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Tech That Gives Back: How Digital Training Tools are Elevating Hospitality’s Workforce

Modern training tools need to be incorporated directly into the systems operators use daily – particularly the hotel’s property management system.
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Preparation is everything in today’s business environment. When hotel operators and their teams have the confidence and the right tools to adapt to the many challenges of running their property each day, they thrive. Unfortunately, managers often lack time to train new hotel workers efficiently and effectively – made ever more complicated in today’s stressed environment. Hoteliers across the industry are increasingly relying on technology to improve operations and retain workers. Modern training tools need to be incorporated directly into the systems operators use daily – particularly the hotel’s property management system.

Operators have been challenged to effectively and efficiently train workers over the past few years amid the growing complexity of hotel operations. These pressures culminated at the onset of the pandemic, where available labor was reduced just as the necessary technical skills for hotel operations increased. Operational demands are surging back to pre-pandemic levels long before labor can catch up, with U.S. hotel occupancy projected to reach nearly 64 percent this year, just a hair under 2019’s level of 65.9 percent. That means there are more guests, and far fewer hotel staff to care for them.

Operators feel like they are running out of options, and it’s time for the technology they have been investing in to give back and help with training today’s workforce. Innovations in training, delivery methods, and reinforcement have gone a long way toward improving hotel operations in the short term, but too many hotel workers continue to struggle to learn the ins and outs of the many new technologies they are expected to use each day.

One key to overcoming these challenges is to embed impactful training tools directly into the programs operators use daily. When done correctly, embedded training tools can help form today’s frontline workers into tomorrow’s hospitality leaders. To do so, hotels must collectively begin changing their approach to training.

On the Same Page

Across the tech stack, the best hospitality tools are becoming more simplified, featuring more effective user interfaces and simpler user experiences. It is time to put those tools in the hands of the critical front-line and back-of-the-house employees who operate hotels.

This should not be a hard “sell,” but hotels have traditionally faced challenges when investing in new ways to improve the worker experience. However, today’s generation of workers grew up with technology. They also tend to be individualized learners, who retain information more effectively when allowed to learn at their own pace and enjoy experimenting with new programs and strategies on their own time.

For this reason, digital training options and teaching tools embedded in technology are likely to be more effective training methods than traditional person-to-person instruction. When training tools are embedded directly into a tech platform, hotel workers can work through confusing problems quickly and locate answers for themselves, retaining learnings over longer periods of time. Online training guides do not contain all the answers a hotel worker might seek – but employees can interact with embedded training programs more efficiently by embracing their preferred way of learning at their own pace.

Equally important, digital training tools are more efficient and less costly than in-person training. Online training programs allow managers to track worker progress, oversee engagement with digital training tools, and follow up on areas of improvement or moments of celebration. Managers benefit from this system by gaining a better understanding of their employees’ training progress without forcing both groups to slip their focus between daily duties and training. This freedom greatly benefits properties with seasonal staff or hotels looking to rapidly onboard new employees. Veteran employees can also benefit from these refreshers, which can help build or reinforce confidence in ways that typically rely on trial-and-error interactions with guests.

Traversing Boundaries

Training tools can be invaluable, but they don’t excuse operators from the responsibility of direct employee intervention. Hotel managers will still need to be closely aware of their workers’ progress when using digital training tools and of how they are used to measure employee success. Interacting with workers becomes even more important when training through technology, as workers’ hospitality fundamentals must be tested.

Managers can use embedded training tools to track workers’ progress and keep them accountable with greater reliability. Still, it will ultimately be up to managers to reinforce the value of ongoing training. Finding the right balance throughout this process will be a key component of hotel workers’ personal growth.

Managers should also pay close attention to how hotel employees react to digital training, and adjust their approach in a way that encourages their use. Employees are more likely to use embedded training tools if they view them as something that improves their knowledge, not simply covers for their mistakes. Training courses or digital overlays should not serve as a punishment or reprimand but as a natural part of the onboarding and training process.

Embedded training tools are most impactful when helping workers overcome the many small nuances and sticking points present in every major hotel technology. For example, new workers may struggle with marking some rooms as tax-exempt on the hotel PMS, an event that is rare in the grand scheme of operations but must be trained for when it occurs. When staff have the answers to these questions or have simple avenues for solving difficult problems, it helps build their confidence immeasurably and teaches them strategies for finding solutions in the future.

Maintaining Employee Engagement

Improving the training and onboarding process is key to restoring or maintaining labor interest in hotels across the industry. Many hotel operators have already adopted new mobile property management technology that provides some relief for hotel workers. However, this technology still requires training to retain workers at peak efficiency.

The training process is often a hotel’s first impression for new employees. It represents the first moment when fresh workers have new questions, encounter difficulties, and reach solutions. How–and if–new hotel workers find answers to these questions, or overcome their initial challenges, will stick with them.

Every operator across the hospitality industry wants to find ways to reduce time spent training new workers. This time is critical for building confidence in new hires and preparing them for the demands of their position. The typical worker needs constant reinforcement during their first few months on the job. Embedded training tools can be used to refresh key information throughout a worker’s tenure on the property, helping them avoid discouragement and build toward ongoing success.

For new training strategies to take off across the industry, a concerted effort from many hotel and technology companies must take place across the industry. More leaders must raise awareness about training challenges facing operators and new hires. When the industry makes training a priority, it will be able to rebuild hospitality’s reputation for service excellence from the ground up. The time has come for technology to give back to hospitality through training.




Katrina Stephenson started her career in the Hospitality industry and has brought her 13 years of industry knowledge to HotelKey. Throughout her time with HotelKey, she has assisted with implementation and onboarding, training development, and building what has now become the customer success team. Katrina now oversees the Business Development team as well as the company's global marketing efforts.

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