The Fundamentals of Improving On-the-Job Training.
Chris Longstreet, CHA ~ Society for Hospitality Management
Thursday, 17th February 2005
Hospitality managers and supervisors have the important responsibility of training employees. All employees, from those just hired to those with more experience, can benefit from effective training. The delivery of service and our hospitality product (lodging, food, or entertainment) is only as good as the employees who do it making training critical to the task of meeting the property's and organization's goals.

Some organizations do not adequately develop and/or implement training programs. One reason may be a lack of knowledge and skills about how to do so. While tasks are not difficult, adequate time is required, and 'time means money' in our busy hotels and restaurants. It is a proven fact however, trained employees are generally more productive, are better able to meet quality requirements and feel better about the work they do. Thus, it becomes relatively easy to cost-justify the money and time for training.

Just look at the server who is trained properly on how to serve and up-sell menu items. Better service results in great guest loyalty and increases in sales. Or, the front desk agent who makes fewer errors and handles guest problems more effectively resulting in lower costs and potential increases in repeat business. A well-trained room attendant can clean more rooms during a shift and at a higher level of quality. Training pays off in these situations in reduction of costs, increased productivity, and improved profits.

On-the-Job Training
When employees are trained individually on the job, known as on-the-job training, their needs can be better met than in a group-training format. Trainees receive specific and immediate feedback about their performance, and training progresses at a speed best for the trainee. In addition, the trainer has an opportunity to develop a more personal working and trustworthy relationship with the person being trained.

Some managers and supervisors believe that on-the-job training is easy because as a trainer, all one has to do is show the trainee work to be done and the appropriate steps to do each task. This assumption, however, is a mistake. A four-step process is required to best assure that on-the-job training is effective. Let's take a look at each step.

There are some important steps in preparing for on-the-job training. For example, the person conducting the training must:
  • Create a schedule outlining the sequence for and time allotted for training
  • Carefully review the job and its major tasks, procedures and standards (using a job description) Assure that all necessary equipment, tools and materials available and ready to us
  • Identify and outline the tasks the trainee will learn
  • Discover what the trainee already knows about the job and tasks to be performed
  • Explain to the trainee what should expect to learn during the training process
  • Set a good example for the trainee
  • Explain how these tasks "fit" in the overall purpose of the organization
  • Make sure communication is clear (are there language barriers to consider?)
  • Share the training plan with the trainee

After the training environment has been prepared, it is time to present the tasks to the trainee. Trainers should first illustrate and emphasize the correct and proper way to do things. Standards of quality should be made clear. The trainer should then demonstrate the correct way to do the task. Repeating the task several times may need to happen to assure the trainee understands exactly how each task should be performed. Steps in presenting training include:
  • Explaining and demonstrating job tasks
  • Maintaining a patient and appropriate pace during the training session
  • Assuring that the trainee understands each job task/procedure
  • Checking for understanding by asking questions to the trainee
  • Following an appropriate sequence for each task explaining what must be done first, second, and so on
  • Checking to make sure that all instructions are clear, concise and complete
  • Having all necessary equipment and resources available for the trainee
  • Reminding the trainee to ask questions to other managers and supervisors when needed

After a task has been presented, the trainee should perform the task under observation. Repetition allows the trainee gain confidence work towards mastering the necessary skills and speed. In this stage, remember to:
  • Test the trainee allowing the trainee to perform the job task within a specific time
  • Ask the trainee to explain the 'how' and 'why' of a task
  • Carefully correct all performance that does not meet standards
  • Make certain the trainee understands
  • requirements asking questions such as 'Why do you do it this way?'
  • Continue questioning the trainee to assure understanding
  • Tell/praise the trainee what was done well
  • Make sure all steps of a task are done in correct order.

After the trainee has practiced, it should be possible to work without constant supervision. The trainer should, however, continue to observe the trainee to assure that no problems arise. Reinforcement - emphasizing the proper way to do the work - and feedback - providing reaction to the trainee's performance - become critical. Specific steps helpful during follow-up include:
  • Allowing the trainee to work in real work environment with real guests and service situations
  • Encouraging the trainee to seek help and ask questions when needed
  • Telling the trainee who should be contacted if help is needed
  • Checking the trainee's performance frequently without making it an uncomfortable situation
  • Regularly communicating with the trainee
  • Helping the trainee correct mistakes and understand job standards
  • Asking the trainee for suggestions about better ways to do the job and encouraging him/her to improve on previous standards
  • Positively reinforcing and rewarding good performance.

Effective trainers consistently use this four-step method of on-the-job training to assure that the benefits of training can be maximized (in terms of time and money). Try these procedures and watch the performance of your employees improve.

Chris Longstreet, CHA, is the President & CEO of the Society for Hospitality Management – the leader in providing value and service to professionals in the hospitality industry. For more information on the Society, visit our website at www.hospitalitysociety.org or contact us at 616 457-3646. To contact Chris directly, email him at clongstreet@hospitalitysociety.org.
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