On the 14th of May, 2020, Hosco hosted its very first Hospitality Talks: How Have Learning & Development (L&D) Changed? The goal was to understand how the global health crisis, caused by COVID-19, has impacted and transformed L&D, and to discuss its importance. We sat down with two experts from the hospitality industry, John Daly, Director of Quality Assurance at Swiss Education Group (SEG), and Eugenio Pirri, Chief People & Culture Officer & Global Diversity Champion at the Dorchester Collection. 

This article summarises what they shared during this insightful session. But, before we jump into their expert conclusions, you might be wondering what learning and development is, and why it is critical for your organization. Let's cover that first.


What Is Learning and Development?

“Learning and development (L&D), as a subset of HR, aims to improve group and individual performance by increasing and honing skills and knowledge. Learning and development, often called training and development, forms part of an organisation’s talent management strategy and is designed to align group and individual goals and performance with the organisation’s overall vision and goals.” (HRZone)

Why Is L&D Essential for an Organisation?

1. To increase employee engagement

In a survey we ran at Hosco in May 2018 among hospitality professionals, 94% of respondents expressed their interest in continued learning throughout their careers. Furthermore, 65% of hospitality professionals and students rank learning and development (L&D) programs as the most attractive company incentive, followed by compensation, work environment, and culture. 

More than half of the survey respondents were millennials, a generation that is hard to keep interested, engaged, and motivated, which is not because they have commitment issues. They are just not afraid of change. They are open to it and continuously seeking new challenges. In fact, according to Millennial Magazine, 90% of millennials recognize entrepreneurship as a mentality. It might result from graduating in the middle of the economic crisis, lacking employment opportunities, which has taught them to be creative when overcoming setbacks and failures. For them, L&D comes first when considering a new position as it can help them move forward in their career, climb the leadership ladder faster, or move toward other roles or departments for new experiences. An L&D program that allows them to acquire new skills and challenge their knowledge is crucial to keep this generation engaged. Remember that by 2025, millenials will have become 75% of the global workforce (Deloitte, 2014.)

2. To build a leadership pipeline

One of the vital components of an organization’s long-term health and business success is the cultivation of its future leaders. By developing a training and educational program that helps your star-employees acquire management skills, you will start developing highly capable leaders ready to do the job. 

Remember that education by itself is not enough to prepare confident leaders. It’s paramount that you pair training with real-life exposure to different tasks, departments, and roles.  A well-rounded General Manager must know the inside-out of its hotel and be aware of the team's challenges to offer appropriate solutions and a more significant contribution to their success. As Gallup's Leadership Development Framework shows, when an individual's natural talents are reinforced (multiplied) by key experiences and focused development, it will strengthen your leadership team and future pipeline.  Gallup's Leadership Development Framework

(Gallup's Leadership Development Framework)

3. To remain competitive

Over the past decade, business competition across all industries has increased exponentially. According to the magazine Hotel Management, there were 784 hotels with 124,674 rooms under construction in 2019 in Europe alone. An outstanding location, impeccable facilities, and attractive prices are not enough to secure reservations and guests' loyalty. In the hospitality industry, which is based on human contact and customer experience, investing in the reskilling and upscaling of your human capital is key to remaining ahead of the competition. 

Take for example, how COVID-19 has changed the hospitality industry as we know it. What skills and competencies do your team require to provide the service now expected from them? Besides the operational process to ensure their safety and the guests' wellbeing, keep in mind the emotional intelligence required to do the job, transmit confidence, and deal with health-crisis related situations. As Eugenio Pirri explained during Hospitality Talks, the ability to communicate well, put people at ease, and make guests feel comfortable with the new policies and hygiene standards are critical skills your team should have. Their level of emotion has to equal the level of concern guests have, he added.

“After the outbreak in March 2020, enhancing employees' abilities became one of the top five HR's priorities over the months that followed."

(Hospitality Pulse, September 2020)

Now that we have covered what is L&D is and why it is important to your company's success, let’s dive into the six key insights from our two hospitality experts - John Daly, Director of Quality Assurance at SEG, and Eugenio Pirri, Chief People & Culture Officer at the Dorchester Collection. 


1. L & D  is essential, no matter the situation. Never underestimate the importance of continued education. The continual support for individuals to reach their full potential should always be a priority to any organization. It will be the medium to attain the company's vision and mission. 

2. Continuous learning and self-challenging go hand in hand with a growth mindset. As Carol Dweck, Lewis & Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, explains, "individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset. They tend to achieve more than those with a more fixed mindset (those who believe their talents are innate gifts.)".

3. Training and developing employees for the current needs are, without a doubt, essential. However, what is crucial is to prepare them for the future. L&D leaders should relentlessly try to understand how the hospitality industry will evolve and discover which competencies will be necessary.

4. Start by understanding your team's fears and challenges to help them bel better prepared. This will boost their confidence, which will reflect on what they transmit to clients. Remember, it is all about how they apply the skills, the talents, and the knowledge they have.

5. Identify the employees with an innate driving desire to do better and help them grow. Ultimately, these are the people you want in your team that can help your business and the industry thrive. 

6. Hiring hospitality educated talent may not be an option for all companies, but that should not be an obstacle. Training and molding your team to offer outstanding service and guest experience is always possible.

Get to Know the Experts Better 

John Daly



John Daly

Director of Quality Assurance 

Swiss Education Group

John Daly, Director of Quality Assurance at Swiss Education Group (SEG) since 2003, the largest hospitality education provider in Switzerland, has held various positions within the group including program leader, Assistant Dean and Academic Dean. He is heavily involved in training and collaborates with several partners to ensure teaching, learning, and professional development remain at the cutting edge at SEG. Prior to this, John spent several years in managerial positions globally within the hotel industry.


Eugenio Pirri



Eugenio Pirri

Chief People & Culture Officer & Global Diversity Champion

Dorchester Collection

Eugenio Pirri has dedicated his 30-year career to ensuring that people are the cornerstone of every business decision. He joined Dorchester Collection in 2011, where he is currently the Chief People and Culture Officer directing all aspects of human resources, including L&D, employee & guest engagement, and corporate responsibility. He has pioneered several initiatives, including the We Care philosophy, and was also instrumental in the formation of the Dorchester Collection Academy.

Join Our Next Hospitality Talks

Hospitality Talks is one of the many initiatives Hosco has put into place to support all industry stakeholders since the global health crisis started in March 2020. Our series of webinars  unite industry experts so they can share their best practices, insights, and opinions about the future of hospitality. Want to watch our next Hospitality Talks webinar live?