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Learning & Development – Why Hospitality can’t afford not to

It can sometimes feel like we are catapulting from one crisis to the next while still dealing with the aftermath of the economic disruption of COVID and its impact on people’s work priorities. There is a tendency, during uncertain times, for businesses to reduce their investments in Learning and Development (L&D), or indeed, cut them entirely. A question that businesses will often ask themselves is “How can we afford to invest in learning and development?” – we think this question should be “How can we afford not to?”. While reducing or cutting investments in L&D might help somewhat in the short-term, it has detrimental long-term impacts on business success, team member retention, and growth.

This blog details why the hospitality industry can’t afford not to invest in learning and development, especially now. Instead of focusing on what can be cut – the sector needs to focus on what can become more efficient, what the skill priorities are, and how organisations can increase ways in which teams feel valued and invested in, so that they commit, expand their skill sets, and contribute more to the success of the business. Clear career progression paths and continuous professional development helps to retain skills and team members, create an internal talent pool that supports succession planning, and nurtures the growth of teams and leaders of the future.

The Business Case – Return on investment and avoiding inadvertent consequences

Associated costs often lead to organisations foregoing sufficient investment in L&D, however, investment in people development and performance generates revenue. It also saves money in the long-term by developing multi-skilled teams who can perform a variety of operational functions and responsibilities. Lessons from the 2008/09 financial crisis showed that reactive mindsets that led to paused or cancelled L&D programmes, inadvertently led to team members questioning where their careers would lead if their organisation had stopped investing in them. The unintentional consequences of this, although not always immediate, are increased employee turnover, reduced team member motivation and engagement, and in turn, declining business success and growth.

The business case for L&D during stable times, and more importantly during turbulent times, is well evidenced. A recent survey by the MAPAL Group at the Shine People & Culture Summit found that “company culture, progression and work life balance” are more important for team retention than salary (Caterer). The survey also found that the most pressing challenges in the sector right now are recruitment and retention (79%). These findings spotlight the changing priorities of people working in the industry – meaning investing in L&D is both a no-brainer and critical for talent attraction and retention.

A prime in-practice example for us was, during COVID-19, working with businesses to consider different ways that they could keep their teams engaged and learning during lockdowns. Pivoting to online, innovating how learning was delivered, and reaping the benefits of team engagement and team member readiness to apply new learning as soon as they could return to work. These innovative L&D strategies and delivery tools are now embedded in their approach to L&D through a combination of online and face-to-face learning. Retaining Live Online Learning (LOLs) for some aspects of training has proven successful in engagement, flexibility, availability and is time friendly. What we call the ‘sticky learning journey’ – where pre-training, follow up assignments and reinforced learning over time ensures that learning ‘sticks’, has been so successful due to the development of the Learning Hub with 114 training units and a pass rate of 99.6% on all activities, tests, and surveys. We currently have 249 learners on the learning hub as of today with a 93.1% engagement rate!

These examples demonstrate why innovation, especially during difficult times, can influence and guide how businesses can adapt and drive forward. Of course, businesses must make critical financial decisions at times, but for L&D, a balance between cost cutting and ensuring continued and adequate investment in people is essential. Efficiency reviews, for example, can take a critical eye and “a scalpel to programmes instead of an axe” (UNC). Questions that can be asked to support this included:

  • Are team planning/recruitment processes efficient and accurate?
  • Are L&D programmes effective in meeting the needs of the organisation and teams or is there scope for improvement?
  • Are learning, performance feedback and development reviews straight forward, cost effective and easy to implement?
  • Is there another way we could deliver learning? i.e. could a face-to-face workshop be taken online? Could a full-day course be reduced to a 2-hour live online learning session?

Your people are the face of your Values, Standards & Brand

Each hotel and hospitality venue is unique, with its own values, standards and identity and your team members are a reflection of your carefully crafted company culture. Every organisation has its own way of doing things to WOW guests, create memorable experiences, and deliver exceptional and consistent service. L&D from top to bottom ensures consistent service delivery and confidence in team members so that they can rectify any mistakes/issues that arise.

Finally, guests know when team members are trained….

Training directly impacts service quality. Well-trained team members are more likely to have the confidence and motivation to not only meet but go above and beyond the required standard of service, exceed guest expectations and improve guest satisfaction.

When it comes to difficult decisions in challenging times, we encourage you to pause, revise strategic plans, conduct organisational health checks, identify the skills your teams have and the skills your teams need, pinpoint the skill gaps, and prioritise your investments in people development and performance rather than cut them.


  1. UNC ‘Thought Leadership’ – Learning from the L&D Past in a COVID World
  2. CHRON – The importance of Training & Development in the Hospitality Industry
  3. The Caterer – Culture, progression and work life balance voted more important than salary for hospitality staff
  4. EHL Insights – Three reasons why training in hospitality matters
  5. Evolution – Development
  6. UKHospitality
  7. HIT Training – Making 2022 the Year of Retention