal enrichment, and essential compliance training. A secondary goal focused on streamlining onboarding procedures, reducing turnover rates, and implementing a robust training infrastructure for all team members. Additionally, PM Hotel Group expanded its performance management capabilities, integrating goal-oriented and training-based succession planning.

The Foundry

Central to the success of these initiatives was The Foundry, a pivotal component designed to address the unique needs and concerns of associates while bridging knowledge gaps. Beyond optimizing onboarding processes through structured job skills training, this learning management system (LMS) yielded remarkable results, enhancing morale, fostering a vibrant company culture, and ultimately elevating productivity and overall performance.

Since its launch in June, The Foundry, recognized as an award-winning LMS, has become an integral part of PM Hotel Group's organizational fabric, revolutionizing the approach to learning and development. Offering 300+ courses, including the "Starting Your PMJourney: New Hire Orientation" and various departmental SOPs, The Foundry has surpassed expectations with an impressive 97 percent active enrollment rate across the organization.

This enthusiastic adoption of The Foundry highlights its user-friendly interface and the value it brings to professional growth. Notably, the system played a crucial role in achieving an exceptional 96 percent compliance rate, surpassing the industry benchmark of 80 percent, showcasing the team's commitment and The Foundry's effectiveness in meeting regulatory requirements.

Beyond mandatory training, each learner enrolls in an average of 9.5 courses, showcasing the diverse and engaging content available. The high 85 percent completion rate for courses speaks volumes about the relevance and effectiveness of the learning material, emphasizing the team's dedication to professional development.

The Foundry stands as a strategic investment, streamlining learning initiatives and significantly contributing to organizational goals. Angie Darby, area director of sales and marketing, attests to its impact. "The Foundry has given my team and myself the ability to put learning at the forefront of what we do," she said. PM Hotel Group remains steadfast in its commitment to being a learning organization, fostering teamwork, and supporting associates in reaching their full potential through continuous professional and personal development.

In December 2023, six months after its launch, PM Hotel Group, in collaboration with The Foundry, proudly received two prestigious awards: Best Use of Blended Learning and Best Associate Well-Being Initiative. This remarkable achievement is deeply rooted in our unwavering dedication to core values that define us – respect, teamwork, drive, and entrepreneurial spirit. These values serve as the driving force behind our innovative approach to learning and development and underscore our commitment to the well-being of our exceptional team.

At PM Hotel Group, we acknowledge that our team members are our most valuable asset. Our associate well-being initiative stands as a testament to our commitment to crafting a workplace that fosters physical, mental, and emotional health. By prioritizing the well-being of our team, we purposefully cultivate an environment where individuals can flourish both personally and professionally. This dual commitment to excellence in learning and holistic well-being reflects our dedication to creating a workplace that not only empowers but also cares for every member of our team.

The evolution of learning and development at PM Hotel Group exemplifies the power of a comprehensive and strategic approach. Beyond ticking boxes, the organization has embraced a culture of continuous learning, fostering a vibrant company culture, and supporting associates in reaching their full potential. As the adage goes, "knowledge is half the battle," and PM Hotel Group stands at the forefront, navigating the currents of progress with a skilled and empowered workforce.

James Krebs is senior director | learning + development and brand performance at PM Hotel Group.