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Ten Top Tips for Ensuring Learning Happens in Your Team RIGHT NOW!

by Sarah Brickwood

Hospitality businesses are reporting a recruitment crisis with almost all finding it extremely hard to find people to fill vacancies. With many running at 2/3 of the team they had available to them 18 months ago, many team members are working even longer hours, and being spread thinly across shifts.

At a time when training should be more important than ever, the reality is that time is extremely limited, and so training has become less of a priority as the day-to-day operation takes over.

Yet for new team members, it is so desperately needed to ensure they know what they are doing and feel confident doing it! For those returning to work after many months off, there are new Covid-safe procedures to be followed and training is needed to provide the team, guests and customers alike the reassurance they need.

So what is the answer? Here are our top ten tips to ensure that learning can happen in your business right now:

1. On-The-Job Coaching 

Every task, every guest, every moment of each day offers a coaching opportunity.

In our industry, coaching is something that has been spoken about for a long time and most companies know that it needs to happen to ensure learning transfer throughout the team. However in reality, when the operation is busy, it doesn’t always happen. It can be tempting for managers and supervisors to lay a table themselves or to check a guest in, as they know they will be able to do it much more quickly than if a new team member does it. However, by taking the extra moment to show them how to do it, then next time there will be two people who can do that task.

Ask your supervisors and managers to think about the last shift they worked and how much coaching happened. Right now, coaching should not be one of the many jobs they do, it should be their Number 1 focus.

2. Pre Shift Briefings

Taking a moment at the start of a shift to focus the team on the day can be so powerful

Briefings help you to share your vision for the shift; this could be as simple as:

  • a reminder about what the team have been doing well lately such as acknowledging all guests when passing them around the hotel as this makes them feel valued
  • communicating what the soup and the pie of the day is, so that everyone will know this information before the first guest is handed a menu

3. Post Shift Briefings

Taking a moment at the end of a shift to “check in” with the team before they leave can reap huge rewards.

There are 2 great opportunities here:

  • A genuine thank you and well done at the end of a shift always goes a long way.
  • Every shift in hospitality will have unique highs and lows and offer real-time examples of doing things well and not so well. Taking a moment to talk these through offers a learning experience.

Ask the team to identify these simply by asking,

  • “What did we do well?”
  • “What problems occurred and what could we do differently next time?”
  • “What feedback did we receive from our guests?”
  • “Did all customers leave happy?”
  • “What would have helped us do even better?”

The answers the team give and the discussion that follows will be one of the best learning tools available to your business.

4. Checklists

Share the knowledge that you want your team to have in a clear, visual way; the simplest tools are often the best!

The tasks that the team need to carry out each day may be familiar to us in an official Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)- type document. However, in their absence, a simple checklist is something that you can you do today that will take a few moments and help the team immediately!

e.g. Create checklists for the tasks that the team need to do on a regular basis be it daily/weekly or monthly, such as the pre-service tasks in the bar, or the mise en place in the restaurant, or the pre-arrival jobs for the events team, and present them in a simple visual checklist on the wall.

5. Infographics

Visual aids make learning interesting and engaging; any information displayed in an infographic suddenly becomes more appealing.

If you are feeling a little creative (or have someone in your team who is) then drawing the information you need the team to know as an infographic can be a brilliant way to communicate information. Editable templates can be found online.

e.g. How to greet a guest in the hotel, or the order of service for the restaurant, or the ingredients needed to make a Whiskey Sour.

6. Technology

We all use technology every day; from watching videos shared on social media, to chatting with our friends via instant messaging- but do we make the most of this technology at work?

There are some very simple things you can do that will help you to ensure learning happens in your business every day using just your phone!

  • Images – Do you have images of the tasks the team need to complete each day? The table setup for afternoon tea or the tray setup for room service breakfast can be shared as an image; as a poster or by WhatsApp to the team’s phones so they always have a reference. These simple tools will only take a few moments to create yet will ensure that each team member has the information they need.
  • Videos – Have you shown several team members how to serve a drink recently? The likelihood is that they will remember most of what u have shown but may forget some of the detail. Recording a short video of you serving the drink and sending out via WhatsApp or sharing on YouTube (set to unlisted so only your team can access via a link) will mean that the team can access this whenever they need to
  • Remember those checklists we mentioned? You can share those here too, so the team have them to refer to with ease from their pocket!

7. Encourage Curiosity

Creating an environment where our everyone feels comfortable asking questions will ensure the creation of a more knowledgeable team.

When team members ask questions, this helps us to bridge gaps in their training. Taking a moment to answer a question will add to their skills and knowledge and needs to be encouraged.

Research has also shown that businesses benefit hugely from their team’s curiosity. It means that we don’t get stuck in the mentality of “we have always done it this way” and instead enable our team to question the status quo and be part of making the business progress

8. Every day is a school day

Make sure that learning never stops

In hospitality, no two days are the same; the variety that our different guests bring means that new situations and challenges arise all the time. By embracing these, we can learn from them and grow as people. It is easy though to overlook these learning moments. Get into the habit of reviewing with the team- either as part of a one-to-one conversation, or as a group during briefings.

Ask the team, “What have you learned today?” and empower them to share new skills and knowledge regularly.

9. Celebrate achievements

Our failures are our learning moments, but our successes are the fuel that keeps us going.

We should always celebrate our teams’ achievements, no matter how small they seem. Ken Blanchard said that the best way to empower people is to “catch” them “doing things right” By praising team members who have learned how to do a task or achieved a goal, we have the power to induce happiness instantly.

e.g. Congratulating a team member who turned an unhappy guest around into a happy guest, or a chef who has received feedback about their amazing starter, or a new team member who has managed to box a buffet table neatly for the first time.

The more we praise people on what they have achieved, the more they want to achieve and so motivation is increased. It also motivates others to do the same thing which is inspiring and spreads morale and positivity – especially important in the current climate. Where someone has done something out of the ordinary, maybe consider giving a gift or a small bonus?

10. Invest in Training

No business can afford NOT to

Spending money in a business that has been closed for months can seem unaffordable and even decadent. However the reality is that your team are the face of your business, and they represent your company on your behalf every moment that they interact with a guest or customer. They need to be trained to do that to the best of their ability and in the way that you want them to do it. So, you can’t afford NOT to train your team.

Training using a company such as The Smart Training Company does not need to be costly. There are many options available that can be tailored to suit you, your business and the team. At a time when we know you may not be able to free up many of your team all together, there are some great ways that training can be delivered in bite-size chunks, either via technology or onsite during shift. Please get in touch to discuss your needs.


All of the above can be done in a matter of moments, yet the learning may last for the team member’s whole time in their role, or even a lifetime! If you can achieve some of these then you will be well on your way to instilling a Learning Culture in your business. This is not just a “good idea” for “when we have time”; it is essential for us to develop our teams, to equip them with the knowledge skills and confidence to look after our guests and customers and to not only retain our workforce but also crucially, to stay in business.