Chapter 13: Hotel-company Initiated Training Programs in Hospitality Education
Murray Mackenzie, University of Nevada
As the hospitality industry continues to expand, the growth in tertiary education courses has kept pace with the increased demand for the next generation of entry-level managers. Many individuals seeking formal education in hospitality management will typically enrol in a diploma or bachelor’s degree program to learn the fundamentals of hospitality industry management. Although the hotel industry acknowledges the importance of academic process and accomplishments, there is an expectation that new employees and entry-level managers have a solid and practical understanding of the industry with knowledge and skills developed through industry-based experiences (Pusiran, Janin, Ismail & Dalinting 2020). Although many major hotel companies favour hiring new employees with at least a diploma or bachelor’s degree for those pursuing management positions within their organization, practical knowledge and skills continue to be a prerequisite.
However, there has been a move from hotel companies to initiate their own in house training programs or development of a management training program in conjunction with educational institutes to prepare new employees and management trainees with a more hands-on approach. This chapter will present three examples of hotel initiated training programs, the positive outcomes, and the challenges.
Hotel initiated management training programs have focused on training individuals through experiential learning while incorporating a strong brand identity. These management-training programs develop essential skills that provide new employees and trainees with the necessary aptitude to continue with the hotel company and gain recognized qualifications while employed. These training initiatives have also been hugely beneficial for hotel companies in attracting, retaining entry level managers/employees and earmarking many for succession within a company’s global network of operations. In-house training has also contributed to a positive culture change, with consideration of diversity and inclusion being important to their success. Improvements made to existing training programs that overcome barriers of a very traditional mindset and instigate a rounded program that attracts new employees and college students and retains existing employees to this important industry have further strengthened the relationships between the hospitality industry and educational institutes
Tertiary educational hospitality internship programs have been designed to provide students with an opportunity to relate current theory from the college classroom to practical experience under the direction of professionals through extended work assignments. Hotel initiated training programmes have a similar focus. Previously, hospitality industry training programs were in part, developed as a way of reducing turnover, recruiting new employees, and retaining talented employees. Many of these programs target existing employees and those with management potential. In addition, providing educational and practical learning opportunities in a real-life hospitality-working environment where a substantial element of working in this industry includes attention to customer satisfaction. Through incorporating a hands-on experience, while providing management and operational training, hotel-initiated training programs further enhance managerial and business decision-making skills by developing the trainees’ strategic mindsets. Equipping trainees with foundational skills such as; working with culturally diverse work colleagues and customers, problem-solving, time management, communication, and improving self-confidence are essential for a career in this industry.
The following chapter considers three different approaches to hotel-company-initiated training programs in hospitality education, how major hotel companies provide these programs as a way of influencing employee attraction and retention. These three examples include; 1. Industry Training with Educational Recognition, 2. Student Internships and Industry Training Programs. and 3. Elite Management Program. Each example has individual strengths and opportunities that have been successful, while also overcoming some limitations. These three approaches will discuss internal training programs, provide examples of best practices and initiatives between tertiary institutions and hotel companies.
Industry Training with Educational Recognition
Hotel industry policies, practices, and systems are designed to create and sustain high levels of employee engagement and performance. To prepare new trainees to become valuable employees, the hospitality industry requires a variety of practical work-based skills, knowledge, and experience as well as an educational component. Although, experiential learning is among one of the most important components in any hospitality training program, what has been self-evident has been the highly valued educational acknowledged opportunities available to trainees when their training is also linked directly with an established tertiary provider.
This goal was evident when a global hospitality and entertainment company collaborated with a highly ranked publicly funded university to provide online degree programs available to their trainees and employees. This partnership initiative was developed to provide an online educational program that met with the training and educational requirements of company employees while meeting the necessary educational rigor. Making certain those choosing this initiative had a seamless experience across different curricula based courses (e.g., general education and hospitality), and that the rigor of the courses were maintained to ensure those enrolled successfully complete and gained creditable recognition was paramount.
This task was accomplished through the development of an online undergraduate “Master Course” that met the needs of industry and education. Core courses based on discussion with industry and educational content experts for each course were outlined. The resulting related course syllabi, subject to the educational provider’s curriculum committee’s scrutiny were then completed. After the syllabi were completed, the actual building of course materials and method of delivery was considered, not only face-to-face, but hybrid and fully online as well. To maintain consistency, training sessions accepted best practices and online course templates were provided for those developing the materials. The complete educational course component could consist of up to fourteen modules, each providing the trainees with related topic introductions, course objectives, readings, related course work that encompasses topic related activities, discussion and assignments.
As working in the hospitality industry has a strong customer service element, a big part of the job must include attention to customer satisfaction. Therefore, trainees are expected to not only interact with customers and learn from industry professionals but, also expand their oral and written communication skills, become familiar with organizational structures, objectives, and culture of the hospitality industry while obtaining a meaningful learning experience alongside educational course objectives. The goals were completed through the integration of knowledge gained during the online educational courses, real work experience and hands-on application of the hotel setting. Depending upon hotel occupancy, different food and beverage outlet requirements and scheduled events, such as banquets and weddings, the hotel would respond proactively by allocating trainees and build upon their ability to use and develop skills learned that met expectations between the industry and hospitality educators.
Student Internships and Industry Training Programs
Student internships and training programs have always ranked highly among undergraduate students. Enhancing employability has been identified as one of the benefits of internships for graduating students. These programs are seen as a period of supervised work experience with an appropriate employer in the hospitality industry, to gain valuable knowledge and skills that have been taught in the classroom practicum. Through these industry-focused training programs, students and valued employees have the opportunities to develop analytical and leadership skills along with cross-cultural awareness by interacting with colleagues and guests. This model has become a valuable realistic experience of the professional world, especially for interns as it bridges the gap between the classroom and the real work environment. The supervised internship/work experience period has been able to assist students and employees to learn how to cultivate their communication, tolerance, and interpersonal skills (Chatzigeorgiou & Simeli, 2017). Chen, Shen, & Gosling (2018) go further and suggest that the hospitality industry can assist in training the next generation of managers by working closely with educational institutions to suitably bind theory and practice.
As part of hospitality tertiary education commitment to integrating management theory and industry practice, many embed a mandatory component of industry hours as a requirement for students to complete before graduation. Such programs involve students undertaking up to 1,000 hours of work experience at a verifiable hospitality-related job. In addition, credit-based internship courses also provide students with the opportunity to relate current theory from their college classroom to practical experience under the direction of industry professionals, while gaining essential skills and completing extended course work assignments in a cross-cultural environment. Students are able to choose from different hospitality organizations that offer a variety of internship opportunities, which differ in structure but are equally beneficial. There are several hospitality industry initiated training programs designed to not only provide guests with an experience but also deliver valuable knowledge, experience, and training to new employees and students. Many such training programs have had success in providing an educational platform while expanding the knowledge of trainees and equipping them with the necessary skillset. Through their training, valued employees and students acquire the experience and confidence needed to establish successful careers within the industry.
In the example presented, this international hotel has developed a rotation scheme to ensure the student’s educational needs and the hotel objectives are achieved without compromising the guest experience. By dividing the selected students into four groups of six, a total of 24 students are rotated throughout four different hotel departments over a 24-weeks period. Housekeeping, Concierge, Front Office, and Food and Beverage departments are designated enabling a multi-divisional learning opportunity throughout the hotel by exposing trainees to the fundamentals of hotel operations and management. Another important and sometimes neglected factor has been the need for supervisors and trainers within the hotel to be well-trained and fully aware of the trainees’ requirements themselves. In this case, the education provider has a key role to inform, train, and monitor the trainees’ progression to ensure that stated learning objectives and goals are achieved.
This model has further enhanced the learning experience of students while on internship and enhances already acquired prior knowledge and skills, rather than in most cases, hotel companies utilize student interns to work in any department where staff is required or customer need is greatest. Through well-structured training programs, roles, and educational learning objectives, student expectations are clearly aligned and the intern can take responsibility of their learning and opportunities that arise during their internship. Whereas if there are unclear expectations from the intern’s perspective as roles and training objectives have been unclearly communicated, this leads to a lack of understanding and integration of educational and hotel objects between intern and supervisor. Furthermore, in many cases, interns are usually given lower skilled repetitive tasks rather than challenging roles or responsibilities such as problem-based intellectual projects. This then may have a negative effect on the intern and loss of interest in the internship and future employment in the hotel industry, thus reflecting a possible gap between student intern perceptions and industry expectations. Therefore, well-coordinated structured internships can provide students and trainees with extensive hands-on management experience that incorporates a sound educational and industry experience
Elite Management Program
Work experience is the most important experience in terms of trainee or student exposure to the real-world of the hotel industry. Attracting and retaining future employees at entry-level management has been an issue for some time. The industry requires well-trained, talented, experienced, and capable recruits in these positions to meet with increasing customer demand, their expectations, and the demanding challenges of the hotel environment. In this example, an Elite Management Program was designed between an international hotel and a highly acclaimed hotel management school to give the most outstanding students the opportunity to work closely with a hotel manager for an extended period. Selected students completing this program will have gained high-level management experience, a comprehensive understanding of the hotel industry, and solid experience in their chosen hotel management field necessary to become a future professional hotel manager. Potential elite management students are required to have completed at least 400 hours of work in a hospitality organization before they join the program and be enrolled full-time onto the second year of a Bachelor of Science Degree.
This Elite Management Program is integrated within a top-rated independent international hotel to meet the needs of local, regional, and international demand for high performing future hotel managers. This elite training program is also designed to recruit exceptional students with high academic achievements, enthusiasm, and energy to mirror and learn directly from hotel managers. Through exposure of trainees to the duties and responsibilities of hotel managers and executives, an insight into the various hotel divisions has enabled the trainee to better appreciate the connections between a hotel’s key departments and unique characteristics in preparation for future managerial roles after their graduation.
How this training program differs from others is the combination of short-term externship (job-shadowing) components, internships in daily operations, and management trainee programs. After several intensive interviews with hotel senior managers the selected trainees are required to oversee special projects, understand business decisions, supervise staff, and mentor first-time interns. Additionally, trainees are expected to work alongside hotel executives and attend daily management meetings. The program initially was designed for 48 weeks on a full-time basis. This structure was modified to meet the changing industry needs and educational requirements. However, a customized training program designed for each trainee still acquires operational experience in all the major divisions of the hotel and managerial experience. There is a final presentation on an assigned project, which forms part of the performance evaluation criteria before final completion and graduation.
It is essential that the hotel operates on a commercial basis, demonstrating good business skills in marketing, revenue management, and financial management. However, this model has gone further to develop a better integrated approach to hotel management training and has great success at attracting new elite management trainees and retaining them in full-time employment after completion of the program and graduation. Training potential hotel managers who can adapt to suit future industry requirements through this well-structured educational hands-on elite management program has successfully addressed the long-term implications of hotel company strategies to provide training initiatives that attract and retain new employees and students.
From a hotel operational and academic perspective, employee attraction, commitment, and retention in particular have become increasingly important from a professional operational level. To meet the present and future demands to fill the position as hotel employees and entry-level managers, in particular, both academic institutes and industry have coordinated accredited qualifications, internships, and elite management training. These opportunities of internship, practical training, work-integrated learning, and extensive management experience offered to trainees and students, have balanced the theoretical learning with operations and observations in a real-life setting.
Hotel companies and educational providers should aim to effectively support, facilitate, and supervise trainees and students while they undertake and complete their valuable industry-based experiences. A good industry experience has a positive effect on the retention of student interns after their graduation, whereas a bad experience has a negative effect and will turn graduates and prospective employees away from the industry. The examples in this chapter have demonstrated the importance that experiential learning and hands-on participation, with the backing of academic institutes, have on an employee’s attraction to, retention by, and commitment to the hotel industry.
Chatzigeorgiou, C. & Simeli, I. (2017). Perception of service quality in agrotourism accommodations: Impact on guest loyalty and re-visit intentions. Journal of Tourism, Heritage & Services Marketing, 3(1), 33–41.
Chen, T. L., Shen, C. C., & Gosling, M. (2018). Does employability increase with internship satisfaction? Enhanced employability and internship satisfaction in a hospitality program. Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education, 22, 88–99.
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