Hotel Training: National Skills Academy for Hospitality Aims to Transform Hotel Training

A more consistent approach to hotel training is needed across the industry, with hoteliers finding it increasingly more difficult to differentiate between the myriad of training products on offer … luckily, the National Skills Academy for Hospitality intends to change all that!

We speak to David McHattie, the Academy’s CEO, and ask what hoteliers can do to foster a more dynamic workforce.

Hotel-industry.co.uk: Why do we need a National Skills Academy for Hospitality?

David McHattie: There are many businesses and individuals that want to improve and gain competitive advantage, but it is not easy to make sense of the plethora of courses, seminars, master-classes and qualifications or to decide who will do the best good job of delivering them.

Operators want access to inspirational solutions that will support them, however they have limited time and exposure to these opportunities – what drops through the post, who they know or what’s local.

Furthermore, the best known solutions are often only available to larger organisations that can afford to do both the research necessary and make the serious investment required to make it possible. We act as the industry’s assurance of content and delivery quality within this ocean of choice, identifying the best training solutions and making them accessible for large and small businesses alike.

From your industry-wide perspective, what shortcomings can you see in the UK’s hospitality industry?

McHattie: Well, the hotel sector here has traditionally been quite a conservative sector, keen to retain certain ways of doing things, and not always displaying the innovation, flexibility and creativity to respond quickly to changing consumer demands.

As you’d imagine then, the sector is very good at process and good at formality – however the evidence from our recent benchmarking study makes it clear that there’s shortfall when it comes to exhibiting warmth and hospitality.

A well-trained team will be more knowledgeable and assured, and this will translate into warm confident customer interaction. If the management and leadership can encourage and reward this, then it will ultimately drive loyalty and sales.

You’ve touched on the “quality of leadership” in the UK hotel industry. Do you feel that there is a “talent squeeze” in certain areas of the industry?

McHattie: In any industry that has enjoyed phenomenal growth over the last 20 years, a shortfall in management skills is inevitable – and perhaps forgivable! However, the managers of today are the guardians, exemplars and mentors of the next generation.

In this meritocratic industry, it’s amazing how talent can fly through the ranks – yet at times excellent technicians and customer entertainers are not supported in becoming excellent managers.

In-house courses alone don’t cut it in this competitive world economy, and I don’t believe there is a talent squeeze. There is a wealth of talent out there – the challenge is unearthing and developing it.

So, what can UK hoteliers do to foster a more dynamic workforce?

McHattie: I believe that the key is to engage and train. Engage people in the vision, giving them a sense of purpose, while also encouraging activities that bring fun into the workplace and help create a sense of community amongst employees.

Will this also improve employee retention?

McHattie: Sure. UK research suggests people leave their jobs not for money but because of poor leadership and lack of development while a recent Gallop poll in the US found that only 23% of employees were engaged with their jobs, a situation mirrored or worse in UK.

UK hoteliers need to train and develop everyone and allow their employees to exhibit their full range of skills and talents. Also, I think leaders should be careful with the use of targets, as over-use can often encourage “short-termism” and actually distract from the overall vision.

The National Skills Academy for Hospitality builds relationships with the UK’s hotel industry – how do you go about that?

McHattie: In a nutshell: one person at a time. We are operators, as are our board members – we understand the industry and the day-to-day pressures. We speak the operators’ language and we exist to help ambitious companies and individuals find the tools that will help fuel growth and competitive advantage.

Our raison d’être is to support industry. We are committed to identifying excellent and inspirational solutions that boost the skills of employers and individuals alike and though we’re in an undeniably difficult economic climate, rather than cutting training and development, take the opportunity for differentiation in the marketplace. Take advantage of the solutions we identify – that’s it really.

And what about the other side of the equation? How do training providers fit into the bigger picture?

McHattie: We consider those we endorse or accredit as our partners – we market the best and want to ensure industry knows which products to use. We endorse or accredit the very best training individuals from within a wide range of providers including Disney, Covey, HIT, Learn Purple and local colleges. However, we don’t provide a block accreditation of an entire training organisation and their courses.

Training providers are an important part of making excellent solutions available to the hotel industry, and we’d urge hotels to seek out courses, trainers or college departments that have been approved by our team, quality committee and board as excellent and worthy to carry our logo. By highlighting the best providers this raises the bar and encourages others to step up, increasing the overall standard of industry training.

Finally, what’s your vision for the future of the UK’s hotel industry?

McHattie: I am a huge advocate of the Service Profit Chain and firmly believe if we fix the experience and development of the people who work within the industry we will not only cut the turnover rates but build our reputation as a credible and worthwhile choice for the most talented.

We want the UK hotel industry to be acknowledged as the world leader. The finest, most memorable experiences delivered by the most engaged, developing and skilled teams.

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