How Training Can Meet the Challenges of the Hospitality Industry

Posted by Emma Rose Gallimore on December 23, 2019

The hospitality industry is growing. It’s also feeling the pinch of the record-low unemployment rate and high workforce non-participation rates. To find and keep qualified workers, hospitality industry leaders must embrace training as a solution.

Dara Warn, Chief Operating Officer at Penn Foster, shares some advice for what to look for in a training partner and how to help hospitality employees meet training goals.

At a loss for talent

Accommodation and food service hiring is on the rise. This trend started in 2009 and shows no signs of slowing down, at least, not for very long. In June 2019, the leisure and hospitality industry hired more than 1.14 million people. While the number of job openings has decreased slightly, there are still hundreds of positions going unfilled each month.

That puts a serious strain on both hospitality organizations and their workers. It means the existing workforce has to pick up the slack or risk taking longer to provide poorer service to dissatisfied guests. But unfilled jobs aren’t the worst of it.

The biggest challenge facing the hospitality industry is the turnover rate. The work can be stressful and challenging, requiring unwavering professionalism in the face of sometimes demanding guests. Burnout is a real concern. In 2018, the rate of separation for accommodation and food services workers was 74.9%. That’s higher than any other industry.

Meanwhile, labor is the single biggest expense for hospitality and tourism. According to Lodging Magazine, labor accounts for 40% of total operating costs. A non-trivial portion of that cost goes to recruiting and orienting new employees. To keep their facilities staffed and their guests happy, hospitality organizations need to solve the staffing and retention problem. While several solutions have been presented, only one offers a sustainable result: training for hospitality workers.

Training is the solution

One reason employees leave hospitality jobs is because they don’t see a path to promotion. This is true in any industry and hospitality is no exception. If workers feel stuck in an entry level position with no prospect for growth, they’re more easily discouraged. Training directly addresses that concern by showing how their current job can lead them to a more responsible position.

Employees may also get frustrated when they feel they don’t have the skills or training to meet current demands. By giving them access to flexible training solutions that address the challenges they’re facing today, you make them feel more competent. That leads to better performance and less burnout.

Of course, training isn’t the only strategy available. New technology and support from talent firms can also help fill talent gaps. Yet even when those strategies are well-implemented, training can still improve outcomes.

For many industries facing a talent gap, technology seems like an obvious solution, but in hospitality, technology presents almost as many challenges as it solves. Yes, you can automate some interactions, like hotel check-ins. But that also removes the element that makes people feel truly welcome--human interaction.

Plus, introducing new technology requires you to have employees who know how the technology works, and technicians on hand for when it breaks down. In short, technology can help, but it’s not a stand-alone solution. Introducing technology still requires training.

Some restaurants, hotels and tourism centers have turned to staffing companies to fill their talent gaps. These firms can be a valuable resource, but only if they’re chosen carefully. They should understand your brand and expectations for service. The employees they provide will still need to be integrated into your team. They’ll need to represent your brand and interact with guests appropriately. That too, requires training.

Finding effective training programs

Effective training programs have a few things in common. First, they should be flexible. Working learners already have many demands on their time. A rigid program won’t meet their needs. Second, they should be easily accessible. Online and mobile learning options can help workers make the most of their limited time. Third, they should provide adequate support. Working learners are more likely to succeed if they feel supported by their employer and the learning partner.