As the world recovers from the pandemic's economic impact, hotels and restaurants are looking at different options to get back on track. Hospitality employers and HR managers are being compelled to rethink hiring and staff training. Hiring non-traditional candidates is a potential remedy to the travel and leisure talent crisis.
Due to the high demand for personnel, many restaurants, resorts and hotels are desperate to find, hire and train their new hires. This has forced the hotel sector to get inventive, and switch to online and blended learning as a strategy to train and develop new personnel.
Read this article to find out what non-traditional employees are, understand the skills they need to excel in hospitality and learn how you can get these employees ready to work from day one with the right staff training.
What Are Non-Traditional Employees?
There is no precise definition of a non-traditional employee. A working definition is someone that employers would typically exclude or overlook when looking to fill an open position. Examples of non-traditional employees include teenagers, workers above a certain age, retirees, immigrants, students, ex-convicts, and military veterans. Besides these groups, some people never got their jobs back after the pandemic, while others opted to do something different. These individuals may also be considered non-traditional, alternative or unconventional talent, since they lack the necessary occupational requirements, educational level or work experience to get into hospitality jobs. With the job market flooded with these candidates, your ideal candidate may look much different. Many travel and tourism employers are, therefore, turning to non-traditional candidates to keep their businesses afloat.
Essential Skills for the Hospitality Industry
The hotel industry has evolved over the last few years, largely driven by the pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn. Discernible trends include the rise of remote working, which has converted hotels into makeshift offices, use of digital tools to enhance customer experience, and customers’ demand for personalised services. 
These trends are invariably encouraging employers to equip (traditional and non-traditional) employees with the right mix of skills to meet or surpass guest expectations. Core employability skills your employees require in this day and age include:
- Customer service
- Digital skills
- Communication and people skills
- Conflict resolution
- Business etiquette
- A positive attitude
- Attention to detail
- The ability to work in a fast-paced environment
Given the right staff training, non-traditional candidates who exhibit some or all the above soft skills can become excellent hospitality professionals.
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Staff Training for Non-Traditional Hospitality Employees
Delivering targeted and effective training to non-traditional employees can be more challenging. This is because of time-constraints, and the fact that some of them have no prior hospitality training or experience. Here is how you can go about training unconventional employees to get them up to speed with their hotel industry roles.
1. Conduct a Staff Training Needs Assessment
Before embarking on training, it's important to first identify employees' training needs. A training needs assessment can help you determine the skills level of these employees and identify your entry point. Conducting interviews, surveys, observations and reviewing customer feedback can help you pinpoint their training needs.
Observing industry trends and reviewing your business needs can also inform you of what training non-traditional employees may need from the moment they step into the hotel/restaurant. You can also use sophisticated talent retention software to determine employee training needs. While certain training needs can be unique to some departments, others can be mandatory for all employees, depending on the applicable laws of the operating country. Typical mandatory trainings include:
- Health & safety
- Data protection/GDPR
- Food hygiene and safety
- Infection prevention and control
- Compliance training
2. Determine the Type of Staff Training
The next step is to determine the type of training needed. Consider whether to conduct the training yourself or outsource it to external providers. You can do this by determining how much the training might cost you when done externally. Other factors to consider are the knowledge you have in-house, how long the training should be, and how much space and other resources the training may require. Once you have this information, you can perform a feasibility analysis with the training budget at your disposal. We also suggest benchmarking how competitors go about their staff training, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel.
3. Conduct Actual Training
After determining your staff training and development needs and choosing to train internally or externally, the next step is to conduct the actual training. It's important that you match your training to the learning references of your employees. This will help you achieve the desired learning outcomes and stay efficient. This is where you execute the training. Learning can either be active or passive, so choose accordingly: Active learning involves doing, testing and exploring, while passive learning includes job shadowing, physical classes and seminars.
4. Evaluate the Training Given
When you plan staff training for your non-traditional talent, you should ideally see a narrowed skills gap, higher productivity and improved customer satisfaction. You can measure training success by answering:
- How effective was the training in helping your employees to acquire relevant hospitality knowledge and skills?
- Were the employees able to put into practice what they learned, and has their performance improved?
- Did the training achieve other benefits? (higher ratings, increased bookings, and better reviews)
The answers to the above questions can help you figure whether the training was worth the investment. Ultimately, this helps your hotel to achieve desired business goals by guaranteeing that employees are equipped to perform their roles.
Evaluation can be done immediately after the training to gain employee feedback about the training length, learning outcomes, training content, facilitation and methods. After 3-6 months, we suggest conducting a second round of evaluation to gauge how employee performance, skills and knowledge have improved post-training. Assessing customer feedback and experience scores can also illustrate how well staff training is working for your business.
Methods of Training
There are different staff training methods you can use to train your non-traditional employees, depending on factors such as your hotel size and training budget. For a small hotel with a tight budget, coaching or e-learning can be suitable options. The number of staff you need to train, and their training needs will also determine the training method. Here are different methods you can use to train your employees:
- Orientation/onboarding: This is the time for training new hires to introduce them to the company culture, SOPs, and software. A proper orientation training sets the stage for all other types of training and gives the employees the right nudge as they settle into their roles. Another thing to handout during orientation is the employee handbook: it contains the company's policies, instructions, organisational structure and other relevant company information.
😄→ Wondering how to compile an Employee Handbook for your hotel/restaurant? Get access to our 10-step checklist to help you create a hospitality staff handbook that reflects your business culture, policies and local regulations.
- Shadowing: Shadowing is an essential learning method for non-traditional hospitality employees, as it allows them to learn under a more experienced employee and put their skills into action in a low-pressure environment. For example, you can assign an intern to shadow an experienced chef to learn food hygiene and kitchen safety. The chef can then assign some duties to see how the intern is developing in those skills.
- Coaching: Coaching entails guiding non-traditional employees to perform their assigned roles individually and providing feedback to help them improve. Effective coaching can help non-traditional hospitality employees gain confidence and develop requisite industry skills.
- Formal learning/professional development programs: Diploma courses, short seminars, online courses and certificates, and even degree programs fall into this category. Engaging in courses tailored to your business’ needs can help your hotel employees stay up to date with industry best practices. These courses can be in-person or online, take place individually or in groups, and cater to various learning levels. Group or peer learning e.g., enables multiple employees to learn at once. It can be instructor-led or facilitated digitally, and reviewed by a supervisor or moderator. Online learning tends to be more individual in nature, and involves training employees using videos, activities, tests and games. Employees can access training materials on their smartphone or computers. Online learning is great for training employees spread out across different locations and time zones. Employees can undertake training at a time that suits their schedule and adapt it to their own pace of learning. Also, hotels can tailor online training to suit their emerging business needs.
Want to Get Staff Training Right?
Hosco and Lobster Ink have teamed up to help you train your employees regardless of their educational levels or work experience. The Hosco Learning platform powered by Lobster Ink offers a fully learner-centric user experience. It has more than 200 hospitality training courses covering every core area of hospitality. Sign up today to empower your business with best-in-class hospitality training!
 2022 Top Hospitality Industry Trends, EHL Insights
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