As a young person growing up under the roof of a hotel, cross training was a necessity on property. There was no ‘customer friendly’ way to get through a 3 to 11 shift without being able to nimbly transition to bell person, make-shift maintenance person or housekeeper. Guests always appreciate that “can do” response rather than the “sorry…. you’ll have to wait until the morning,”. In an utopic world where payroll budgets do not exist this efficiency would not matter but most of us must work within a budget that has increasingly tightened because of the Covid Pandemic. In today’s climate, most economy or mid-scale properties are working around the clock with limited staff thus the ability to work numerous departments is no longer a desire, it is a must.
Everyone wants to be able to have access to more money in their paycheck at the end of the week and the ability to progress professionally. A cross trained staff member can both learn and grow as well as climb the ropes in our industry quickly, with an increased confidence and know how. “It provides a huge tactical advantage for professional promotion,” says Madhi Nair, CEO of Palette Hotels Developments, a fully integrated Hotel Management Company based out of El Paso, TX. What is edifying for all involved in the cross-training process is witnessing the improved customer experiences, team morale, and operating efficiency, ticking off the ‘beneficial boxes’ for staff, customers, and hoteliers.
A cross trained staff better understands the customer experience from the from lobby to guestroom. Let’s hypothetically take for example a guest that just embarked upon a 5-star check-in experience only to enter a room that has a noisy running toilet. Dismayed, the guest marches back to the desk feeling disgruntled and annoyed. In this example, credibility of the agent and the brand is now at question and the added effort of rebuilding trust needs to kick into full gear. How can we help mitigate these poor customer experiences? What if, the housekeeper that cleaned and inspected the room did not have to wait for a maintenance person to fix the running toilet but instead was trained to fix it herself. Do not take this concept for idealism or stretchy sentiment. This is achievable, with time, consistency, and most importantly, desire.
Let us ask an expert. Janelle Espinosa, General Manager at the Fairfield Suites in Santa Fe, TX. This is how she tackled and alleviated the common customer serve mishaps. Janelle initially allocated one shift a week cross training a front desk agent into housekeeping. Every six weeks this staff member rotated to another department. The staff member was incentivized through mentorship and a growth plan with the potential for promotion. The momentum started with one person but soon built. Shortly after, cross training was more that an ideal or nomenclature. It became a cultural norm. Janelle, a servant leader by practice, showed up in every department to assist, train, coach and mentor. Janelle’s property was able to lift the customer experience, alleviate the disconnects between departments on property, and recognize her staff members. Better yet, cross training allowed Janelle to get some shut eye when needed. Getting time off during Covid is a challenge for all GM’s and cross training is one way to catch a breather. “Let me keep it real….It took time and energy at the beginning but developing a team that can handle multiple areas allows me to take a day off and not have to be on high alert. I know they got it and more importantly, they know they have it too.” Another WIN, WIN, WIN.
Audrey Whitten, an Palette Hotels Development’s General Manger at the Homewood Suites in Bedford, TX, echoes the benefits of cross training. She is an advocate and practitioner of cross training at her property. Her strategy cross utilizes front desk and laundry. “The second shift of the desk folds the towels during down times. This helps keep staff alert during lulls and prepares for any late night or unexpected linen requests. Additionally, the night audit washes and dries all the linens as well as house person duties. This gives the housekeeping team a great start to the next day. Our guests are pleased because early check-in requests are easier to accommodate. Being able to support other shifts and departments enlivens our night auditors to get through a tough shift on their toes. It helps them feel connected with their team, who they rarely get to see,” says, Audrey.
What gives a GM an advantage at making cross training a success? The answer is leading by example, a quality that we deeply imbibe at Palette Hotels Developments – a hotel management company in El Paso. Furthermore, as leaders we also must always show appreciation. This can be as simple as bringing in your housekeeper’s favorite Starbuck’s Frappuccino or letting them off a few minutes early to go to the doctor’s or grab their kids. It is about being a professional family and getting each other’s back.
Simply put, a cross trained staff is more agile, efficient, and adaptable in an industry that especially now, requires ever increasing efficiency, nimbleness, an expanding array of competencies. Building a sense of camaraderie through cross training is the path forward and out of the crunch that our industry is facing. It also sets our staff up for better careers in their future.
At Palette Hotels Developments Hotel Management Company in El Paso, we strive to always create these wins win, wins. Somedays we hit all three boxes and other days we are reminded that the pathway to progress is walked with perpetual hard work and the desire to forge ahead even through the toughest times.
Written by Asha Bhakta-Roziere, Founder of Thrive Leadership & Development