Tech-Ready: Preparing Your Hospitality Team for Tomorrow’s Training Tools

May 08, 2024 | 386 Views

Tech-Ready: Preparing Your Hospitality Team for Tomorrow’s Training Tools

Patrick Yearout, FMP, CHT

Director of Innovation, Recruiting, and Training | Ivar's & Kidd Valley Restaurants

Trends from the Hospitality Training 360 Report are now also available in this Webinar On Demand.

In their recent training article, Hospitality Training Trends Imagine the Future, CHART President Damian Hanft and Board Member Kelly McCutcheon leveraged data from the 2024 Hospitality Training 360 Report to paint a vivid picture of potential technological advancements in hotel and restaurant training – transforming what were once futuristic ideas into imminent realities. Despite a current preference for traditional training methods, the data unmistakably points towards a rising tide of tech integration featuring artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), and gamification, and I expect this wave will pick up even more speed as the costs to build such systems become lower due to economies of scale, and when additional case studies are published demonstrating the efficacy and ROI in a hospitality context.

As these innovative applications evolve from avant-garde concepts to staples of daily training regimes, hospitality trainers should be proactively preparing for this transformation; waiting passively, crossing your fingers, and hoping everything works out is not a wise option. Instead, you need to lay the groundwork now by taking decisive steps to ensure your team is ready to welcome these technologies and avoid being caught off-guard or left behind once they gain mainstream acceptance.

Restaurant Employees Training with VR Headsets

For those who wish to be the architects of their future relevance as tech and training become more intertwined, here are six strategies to achieve this objective:

  1. Invest in technology literacy – Start by prioritizing your own education on the fundamentals of AI, VR, and gamification (and whatever other tools you see looming ahead) and learning everything you possibly can, from the standard jargon and acronyms to best practices for troubleshooting problems and selecting the right vendors. Trainers should be seeking out articles, webinars, and podcasts about tech usage in the hospitality industry, talking to industry colleagues about their experiences, and making connections with experts in the field both online and at industry events such as HITEC or FSTEC.
  2. Forge a partnership with IT – In addition to self-education, you must recognize the value of the true tech SMEs of any organization: the IT department. If you do not have a strong relationship already, reach out to your IT team sooner rather than later to start initial discussions about how you could work together to make this possible future a reality. Consider starting small and informally with a few lunch meet-ups or coffee breaks to build rapport and learn about their perspective on this topic (What are your thoughts? What obstacles do you see? What other resources might we need?). These initial casual interactions can help pave the way for more frequent and more structured agendas about budgets, timelines, and individual department responsibilities as you draw nearer to actual implementation.
  3. Gain insights from other departments – IT should be your first call, but certainly not your only one. Contact key members of other divisions, such as marketing, sales, or operations, and ask if they are considering anything in this arena. If your hotels or restaurants are looking into using AI for guest interactions, for instance, discuss the new system with the team involved and ask what they are learning by going through the process. By working together cross-functionally, trainers can develop valuable understanding into the potential impact, challenges, and benefits of these technologies within their company and ultimately improve the quality of future training programs when they start adopting these same innovations.
    Hotel employee utilizes new technology
  4. Plan for evaluation and feedback – Before these new technologies are incorporated into your training programs, work with your team to assemble a plan for receiving ongoing evaluation and feedback. It should include a) anticipated review time periods, b) strategies for collecting and analyzing data on user engagement and learning outcomes, and c) mechanisms for gathering reactions directly from trainees, trainers, and operational staff. Additionally, this extra work will eventually need to be assigned to someone (and paid for somehow), so it’s good to have those conversations early to ensure you will have the resources to make it a reality.
  5. Prime users with tech tastings – Most people (especially those working in restaurants) have heard the term amuse-bouche before; it’s a small hors d’oeuvre served to diners while they wait for their orders to arrive. But amuse-bouches are meant to be more than just filler – they are designed by the chef to whet the appetite and prepare guests for the courses ahead. And that’s the same tactic you can take to help prepare your trainees for new technologies. Let’s say that you believe that gamification will help improve your training programs and classes, but you do not have the budget or capability to implement it right away. You can still incorporate gamification elements like earning badges, leaderboards, and challenges to familiarize team members with the concept and generate excitement. By starting small with these elements, you essentially provide a 'taste' of what’s to come, building anticipation and readiness for when a full-scale gamification strategy becomes feasible. This approach not only keeps training engaging but also smooths the transition to more complex technologies, ensuring that when the time comes, your team is eager and prepared to embrace the full experience.
  6. Pilot small-scale projects – Before committing to a full-scale deployment, it is crucial to conduct trial runs with these technologies in a controlled environment. For example, you could start by implementing virtual reality to improve training for complex customer interactions at a single location or during specific training sessions. This approach allows your team to not only gather valuable data but also to fine-tune the technology application based on real-world use, and you can leverage these pilots as case studies to demonstrate the tangible benefits and potential return on investment to stakeholders. It will also help mitigate risks, tailor the technology more effectively to your specific needs, and build a strong case for wider execution across your organization.

The technological horizon for hospitality training is fast approaching, laden with opportunities to revolutionize how we educate and engage our workforce. By taking these key steps now, trainers can ensure their teams not only adapt but also thrive in this new tech-driven environment and yield effective, engaging, and innovative training outcomes.

Tech Ready: Preparing Your Hospitality Team for Tomorrow's Training Tools

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