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Fun training keeps hotel staff motivated

Published on Friday, 05 Feb 2010
Debbie Leung from Langham Hotels International says staff have their careers mapped out for them.
Photo: Jonathan Wong

For many hotel brands, hiring the right people is only one part of the equation. For Langham Hotels International, an emphasis on games and real-life applications in training is what keeps staff motivated.

"People are assets in the hotel industry. When people come to work for us, we don't offer them a job, but a career. That is the principle guiding our staff development, and that's why we offer people opportunities to grow, as well as equip them with the ability to grow," says Debbie Leung, director of learning and staff development at Langham Hotels International.

Langham Hotels has a three-pronged approach to training programmes for staff based on their experiences, capacities and roles at the group. New joiners of the company, regardless of their roles and ranks, are required to take a foundation programme which allows them to learn how to work in a team environment and serve the guests. According to Leung, individual hotel brands also tailor training to meet their specific needs on top of this corporate-wide mandatory programme.

The group manages three hotel brands - including Langham Place, Langham Hotel and Eaton Hotel, and a corporate office - that employ 1,700 staff in Hong Kong, with a cluster of 10 other brands worldwide. In mid-April a new hotel brand known as Eaton Lux will open in Shanghai.

For staff taking supervisory jobs, such as team leaders, captains and head waiters, the focus of the training is on preparing them to step into a management role. "Staff at this level are experienced in their own fields and good at what they do, and the kind of training they need is to prepare them to step into a management role which requires not only technical skills, but also people skills which they need to manage their team members  and juniors."

Each year in June or July, 80 to 100 staff are selected from the three hotels in Hong Kong to join the supervisory development programme, which involves three days of training in the classroom and two days at an outdoor camp where participants are physically and mentally challenged to put their problem-solving skills to the test.

"It is a good way to promote team spirit and, through learning in a team environment and doing sports together, staff from different hotels and departments can build a rapport and strengthen bonding, learn from one another and understand how important it is to help their fellow colleagues to succeed," Leung says.

For a handful of managerial staff, such as section heads and managers, training workshops focus on brainstorming for solutions and strategies to manage and improve the business, according to Leung. "The focus is more at a practical level, coaching them on how to think and plan strategically to help further develop the hotel from the business perspective and what human resources should be deployed to achieve the objective and target."

Leung emphasises the importance of a fun learning experience and real-life application for all training. "Every training programme, whether it be about customer service skills for frontline staff or general management skills for supervisory staff, role play and case studies are very useful, and this makes the training fun and keeps staff motivated to learn," she says.

Staff performance at the group is carefully managed and reviewed so that every member is provided with appropriate training to help them attain their next career move. "We map out an individual development plan for each staff member where they can discuss their career plan with their supervisor or manager, and where they can see the next phase of their careers, what kind of exposure is required and which departments can provide them with the required skills and experience," she says. The hotel group also encourages staff to rotate their job functions or apply for cross hotel-transfer opportunities to maximise their exposure.

While the training programmes can equip staff with the necessary skills to be able to perform capably in their roles, Leung believes that finding ways to motivate staff to perform is crucial. "I believe happy staff are motivated staff and thus are more willing to perform."

Every month individual hotels present awards such as cash coupons or shopping vouchers to outstanding employees to acknowledge their performance, share their success stories and encourage other staff to adapt the best practice," Leung says.

To create a happy work atmosphere, individual hotels have social committees that organise events and activities for staff to build rapport and team spirit in an informal setting.

The group also provides staff across all hotels in Hong Kong and on the mainland with easy access to self-learning facilities and materials through the intranet and staff magazines.

Full support 

  • Training emphasises game-based activities and real-life applications
  • A three-tiered approach to training needs for staff across three hotel brands
  • Support is given to staff to encourage self-learning and sharing of best practice
  • Employs 1,700 staff under three brands, with Eaton Lux in Shanghai opening in April



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