Training turns out to be a big challenge for companies

It’s the first orientation day at Conrad New York Downtown, a five-star Hilton hotel in Lower Manhattan. All of the “Welcome to Your New Job” features are here: coffee and donuts on the back, PowerPoint presentation on the front.

The group is a mix of new and old employees. Up to 75% of Hilton employees have been put on leave during the pandemic. Since the start of the year, the company has hired 12,000 workers, mainly in catering and housekeeping, and is looking for more.

Everyone goes through a two-week training like this – even those returning from leave – because hospitality has changed.

“How is the traffic? A little stressful? Marlene Poynder, general manager of the hotel, asked the group. “Well, when you consider now that 70% of our guests arrive in their cars, we have to give them some leeway and sympathize with them. “

The United States faces record-breaking job opportunities, with food and hospitality in the lead. But the fight isn’t over once companies hire people. This is followed by training a large number of new employees, quickly and in one go.

And the pressure is strong in the service sector. When you bundle high customer expectations, ever-changing COVID cleaning protocols, and many new hires, service will inevitably suffer.

“Things are a little slower because everyone is trying to get back on track,” Poynder said. “I think in the future the public will be less forgiving.”

That’s why Hilton spends so much time on training. And of course, time is money. A survey by Training magazine says it costs an average company $ 1,200 to train each worker.

And that doesn’t even include the institutional knowledge that an employer loses when an employee leaves, which happens more often in this tight labor market.

“It’s often not documented, but it’s in the minds, and sometimes in the hands, of people who have worked in this company for decades,” said Dorothy Leonard, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School.

An example of this, say, is a bartender who knows a repeat customer so well that he gulps down his drink of choice before even ordering.

“This kind of knowledge, much of which is tacit, it’s unwritten, it’s not documented, is difficult to capture and transfer to new hires,” Leonard said.

For experienced employees, the job can become intuitive – so intuitive that they often aren’t able to explain how or why they do something the way they do. That’s why, said Leonard, new workers need to work hand in hand with experienced employees.

It’s tough now in industries where companies are practically building their workforce from scratch. Chipotle tackles the knowledge shortage problem with what he calls Certified Training Restaurants.

“That means everyone at this restaurant is trained to be able to, you know, train other people,” said Jarolin Maldonado, who oversees the management of seven Chipotle restaurants in New York City.

Each new hire is matched with a certified training employee. Chipotle hires 20,000 workers.

“You know, it’s a little overwhelming, but this is where we can go back and fall back on the tools that we have here,” she said, like videos on making guacamole.

And how-to videos and workshops continue for much of an employee’s tenure. Back at the Conrad Hotel, Poynder said the pandemic had made workers more concerned about job growth.

“They were so worried that their careers would end and they wereted 18 months,” she said.

Hilton recently launched a three-month training program that teaches employees business skills such as marketing and revenue management. Because in a tight labor market, companies cannot afford to have all that hard-earned institutional knowledge taken away by someone else.

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