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New hotel gives staff training unique work hard, play hard twist

Leonardo Hotels has finished refurbishing its first Edinburgh-based establishment. But before opening its doors, additional emphasis was placed on staff training.
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Gone are the days of employees sticking around for fear of financial ruin. Instead, they look for companies that fit their own values, want to enjoy their working lives – whether through benefits or good colleagues – and deem staff training to be imperative.

There are several reasons why the latter is held with such high regard. There’s the hope it will lead to career progression and the need to keep pace with the business world, thus ensuring future employability. But arguably its biggest importance lies in boosting morale and feelings of worth.

And hoping to keep the information overload experience light, companies are starting to put more unique staff training methods in place.

Fast Company talked with Vincent Phamvan, senior director of innovation at escape room business Asurion. While the aim is to work as a team and bring everyone’s inner brainstorm guru to the fore, people can only escape by troubleshooting and reconfiguring certain devices within 45 minutes.

“You get hands-on practice with popular connected devices with the goal of being able to provide knowledge- and experience-based tech support,” Phamvan explained. “It also instills a sense of patience, empathy and a team mentality, which is equally important to providing tech support to consumers.”

Japanese companies have also taken to sending new hires on a training pilgrimage of sorts. They’ll be dropped off somewhere with no phones and only a map to guide them back to civilisation in the hopes of enhancing calm-thinking and decision-making.

A more recent example can be found with Leonardo Hotels. The chain invested over €7m in refurbishing its first Edinburgh establishment – previously a Premier Inn – and its interior designer, Andreas Neudahm, is of the belief that each hotel should have its own character in conjunction with the location.

It’s not something you can easily embody with a snap of your fingers. And realising that, the hotel sent staff to experience its German chains before opening its doors.

Essentially, they were treated to an all-expenses paid, month-long trip, including an executive box at a Bayern Munich game and day trips into the mountains. But they were also there to work.

Divided into pairs across various locations, staff were given a time-table that would split their time between being a guest and an employee, giving them a better understanding of expectations and what key skills they needed to learn.

Operations manager Lucy Basnett detailed the journey. She spent two weeks at the Leonardo Hotel Munich Olympia Park before moving to the Leonardo Royal Hotel Munich. “It was really interesting to be paired up with our German counterparts for the on-the-job training and to gain some key skills – we even learned some of the language along the way.

“What we all found incredibly insightful though, was the opportunity to really experience the unique atmosphere and discover what it’s like to be a guest at a Leonardo Hotel.

“Each hotel is designed to be individual, like our guests, and to reflect the surrounding area using special local touches and features, so it was important for the team to get a feel of this and find out how we could bring this to the capital.”

There are numerous ways to implement staff training, you don’t even have to leave the office. But one thing’s for sure: bosses are upping their game and using it not only to their advantage on the customer service front, but are wielding it as a retention tool as well.

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Shané Schutte

Shané Schutte is a senior reporter at Real Business, with a particular specialism in employment and business law, human resources, information technology and sales/marketing.

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