Why training in hospitality and tourism has never mattered more

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Written by Jane Rennie on 5 July 2021 in Opinion
Opinion

Jane Rennie tells TJ about an important resilience training programme for hospitality staff.

Life for those working in the tourism and hospitality industry has changed so much from everything known prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The landscape within the industry has changed irrevocably, and this ‘new world’ looks entirely different.

The road to recovery is littered with challenges, not least the industry’s recruitment crisis, with more jobs advertised than there are experienced people to fill the positions.

However, the resilience of the workforce, despite everything they have been through, is to be applauded. The industry is determined, innovative and forward thinking. It has meant that despite a hiatus of over a year for many businesses, the industry is ready for the fight to survive.

In Scotland, an industry-wide training incentive was launched at the beginning of 2021 to support employees who had been most severely affected by the crisis – those on furlough, reduced hours or even those who had been made redundant.

The aim was to get them mentally fit and ready to return to the workplace. Delegates included those at grass roots level, right through to senior leaders and company directors, all of whom have been impacted by the restrictions imposed during the periods of lockdown. 

There is a clear need for managers and leaders to create positive working environments. 

The remit for this training initiative was to develop an inspirational programme with tangible, transformational outcomes to give tourism and hospitality industry employees the skills and mental resilience to hit the ground running and positively support the recovery. Modules were created that addressed the specific mindset, skillset, tools, and techniques that would best support outcomes.

A ten-week learning journey was created for three levels of learner – supervisory, management and leadership - to include six core modules and four level-specific modules.

Content included inspiring trust, resilience, and wellbeing, clarifying purpose, engagement, unconscious bias, a culture of feedback, decision-making and readiness for change.

While the need to focus on topics such as unconscious bias and resilience has become increasingly apparent over the past decade, never has it been so critical that these issues are addressed within the industry, so employees are provided with the tools needed to navigate the COVID-19 global pandemic effectively and successfully.

Quieter periods during the most recent lockdown have been used to fine-tune these skills and have enabled employees to hit the ground running in the early stages of reopening.

Resilience, particularly emotional resilience, after a time of such turbulence is hugely important. It was a topic that was given significant focus within the programme, as it is crucial that managers and leaders aim to cultivate this within their employees.

 

The programme was delivered entirely online using a learning platform which allowed 2,000 industry leaders, managers, and supervisors, in Cohorts of 25, to participate. The huge demand for places on the programme demonstrated that there was, and continues to be, a burning desire for continuous professional development from those within the industry.

The learning community that developed because of the interactive online platform was a surprising additional outcome and benefit. The programme had already racked up some notable firsts – it was the biggest mobilisation of online learning of this type, ever seen in Scotland. It was also the first time that industry peers had come together in such an initiative, and the relationships and collaboration continue to this day. 

Fundamentally, investment in people is key. With the industry now open and a recruitment drive in full flow, the offer of a good salary alone does not cut the mustard. 

Offering quality learning and development – not just on-the-job, technical training - is even more important to those seeking new positions. With budgets now an even bigger concern for businesses, the question of allocation is at the front of every leader’s mind.

There is no doubt that developing a programme that invests in improving interpersonal skills and team engagement is a key success criterion. By structuring the modules in a way that focused the mind and created a safe, confidential, and empathic environment, it took the learning to a new level. 

The importance of working with peers across the industry, and learning from them, was essentially what made the programme such a success. It allowed people to realise they are not alone in their challenges, and others in their industry shared similar views, concerns, and experiences. 

As with most training courses, initially there are individuals who do not see the value of participating, let alone engaging in training. It is considered to be something that must be done because their boss has told them so.

Many delegates applied to the programme as a way of dealing with lockdown, expecting that they may get something useful out of it, but it was mainly to appear eager and active to senior managers.

Over the ten weeks the trainers worked hard to bring the content to life, engaging delegates and delivering an invaluable learning experience, even to those that initially resisted. By the end of the programme, the feedback was overwhelming.

A transformational experience that allowed delegates to immediately implement the new tools and face, with confidence, the brave new world that confronts them.

To many in the industry, there has always been a strong belief that there is no substitute for hands-on experience. Why go on a course when you can just do a shift or service? Over the ten weeks, the programme has made significant progress in removing that psychological barrier. So much so that now workplaces are based upon the pillars of communication, respect, and trust.

As the need for customers and guests through doors has never been greater, there is a clear need for managers and leaders to create positive working environments. There is a strong link between an upbeat working environment, happy staff, and loyal customers and increased footfall.

At the end of the day, the happiness, and therefore resilience, of employees could mean the difference between a successful, thriving business and one that struggles to make ends meet.

 

About the author

Jane Rennie is founder and CEO of the Extraordinary Training Company.

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