Hotels train employees to think fast By: Barbara De Lollis. USA Today, 11/29/2006; (
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Hotels train employees to think fast
Out: Robotic responses. In: Energy, insightfulness.
Section: Money, Pg. 01b
SILVER SPRING, Md. -- At a recent management-training session for Choice Hotels, trainer John Thompson had
participants guess how many drops of water would fit on a nickel.
Most guessed five to seven. He then invited them to take an eyedropper and test their guesses. The managers found
as many as 40 drops could fit on the nickel, defying expectations. The message? You can accomplish more than you
If you're thinking that water droplets on nickels have little to do with running a good hotel, you're not in synch with the
thinking of lodging-industry leaders. Flush with cash from the recent boom in travel, major hotel chains at every price
level are re-energizing their employee-training programs, from managers down to busboys. And the new-style training
programs aren't limited to how to check in a guest or how to stack dishes in a pantry.
Instead, they're aiming to build distinctive organizational cultures that will add to the bottom line by keeping guests
satisfied and loyal for years to come.
Out of favor are scripted lines that hotel workers utter regardless of whether the customer appears happy, angry, tired
or rushed. Now, hotel workers are being trained to speak for themselves, and to help guests in more meaningful and
less conventional ways. The new training pushes employees to understand who their guests are and why they're at
the hotel, and to anticipate what they might need.
"Our guests value the design of our hotels, but what they really remember are the people," says Michelle Crosby,
human resources chief at lodging giant Starwood. "Their loyalty was often to a specific (employee) who'd gone out of
their way for them."
Starwood, InterContinental and Choice have hired dozens of full-time trainers. InterContinental's Holiday Inn alone
has hired 20 full-time trainers in a first-ever, $6 million training push. Starwood hired 30 trainers, including some from
Disney, an acknowledged leader in customer service.
Park Hyatt in Chicago recently hired a local theater company, Lookingglass Theatre, to train staff using acting