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A senior HR expert in the hotel industry reveals why learning & development projects fail and how to gauge the success of one that works

Q1 Could you share a time when you had an L&D failure – what went wrong?

According to my previous experience, if there is a missing piece in the learner’s expectation, then that programme will fail. Because when you look at the outcomes, the deliverables, you will see that it’s not that effective. I don’t need to give you a specific programme, because (if there’s a missing piece) I assume that many of them are not very successful.

After I have my own (learning & development) programme that failed, I really want to step out of my office and listen to them and ask them what they need.

Sometimes you will talk to a fresh graduate who doesn’t have much experience or you will talk to management – who are more experienced. So you have the opportunity to learn from them, learn from their wisdom.

So understanding their needs and expectations (the learners) is of the utmost importance. So we never close the door on design training anywhere.

Q2 How about a successful L&D programme – and how did you measure that success?

After really connecting with the needs of our people, there are actually business outcomes. I don’t want learning to be like, ‘I train you, I give you some knowledge and then I go back to my office hoping that you will perform better and bring (the business) positive results. I want the training to be directly linked to business results.

I want the business to be driven by the people who are trained by me – and we see the clearly see the relationship between me, the learner and the business outcome that the learner has brought about.

Q3 With a workforce that is increasingly Millennial and Gen Z aged, have you changed your L&D strategy to engage these new demographics?

We don’t need to clearly define whether we are Millennials or not. But I do agree that the younger generation is less patient than the others – and they don’t need to be told what’s right and what’s wrong. Given they have a shorter attention span, the learning has to be bite sized and highly experiential.

If you try to engage them over a long session over several hours, they are not going to listen – they are not going to consume what you have told them. I’d rather have them come several time for a regular catch-up and have a recap.

What I want to do is inspire them. For example if I am teaching coaching skills, I want say ‘this is the best model you can use’. I will give them several choices actually. Sometimes just a five-minute session works better.

Some people want clear instructions. You tell me ABCD and I’ll do ABCD and then I’ll go home. Some people are like that but I think the size of that population is reducing, especially with Millennials, the younger generation, they want more empowerment – you cannot simply instruct them anymore.

If you really want to groom the new workforce inspiration and experiential are the two key elements for your learning programme, no matter if it’s e-learning, a workshop or team building. Q4 What L&D challenges are unique to training employees in the hotel business?

By its very nature, the hotel business is a hectic one, so everyone is very busy. It’s very difficult to get everyone to the training workshop – and you cannot take them away from the operations for long.

Q5 Can you give us an example specific to training hotel staff?

So if we talk about customer experience, I want it to go more high level. Are they (the staff) capable of designing experiences for our customers. If you are not, I’m happy to train you within a framework – and then you’re able to fill in the blanks. So that when you go back to the workplace, you have the design that the experience, the framework, for our customers – having a positive impact on their experience.