In the hotel industry, investment can mean many things. Financial transactions like the purchase of a property or a brand-mandated PIP are typically top-of-mind, but in 2019, many companies are looking beyond physical hotels and pouring investment dollars into their human capital. This is no surprise, as many in the industry cite team member acquisition and retention as pain points, and a well-trained and enthusiastic staff is essential to a hotel’s success.
Benchmark, a global hospitality company, has long been investing in its team members, training employees not just on how to perform their jobs, but also showing them avenues for growth. Calvin Banks, director of training and development for Benchmark, says that businesses cannot grow until their team members are ready to grow, and investing time in helping employees realize accomplishments leads to success. “All organizations want to grow,” he says. “Team member enrichment has to be aligned with the other organizational goals for growth to occur.”
Initial training encompassing specific, position-related skillsets is widely offered in the hotel industry, but Benchmark has a more structured approach aimed at boosting career growth. First, the company has invested heavily in Benchmark University, the company’s online learning portal. Benchmark University offers not just basic position training, but also access to courses related to industry compliance and developmental opportunities. “The University offers 8,500 courses and learning modules, allowing new team members to access learnings on-demand and giving established employees a place to learn more about their particular role,” Banks describes.
If online courses aren’t someone’s preferred method of learning, Benchmark also offers two- day certification courses as a form of career enrichment.
In Q1 of this year, Benchmark also launched Career Conversations, a mentorship program that moves away from traditional learning processes and focuses on achieving career aspirations. Career Conversations are customized according to an individual employee’s needs, and Banks notes that Benchmark works hard to match mentors and mentees. “As we identify high- potential individuals, we also identify who would be a good mentor for each person. That ensures that both parties get the most out of this program.”
Banks adds that customization is indispensable when investing in employees. “We take a customized approach when it comes to developing people because it is integral that we understand what the individual needs to grow in the areas necessary for their continuing success. We match people with their core competencies, see where the gaps are, and provide learnings specific to them and their situations.”
There are challenges, though, to ongoing education programs. Banks says, “Time is the biggest challenge we have seen, and that’s twofold. First, we’re a functioning business and we need to be able to take care of our guests and keep our properties running smoothly. Then employees also have personal lives outside of work, and they don’t necessarily want to spend all of their time away from work thinking about it.” Banks does mention, though, that the flexibility of Benchmark University allows employees to supplement their on-the-job learnings whenever is most convenient for them, which keeps up engagement and lowers frustration levels.
“Looking at the individual and putting something together that works for that person—not looking at it from a cookie-cutter standpoint—is the best way to do it.”
Beyond time constraints, motivation can also be a challenge. Keeping team members engaged in training and career growth needs to come from the top down. “Many of these initiatives come straight from our C-Suite,” Banks says. “It could be our chief people officer, CEO, COO, or another executive. It’s a core part of our company’s strategic growth plan, which in turn gives those of us who are creating the content and developing the programs the comfort that comes from knowing we have backup, we have the support of the top of the organization.”
Banks offers some advice for companies looking to further invest in its employees. “Many organizations have management and training programs where people go through a specific course,” he says. “But when we’re talking about growing individuals, you have to be able to curate a program just for a particular person. They might need a two-day course. Or a mentor. Or even some additional responsibilities. Or a combination. Looking at the individual and putting something together that works for that person—not looking at it from a cookie-cutter standpoint—is the best way to do it.”
Investing in human capital is vital to the success of a hospitality company or independent hotel. Banks adds, “With the resources that we have available for our team members, we can help them understand that their careers are absolutely, positively, in their hands. We are going to provide them with the resources so they can lift themselves and do whatever it is they want to do, whether it’s with Benchmark or in life.”