Tag Archives: hospitality training

Barriers to Development

Barriers to Development

Last week’s blog focused on the importance of team development, and I promised to continue the theme this week by sharing with you the second topic I covered on last week’s Hoteliers’ Forum, which was barriers to development.

Having made a commitment to invest in your team’s development it can be frustrating when it doesn’t pan out the way you’d hoped. So let’s explore some of the barriers to development; the things that can lead to wasted time and effort, or worse, leaving your team members feeling undervalued.

Here are just 7 barriers to development I see, but this list is by no means exhaustive.

1. Too busy

If you’ve only recently reopened or your team members have only just returned to the workplace you’re probably thinking this isn’t a priority right now. Development, either for your team or your own personal development is one of those things that’s so easy to push down the priority list. This is probably the biggest barrier to development; if nothing happens today towards it, it’s not the end of the world, But, when it gets put off time and again it could leave you in limbo.

One of the reasons this happens is because we see it as a big task. But it doesn’t have to be. The majority of development takes place on the job, so providing you have a plan there will be opportunities nearly every day. But you won’t spot these opportunities unless you know what you’re looking for!

Schedule time in your calendar right now to sit down with each of your team to discuss their development. Even if this doesn’t take place until July or August, if they know there is a date in the diary it demonstrates your commitment to their development and gives them time to think about what they want and need.

2. No goals/direction

Development activities can be haphazard and wasteful if you don’t have clear expectations and a defined goal. That goal might be small, but always ask yourself (and the employee) what’s the outcome either of you are looking for as a result of that development activity.

If you both know the outcome it’s so much easier to determine what’s needed and to measure the result.

Set some mini goals now, so everyone has something to work towards, however small, until such time as you can sit down for a more in depth discussion with each of your team to discuss their development.

3. Don’t see the relevance

Maybe you have decided something would be good for someone’s development, but unless you involve them in this decision they may not see the relevance, particularly if it doesn’t fit in with their idea of what they need.

If people fail to see the relevance, you won’t get any buy in or commitment to any of the development activities you plan for them. You won’t always need to spell it out for them, particularly if they already have a personal development plan, but sometimes you’ll need to help people see how any development activities can make their job easier, more enjoyable, support colleagues, get them one step nearer to their dream job or promotion, anything that has a positive outcome for them.

4. Expecting instant results

Sometimes you, the team member or colleagues have high expectations. Be realistic with everyone concerned as to how long it might take for someone to get to a point where they are fully competent and feel confident. It takes time to absorb new learning and takes practise, with the opportunity to ask questions and experiment.

The sooner people can put things into practice the easier the transition to the workplace.

Schedule time for, and help people spot the opportunities to practise in a safe environment, where it won’t matter if they make a mistake. Don’t expect perfection and allow more time.

5. Don’t feel trusted

When people come to put new learning into practice, they need to have the authority and freedom to do this. Nobody wants their boss or another colleague breathing down their neck!

For example, if you put someone to work alongside another team member, but that team member won’t allow that person to do anything for fear they will not do it to standard, then they will never get to learn.

If people don’t feel trusted by others they will then start to doubt their own ability. And if they are fearful of making a mistake they will be unwilling to take that risk.

6. Lack of resources

Not being able to implement learning through lack of opportunity is one thing, But not having the right resources, such as the tools for the job, or the authority can be very frustrating for all parties concerned.

The most important resource is time. Time to implement their new skill or knowledge whilst it is still fresh in their mind.

7. Little or poor support

This is probably the second biggest barrier to development. When line managers don’t have the skills to give effective feedback or to coach others this reduces the opportunity to learn on job.

If not given the right encouragement and on-going support, progress will be slow, or even take a backwards step. People need to recognise what works. And if not working, to analyse why, and importantly, how to correct.

Anyone in a position where they need to help and support others’ development should have, at the very least, basic coaching skills.


If you only do one thing to avoid these barriers to development: Spot when they are there!

All of these barriers are avoidable once you recognise them. Look back over the past 2 weeks and ask yourself – have any of these barriers impacted your team’s development or led to missed potential development opportunities?

Related video, Conscious incompetence


Make training memorable

Yesterday I talked about planning your training to ensure you deliver something that is engaging for your team. Today we focus on the format, and what to consider to ensure they stay awake the whole session!

Any training needs a format to make it easy to follow. We are all familiar with the structure of tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you’ve just told them. And it does work. Sign posting at the start, giving the detail, and then summarising at the end to help to reinforce the message. Bear in mind that people remember most what they see or hear first and last, so give a powerful opening, and end with what you want people to take away.

If training on a complex subject it’s best to start with the familiar and build up to the more complex ideas. You don’t want to lose people in the first 5 minutes!

Add variety. Do something different to what people are used to to make it interesting or memorable. Conduct the training outside, bring in some actors (great for interpersonal skills training), use music, alter the room or room layout, bring in guest speakers, conduct team exercises that make it competitive (but in a fun way, with fun prizes), use unusual props.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how to get the team involved to get buy-in on your training and make sure your investment achieves the results you want.

How to get hospitality staff engaged in training

There’s nothing more frustrating for a trainer to see a sea of glum faces in front of them, and know that the minute the delegates walk out of the meeting room it will be back to business as normal, acting on nothing they’ve heard in the training. And when staff training is so important to ensure consistency and a great guest experience how can you get hospitality staff engaged in training?

Well, as I heard one person say recently “make the training engaging”. It seems the obvious answer doesn’t it, but just how do we do this?


Before the training begins plan ahead. Check that the training is in the right format for the objectives you need to achieve (you do know what you want to achieve, don’t you?) It is useful to think of your objectives in actionable terms. “To understand the importance of the new health and safety policy” means nothing. What do you want people to do differently as a result of the training?

Ensure that only those who need the training and will have an opportunity to put it into practice are invited to the session; who wants to sit through training that is a repeat of what they have already done, irrelevant to their job, or insults their intelligence as they are already doing what the training is intended to achieve?

Choose your trainer wisely. Sometimes the person most qualified on a topic is not necessarily the best person to communicate it. I’m sure we can all remember the boffin lecturers at college, who quite frankly bore you to death with the detail and the delivery. Can you appoint a champion for the topic within the team who is able to distil the key messages and communicate these?

Keep in mind delegates’ schedules and personal circumstances when scheduling the training. And give plenty of warning. I conducted some training recently for a small hotel where one of the delegates had already done a 9 hour shift and then could hardly keep his eyes open. Another part timer – a student – was on teaching practice and had to come in straight from school, and then go home and do marking. And on another occasion recently one of my delegates had made arrangements to meet friends to celebrate her birthday, but was told the day before about the training and that if she did not attend she’d lose her part time job! Not exactly the best way to engage staff in training.

Ensure why they know they are attending. This means relating it to a personal benefit; will it make their job easier, quicker, safer or more interesting? Will it put them in a better position to progress to a new role they aspire to? Will it give them more confidence and independence in their role? You don’t need to ignore the business benefits, but help them identify what’s in it for them too, so at least they turn up to the training with a bit of enthusiasm.

In tomorrow’s blog I’ll cover how the format affects the outcome.

Making the most of your seasonal staff

seasonal staff

This week the Christmas party season gets well under way.  Even if you are not as busy as in previous years the chances are you’ll be taking on some extra staff.  But are they an asset or a liability?  If all you do is give them an order pad and tell them to get on with it, they could be doing more harm than good to your Christmas profits.

Teamwork is key. Introduce new staff to the whole team, defining everyone’s areas of responsibility to ensure no gaps and no duplication of effort.  Avoid the frictions that occur when someone hasn’t pulled their weight or others are seen to ‘interfere’ with your way of doing things.

Everyone needs to know what’s expected of them from day one. Clarify basic standards of dress, staff behaviour, time keeping, break allowance, staff meals, security, food safety, health and safety.  Don’t leave them floundering or too scared to ask for help. Establish a clear line of reporting, and who to go to for help and guidance when needed – ensuring, of course, that this person will be patient and supportive when asked.

First impressions count. Specify your establishment’s standards for welcoming and greeting customers, including the booking procedures if this is part of their role.

What is their role in up-selling, and what are the products you want them to promote, including any future events?  If your core team are incentivised, make sure you include seasonal staff in the scheme. People can’t sell something they don’t know exists. Ensure a thorough product knowledge – what does your establishment offer – times of service, complementary products, etc.  Let your staff taste the dishes, explain what accompanies each dish and what it should look like, what prices include and what’s extra (especially with fixed menus or party packages).

Run through the payment procedures, including any security procedures or checks needed. Establish protocol in dealing with difficult situations, customer complaints, and awkward customers.  Define the line between handling themselves and when to seek intervention from a manager or more experienced staff member.

Avoid being let down at the last minute – Provide out of hours contact numbers and establish procedures for sickness reporting.

Maintain your reputation as a good employer. Treat seasonal staff well, and they will be willing to come back next time you need an extra hand. Give them something to look forward to and keep them interested for the whole season.  Involve them in any after work social activities and maybe some incentive awarded at the end of the season.

Are you letting hotel bookings slip through your fingers?

The other day I was stood in the reception of the top Glasgow hotel. While I waited to check in the sole receptionist took a phone call.

What I heard was

I’m sorry our wedding coordinator isn’t here at the moment. Can you call back in the morning?

Mmm, now I wonder if I would bother to phone back. The chances are that this potential wedding booking has been lost forever.

But how many other hotels are guilty of similar scenarios, of letting potential room, conference or wedding bookings slip through their fingers?

Now I’m not suggesting that the meetings or wedding coordinators need to be on hand 24/7, but at the very least ensure that there are some procedures in place for anyone to take an enquiry and give the potential customer confidence in the hotel’s ability to handle the potential booking.

Ensure that all of your staff who are customer facing (not just reception) fully understand the facilities on offer. It should be part of their induction to see the facilities, the layouts and get a general understanding of the types of events you’re able to host at the hotel. Even if someone is new the very minimum is to have a handy fact sheet to hand for any enquiries to include this top ten:

  1. Number of meeting/function rooms
  2. Optional layouts for each room
  3. Capacity of each room for each layout
  4. Equipment available
  5. Basic charges and what these rates include
  6. Breakout areas
  7. Catering options
  8. Wedding licence?
  9. Anywhere for indoor photos?
  10. Any other frequently asked questions about your venue

Don’t just assume that because you have a list that everyone treats enquiries in the same way. Ask a friend or colleague to act as a mystery shopper and find out how your staff deal with these enquiries.

And as an absolute last resort, even if you can’t manage this, make sure that your front of house team have a system in place to capture details of the prospective customer and are able to make a commitment to them that their enquiry will be followed up, by whom and by when.

And of course that you deliver on this promise and follow up promptly….


Hear it from the experts. Join me on my regular FREE interviews when I talk to hospitality experts and specialists and ask them to share their insights, strategies and secrets that can help to give your hotel a competitive edge.  Find out more and register here.

D is for Development

In the A-Z of hospitality leadership D is for Development


One question to ask yourself is “Could I honestly say I am tapping into 100% of the potential of my team?” If the answer to this is no, what do you need to be doing to tap into that potential?


We need to be able to develop people to be the best that they can. This gets buy in, it helps contribute to the business, and boosts their confidence, which means they are going to do a better job ultimately. The industry has loads of examples of people who have moved up through the ranks. So give people that opportunity. When you see somebody’s strengths in a particular area, think about how you can tap into that, how you can develop them.


Not everyone will want to ever have any more responsibility, or to be doing anything different from what they are doing now, but development is not just about promotion. Even for the people who are very content with the job that they are doing, is there an opportunity to develop their role just to make it that little bit more interesting for them. If they have been doing the same job for three or four years, and doing it in the same way all of that time, don’t you think they might welcome just a little bit of change in the way that they do it or what they do. Plus it give you some flexibility within the team and promotes teamwork if people understand each other responsibilities.


So identify your objective. Is it because you want to give that person an opportunity to develop their skills to move on? And, maybe, ultimately leave your hotel to work somewhere else, because they outgrow the job. Believe me, if they think they are better than the job, they will move in any case. So, at least this way they can move on knowing that you did everything to help their career and help their development. And that’s going to be a great advertisement when bringing in people to replace them; or help bring on people in more junior positions to replace that person.


Identify your objectives for that person’s development in terms of how it brings them on to do a better job where you are. What is it that you would like them to do that little bit better? Or what role might be the next logical step for them? What role might suit them ultimately? Have clear objectives and identify how it is going to contribute to the business or develop that individual.


Consider the range of options there are for developing that person, and what might suit both the topic and the individual’s learning styles. Development is not just putting someone on a training course. It could be assigning a mentor, working in other departments, shadowing others, setting them practical assignments e.g. setting up a promotion, working on a particular sales drive, reviewing rosters, improving standards within the business. Ensure they can see how it contributes to the bigger picture, and it does not get in the way of them achieving their core responsibilities and KPIs.

Involving people in day to day decision making can also help stretch them. When they ask for guidance and decisions rather than giving them all the answers, bounce it back to them and ask for their views. Involve them in decisions by asking for their views; to analyse the pros and cons of different options, and put forward their recommendations.


Development activity needs to be structured in such a way it allows the employee to learn rather than being thrown in at the deep end. If they are thrown in at the deep end they are probably not going to learn anything; in fact the opposite; it could shatter any confidence they had in the first place.


So take time to sit down with each of your team and plan their development to build on their strengths and stretch them. Identify their long-term aspirations, where do they think they can be contributing more, what they enjoy, what else they’d like to get involved with, how they would approach things differently. People will generally put more effort into the things they enjoy, and consequently make a better job. And generally the better people are at things, the more they enjoy them.


Failure to develop your team is such a waste, and the chances are that if you ignore their full potential they will go and utilise it somewhere else.

Do your hotel staff know the score? ~ Part 1

There’s nothing more frustrating, and demotivating for staff than lack of communication and being kept in the dark. Unless people know what’s expected of them and what’s going on you’ll end up with an unhappy team, and ultimately an impact on performance levels and increased staff turnover.

Hopefully the communication starts with a thorough induction, which includes not only an outline of their job and what’s expected of them, but how their contribution fits into the bigger picture, the values and culture of the business and an insight into what happens in other parts of the business.

But recognise that a one-off training session will never be enough.

Your staff need to be kept up-to-date all the time.  They need to know what is going on in the business, and how this will affect them and they need feedback on how they are doing.  Here are four ways to keep your staff up to date and let them know their contribution is important and valued.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the importance of the daily briefing.

Good communication is key to effective leadership, and the skills needed will be covered in detail in my forthcoming online leadership coaching programme

Can you train leadership?

As I work on my new on line leadership coaching programme for hoteliers I was asked today if you can train leadership.  Good question; and brings us back to one of those perennial questions – are leaders born or made?

According to extensive long term research carried out by CHPD (for whom I work as an external leadership consultant) a proportion of leadership performance is influenced by personality, values, beliefs and attitudes, which are either inherent or formed relatively early in life. A second component is the person’s skills and experience, which although can’t change over night, can be developed over time. But by far the biggest proportion of leadership performance is determined by our behaviours, which are the easiest component to change.

So can you train leadership? Yes, I believe you can. Providing you identify the behaviours needed and then work on developing those behaviours that will give the biggest impact on a person’s performance.

These might not be where the person is weakest. Rather than plugging a gap to develop a weak spot (unless it is having a detrimental impact) and end up with mediocre performance, it may be better to capitalise on a person’s strengths and develop those instead. (I think back to my recent interview with Peter Thomson – “people will never consistently do who they aren’t”.) Then set up teams where individuals complement one another. Think of a football team; if someone showed an aptitude to do well in goal, you would be more likely to develop this skill rather than try to develop this person in every other aspect of playing football; what you are more likely to do is develop their goal keeping skills.

One of the first things to do in changing someone’s behaviours is making them aware – being aware of what they are doing, and the impact this has (see article on feedback), then help them identify how to build on positive behaviours and change negative behaviours.

Foundations in Leadership is a new approach to hospitality leadership development. Do you ever feel you aren’t getting everything you want from your team?  Instead would you love to tap into their true potential so you can focus on the bigger picture? Find out more about the programme here and take advantage of the fast action bonuses.

How long is the queue at your hotel reception?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about first and last impressions. Now that so much of the booking and travel plans are made on line the reception is often going to be the first and last direct contact your guests will have with a real person.

Any hotel guest will know that the busy times on reception are early evening for check in, and after breakfast for check out. And what impression do guests get left with? The queue, and waiting to get your room key; or even worse, waiting to part with your money. I have yet to work out why this happens in so many of the hotels I visit.

What can hotels do to reduce this?


Firstly in both instances, the rush should not come as a surprise! So why are there never more staff on to deal with these peak times. I frequently see more people behind the front desk late morning when there is little guest facing activity, than there is during these busy periods. Receptionists’ hours should be based on accommodating these times, and if that means more staff then, and fewer at other times, so be it.

This does not mean that they can only work on reception; there are plenty of opportunities to combine roles so people work on reception for an hour before moving on to other areas of the hotel. Administration, staff meetings, accounts, or whatever else is happening back of house should come second to dealing with a guest who is ready to check in or out.

And then let the reception staff focus on checking in and checking out, and have others on hand to deal with non check in/out matters – answering the phone, giving guests directions, dealing with keys that don’t work, welcoming meeting and conference hosts and delegates.


99% of guests will already have made a reservation. So is there a system in place to ensure all the necessary paperwork is ready for their arrival? All that should be needed is a signature on the form and confirming payment details. Maybe guests would be more receptive to upsells if everything else is in order.

The same goes for check out. A guest’s bill should be ready at the point they arrival at reception. I know that express checkout has gone some way to alleviate some of the pressure during the morning rush. The problem with express checkout is that in most cases the guest has to wait for the receipt to be mailed on to them. This is no good if they need the receipt to claim their expenses, and the receipt is lying at home, whilst they are still away travelling, or the receipt takes 3 -4 days to reach them, and they have deadlines for expenses claims.

Your systems should also include preparing for the rush – is the printer well stocked with paper, someone else answering the phone, complicated invoices checked and dealt with by the person who knows the detail, for example.


However good your systems they won’t work unless everyone is trained in how to use them, and everyone works as a team. This requires training, not only in the systems, but what to do when things go wrong – when the printer jams, when there is a query over the bill, when their credit card won’t go through. The more smoothly and confidently these can be dealt with the better for everyone.

Reception staff need daily briefings so they know what’s happening in the hotel that evening or that day. This gives a smoother operation, without having to waste time asking others, and if they know what’s happening, there may be a greater opportunity for upselling too.

Remember the check in and check out will leave a lasting impression for your guests. Make sure it is a good one.

Caroline Cooper

Staffing and training is one of the topics covered on the forthcoming Hoteliers Leadership Coachig Programme commencing in September. Register here for more information or to attend the launch tele seminar

Don’t waste your recruitment effort & costs by poor induction

How soon after joining do your hotel staff have to face guests? The first few weeks in any job will determine whether a person will want to stay with you.

People like (and need) to know what’s expected of them. So when people start with you a thorough induction is absolutely key, and a good induction will help make effective & loyal staff.

So within that induction, what are the types of things they need to know?

They certainly do need to know all of the standards around their job. But there are other things as well. Yes, they need to know what their job is, yes, they need to know about their holiday entitlement, about their pay, where they can leave their belongings, health, safety and hygiene procedures; all of those things are very important. But look a little bit beyond that.

Think about your own values and philosophy. What is the type of experience you want your guest to have when they stay with you? And communicate that to your staff.

A part of the induction might be “This is the way we do things around here….”. And sometimes that might come better from a fellow employee, a sort of buddy, rather than necessarily always coming from you. However if you are going to do that, make sure that the person they are buddied up with knows the standards, knows the expectations, and knows what you want from them.

Where does their job fit into the bigger picture? Where does their role fit in with everybody else’s? What does everybody else do? What are all the other services and facilities that you provide? Staff can’t upsell if they don’t know what you offer.

So if, for example, they are on reception they need to know what a bedroom looks like, what is the distinction between a superior room and a standard room. They need to know about the menu offer. Equally if they are in the kitchen let them know what goes on front of house as well. Give them an opportunity to go into the restaurant, to see a room, and if you have other leisure facilities, let all your staff get a feel for them and just experience them. Okay, they are not all going to be selling these things all of the time, but they need to have an idea of the bigger picture and what your guests will be experiencing.

Good induction will help make effective & loyal staff.

So for the next person you take on, don’t waste your recruitment effort & costs by poor induction.  Increase the likelihood that they will want to stay, and become an effective and loyal employee, by giving them a thorough induction.

Foundations in Leadership is a new approach to hospitality leadership development. Do you ever feel you aren’t getting everything you want from your team?  Instead would you love to tap into their true potential so you can focus on the bigger picture? Find out more about the programme here and take advantage of the fast action bonuses.