Staff Training to Enhance Profitability, Morale and Build Trust in your Brand, by Rebecca Hawkins

Rebecca has been a busy lady again and this time getting published in a recent edition of Hotel Business Review at Hotel of whom which we have gained permission to re-produce the article and here it is in whole!

Do you want to increase the profitability of your business? How about improve the morale of your staff? Build trust in your brand? Even better still, how about all of the above, whilst also enhancing customer satisfaction? Does it sound too good to be true, while it isn’t! Believe it or not all of the above can be yours through the simple expedient of delivering really good quality responsible business training to your staff.

Now we would be the first to admit that the responsible business movement has not done much to make itself sound appealing or like it could do anything other than cost a business more money. The language alone makes it sound like jolly hard work and frankly a little dull. But the reality can be very different. Feedback from our training illustrates that customers, employees, owners and policy makers all love it and would prefer to work with hotel companies with responsible business programs in place.

What is Responsible Business?

We all like to think that we do business responsibly, but what is it? To us, it’s all about:

• Doing more with less (using less energy and water and reducing waste)
• Being better connected (with your local destination, local suppliers and local people)
• Exceeding expectations (of staff, customers and other stakeholders by the quality of your offer)

If that sound’s kind of abstract, then let us give you some specific food for thought:

Doing more with less – The average hospitality business in the UK throws the equivalent of 1 in 6 meals in the bin!

For the average hospitality outlet, that adds a cost of £0.52 per meal or £10,000 per year. If you total that up across the sector, then food waste alone represents a cost to the Hotel Sector alone of £318 million each year including food procurement, labor, utilities and waste management costs. ( Just imagine how profitability would improve if you could eliminate the wastage.

Being better connected – Authenticity is the watchword of the discerning tourist. Don’t just take our work for it, research by VisitBritain shows that overseas tourists to Britain have a key requirement for ‘immersing themselves in the culture of the country they are visiting’ (VisitBritain, 2010, Overseas Visitors to Britain: Understanding Trends, Attitudes and Characteristics). How better to do this that through a locally sourced menu, or the offer of an extension to the stay to visit an outstanding local festival or piece of natural heritage.

Exceeding expectations – 45% of employees claim that, all other things being equal, they would take a 15% pay cut to have a job that makes a social and environmental impact (Net Impact, 2012, The Talent Report). We know that what people say in market research studies and what they do in reality is rather different, but these statistics demonstrate a defined value set that is shifting towards employers who can offer responsible business practices.

The way to benefit from these trends is to invest now and start training your staff.

Effective Responsible Business Training – the key to success
Let’s face it, most hotel training is dry, repetitive and a good excuse for staff to get out of a job they don’t particularly want to do. Add into the mix the responsible business word and you often end up with a group of staff with exceedingly low expectations of the training experience. Effective responsible business staff training can only exceed those expectations if it is different, fun, engaging and inclusive.

RHP training is successful because it is based on the 10 principles described below:

1) Decide what you want to achieve

Responsible business embraces a broad church of activities that range from cost saving energy management through to product enriching supply chain diversification. No hotel can embrace all of these issues from Day 1. Before you even talk about training, work out who you need to train, what you expect the training to deliver, what scope of activities you want staff to be involved in and how you will manage and report on responsible business programs. You may find that training is most effective if it starts at senior management level, refining the responsible business objectives and assessing how they fit within the broader business plan. If you do this, you can be sure that there are no conflicts between responsible and other business objectives when you seek to actively engage all staff.

2) Make it fun

The achievement of your responsible business objectives will require staff to switch stuff off or turn stuff down. But the means to achieve this is not through nagging or switch off posters. Activities that build awareness that resource use is controlled by staff, that engages staff in identifying what they can do differently is much more effective. Try to harness the competitive instinct in delivering savings to maximize impact. We find that staff training can produce energy consumption savings of 5% and water savings of 12% or more, so thinking about ways to really engage your team can rapidly produce results.

3) Make it relevant

There is nothing worse than listening to someone warbling on about global water shortages when sitting in a training room surrounded by rather too much of the wet stuff! Global issues are really important, but only if relevant in scale and timescale to the people in the room. Find out about the interests of your staff and help them identify with global issues by focusing on examples that are closer to home.

4) Go for little and often

High staff turnover combines with hectic schedules to mean that energy and water savings accrued through staff training can be rapidly eroded. We find that within a year our 5% energy saving can have dwindled to 1% or less. So refreshing training often is always a good idea. By refreshing, we mean doing something slightly different rather than just rolling out the same information year after year.

5) Help staff to apply the stuff they learn at work at home

There are lots of cheap gadgets on the market that can be used at home as well as at work (we love tumble dryer balls, good quality LED lamps, aerators, home energy meters and hippos). Introduce staff to these gadgets and the contribution they can make in the home. If local suppliers are something that is of interest, why not share recipes for seasonal and local produce with staff. They should see the benefits on their own energy and water bills. Some businesses go as far as buying some items in bulk so staff can buy them at a discount.

6) Let staff dictate the pace

Few hotel companies have the luxury of a member of staff who is wholly dedicated to implementing responsible business initiatives. Most hotels depend on a few staff volunteering their time, usually through a Green Team. We have yet to come across any hotel business that cannot find enough staff to create an enthusiastic and dynamic Green Team. It is important, however, that a senior management team member participates in the Green Team and ensures that the range of activities meet the strategic objectives defined at Point 1 and fits into the routine business of the hotel. After all, there is a hotel to run and responsible activities must add value to the core business!

7) Set targets
We know that targets are unfashionable in the current political climate, but we find that there is nothing like a good target to motivate staff. This is especially the case if achievement of that target can be associated with some form of reward (we find small and frequent prizes work as effectively as big ones). It is useful if some targets relate to quantitative measures of performance (e.g. electricity consumption), but they can relate to other issues too (for example, the best idea to promote the responsible business initiatives of the hotel).

8) Measure progress and celebrate success
Progress measurement is not an end point in itself, but it is an indicator of whether or not an activity has delivered the expected result. Most hotels can learn as much from the stuff that doesn’t work as from the stuff that does. For example, campaigns to switch off lighting in back of house areas may fail because staff are unsure about which lights should be switched off. Simple colour coding of light switches using sticky tape can resolve the issue and put the program back on track. Without measurement systems, there is no way of telling which initiatives work and which don’t.

While we are banging on about measurement, remember to make sure that measurement systems keep track of customer satisfaction as well as energy and water cost reductions. Responsible business practices are usually positively received by customers, or – in the case of energy and water efficiency measures – not noticed at all. Some, however, can be poorly received. Vigilant staff will ensure that any customer comments that relate to responsible business (positive and negative) are quickly and efficiently passed on to relevant managers and integrated back into training programs.

9) Think outside of the box (recycled of course)

Energy, waste and water management alone make a business efficient, but not responsible. Responsible business requires hotels to go a little further and address some of the issues that enrich a destination. Most find that these initiatives also enrich the customer experience. For large companies these wider initiatives are also seen as essential in building trust in the brand. Employees are often brimming with ideas about ways in which to build the reputation of the business and enrich the destination. Make space in any training to capture these ideas.

10) Remember it’s a journey and not a destination

They say that Rome wasn’t built in a day and the same will be true for your responsible business program. Expect to revisit and review your strategic objectives and to refine and reinvigorate the training on a regular basis. Failure to do so will undermine the ability to deliver results on an ongoing basis and can even result in accusations of greenwash.

Rebecca Hawkins is the Managing Director of RHP Ltd, a Research Fellow of Oxford Brookes University and Visiting Professor to the International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University. A resource management specialist, with training in ISO 14001 implementation.

Dr. Hawkins has managed a number of projects that combine the need to deliver sustainability initiatives alongside cost savings. Dr. Hawkins regularly provides training within hotel businesses and offers strategic consultancy to help senior executives in the sector design effective responsible business programs. Dr. Hawkins can be contacted at [email protected]

Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from