Without the right training tools and procedures in place, hoteliers risk hurting the guest relationship with poor employee knowledge and communication. A lot of training inefficiencies come from new technology — but a lot of hoteliers rely on technology companies to assist with that new tech guidance. So do tech companies offer the employee training hotels need?
“Not always,” said Alan Zaccario, VP of information technology for New Castle Hotels and Resorts. “Ironically, the most complicated systems have little in the way of training. They rely more on vendor engagement.”
For instance, high-speed Internet access is extraordinarily complex, Zaccario said. Perhaps too complex for the average hotel staff to master, he continued.
“So most companies provide a portal or control panel online to provide some basic management and troubleshooting actions,” he said. “Using that type of front end it is easier to layer in ‘help’ screens where possible. The same could really be said for interactive systems like [point of sale] and [property-management systems]. Behind that would be an absolute labyrinth of secure access, command line and configuration changes that would actually run the system. Those are nearly impossible to teach without weeks or months of training.”
Because White Lodging’s workforce is so decentralized with properties across the country, the company has found computer-based options to be the most efficient way to present training when rolling out new technologies.
“We often follow up the computer-based training with scheduled webinars to support the training modules,” said David Todd, VP and chief information security officer for White Lodging. “During these webinars, we can have specific questions answered by a subject matter expert. The additional benefit to CBT is we can track the history of who is completing the required training through our learning management system.
Specific training tools and services offered by technology companies vary based on the company, Todd said. “We have seen online documentation made available to us, but no online training, which we can roll out to our user base via our learning management system,” he said. “If online training is available, it’s training our own internal team has developed.”
But some technology companies have been helpful with a type of online training. “Some of the technology companies have offered webinars to help us through the rollout of new technology, and these have historically been well received,” Todd continued.
Hersha Hospitality Management offers training in a variety of different formats, depending on the technology. “We've implemented large organization-wide technology systems [and] we typically scheduled multiple instructor-led web-based training,” said Jason Shane, VP of information technology for HHM. “We have hotel properties across the country and across the spectrum from small independent to large, full-service branded. When we introduce technology on-property, we typically have the vendor provide initial training. Then we provide a focused web training for a small group.”
But vendor offerings for tools and training vary widely, Shane said. “When we consider implementation of a new technology, the completeness of vendor training is a consideration as there's a significant investment in time and materials to recreate and launch training across our 120 locations,” he said.
Most manufacturers, technology vendors and software providers have dedicated staff and process to ensure a training process is in place. “Obviously in the end it makes the product easier to sell and maintain if users are not frustrated and constantly on the phone to tech support,” Zaccario said.
How is effective tech training done?
Hotels and brands have a variety of training methods available to them but what is most effective? This question depends on the new platform(s) being implemented or advanced. “Overall, I can tell you technology in the hospitality industry continues to advance at light speed throughout the guest service lifecycle,” said Bryan Woodward, chief sales and marketing officer for Horseshoe Bay Resort in Texas.
Internally at Crescent Hotels and Resorts (the management company operating Horseshoe), the digital team continually offers webinars on best practices in the industry to keep the property teams up to speed on relevant improvement and changes. Crescent also offers the monthly “Digital Digest” newsletter that touches on all aspects of new technology from search engine optimization to new tricks in social media marketing.
“To me, having an in-house team whose sole mission is to keep properties in the know on what is happening from a new technology standpoint not only benefits our operators but ultimately improves guests experience, which is the ultimate goal in driving revenue and guests satisfaction,” Woodward said.
Shane said his organization has created a program within the IT organization called bITs & bytes to assist with training. “Our tech team produces three- to five-minute training videos in order to capture our associates' attention and provide them with short learning opportunities,” he said. “We've produced such training videos for anything as simple as resetting one's password to how to operate our contract-management system.”
New Castle Hotels & Resorts relies on web-based training provided by the service providers more than in-house employee-led processes for technology training, Zaccario said. “It maximizes the time we can allot to training as it can be done at the end or beginning of shifts, allowing the process to be more flexible,” he said. “In many cases online can be done in a multitude of languages, which again not only speeds the process but guarantees a consistent training method and message.”
All associates receive basic security awareness training on an annual basis within White Lodging hotels, Todd said. “Associates who have access to [personally identifiable information], specifically credit card information, receive more robust training geared toward providing better awareness regarding the protection of sensitive information,” he said. “Those associates in the information technology group or associates with privileged access to data have the most advanced training requirements. The security awareness training is online and available to associates through our learning-management system.”
How to speak ‘millennial’
Millennials are now the largest generation in the United States, and they are demanding not only different working environments, but new technologies and solutions to engage them, help them in their work and make their overall job experience better. According to the 2016 Digital Workplace Communications Survey, companies need to rethink digital workplace communications.
Conducted by the Public Relations Society of America employee communications section and APPrise Mobile, the goal was to learn what technology solutions are being used by employers to communicate and engage with their employees as well as which are the most effective.
“No one can question that the workplace is now a digital one—it has been for decades but the technological tools available keep evolving,” said Ally Bunin, chair of the PRSA employee communications section. “As communications professionals, it is incumbent upon us to understand the technological landscape and to ensure that we use the best tools available so that we can be the most successful in our work.”
Most businesses aren't being as effective as possible in communicating. Millennials are forcing businesses to catch up, as these digital natives enter the workplace armed with an arsenal of mobile communication tools and expecting the same from their employers.
“There is definitely a shift taking place from ‘old school’ and legacy communications solutions like email and corporate intranets to newer, more mobile friendly tools,” said Jeff Corbin, CEO and Founder of APPrise Mobile. “Notwithstanding 21st century technologies now available that allow us as communicators to be more efficient in our work, email and intranets are not going away anytime soon—nor should they. As our survey found, one size does not necessarily fit all and depending on a particular use case or situation, different solutions should be considered as they may prove more effective in distributing content and information to the important employee audience.”