online training in hospitality

It’s not about to replace in-person training but as an adjunct, online training in the hospitality industry has much to recommend it, writes Rachel Smith

It’s no secret that employee turnover rates in hospitality are grim: the average staff member in the sector resigns just eight months into a new job, according to a 2016 employee retention report by Deputy, a cloud-based staffing system. That leaves a lot of new staff you’re constantly having to train.

What’s the solution?

For many restaurant owners, it’s using online training to plug the gaps.

Sure, you might think that the only way to train someone to make a brilliant cup of coffee is to teach them in person and set them loose on the coffee machine. But in a busy restaurant, cafe or bar, hands-on training can be time-consuming, expensive—and something many restaurant owners struggle to prioritise.

Putting your staff through online training platforms even for just the basics can be a great help, says Restaurant & Catering Australia CEO Juliana Payne.

“One of the biggest challenges for hospitality businesses is finding workers with similar skill levels,” she explains. “By making the training easier to complete without compromising the quality, this benefits the hospitality operators by expanding the labour pool of skilled workers they have to choose from.”

Watch and learn

There are a range of online training portals, some specialising in training RSL or other club employees, and others focusing more on cafe, bar and restaurant workers. Online training platform Typsy is among the latter, serving up a content library of hundreds of professionally shot videos teaching everything from espresso basics to front-of-house essentials.

Instructors are chosen based on, for example, industry recognition, client recommendations and teaching experience.

“Online training’s obviously becoming a huge thing in every industry,” explains Jonathan Plowright, Typsy’s founder and CEO. “And it’s hard to deliver and measure training, especially in hospitality. Obviously, staff might be studying and do one or two shifts a week, and to get everyone in the one room [for training] is incredibly difficult. So, it becomes this sporadic thing that’s given to only some people in the business, delivered when there’s time or money or motivation.”

While large restaurant franchises might see the value in creating their own training content to roll out to thousands of workers across different areas, that’s not realistic for most small hospitality owners, he adds.

“That’s where the sharing economy and access to these types of platforms [comes in]. Suppose this month you want to focus on wine skills for your staff. You can go into Typsy, find the video lessons that relate to wine skills, recorded with world-leading sommeliers. You can create a schedule, click a button and within a few seconds send the schedule to one staff member or 1000. You can track automatically who’s watched what, if they’ve completed the assessment correctly. It becomes a very easy thing.”

Online vs the classroom

Although he heads up a technology solution that’s all about online learning, Plowright agrees that traditional teaching has its place. “In-person training will always exist and it’s super important, but hospitality owners tell us that there are a lot of repetitive tasks or things that aren’t getting done due to time. It just makes sense to teach certain things online, reduce labour costs and deliver training in a way that makes staff actually want to consume it.”

“It just makes sense to teach certain things online, reduce labour costs and deliver training in a way that makes staff actually want to consume it.”—Jonathan Plowright, CEO, Typsy

That means material organised in small concise chunks on singular topics, more personalised learning and greater immersion for students via videos, activities and automated tests. Then, of course, there’s the appeal for students of being able to study in their own time—whether that’s on the bus heading to work or in the tea room for five minutes between shifts.

Tourism and hospitality lecturer Juliet Hudson works in events and tourism, and has a hotel hospitality background as well. Although she teaches students face to face most of the time, she’s watching the online sector with interest—and believes online learning has a valuable place in upskilling students.

“Where I think online training works really well is when you’re learning things like making cocktails, chef skills or using a reservation system,” she says. “Online learning supports and enhances the development of knowledge and reinforces key learning outcomes—and through self-paced visual tools, I believe it gives the learner a benchmark of what’s expected, and best industry practice.”

It can also be invaluable for large restaurant or tourism groups that are training staff across regions, she adds. “What these online portals help with is streamlining the training. The employees are hearing the correct terminology used in all the restaurants, cafes, bars, and hotel operations. This supports staff, helps create consistency across the brand and enhances the customer experience.”

Customising lessons

While it’s great to make use of online training lessons on topics ranging from German beers to common dietary restrictions, what about subject matter specific to your business? There are probably hundreds of small, recurring tasks that need to be done daily or weekly, like logging into payroll, and using a guest booking system.

If you have a Typsy subscription you can upload your own specific video content to the platform for your staff to watch and learn from. “What lots of people do is just film themselves doing these tasks off their smartphone. It’s simple and there’s so much basic editing software [out there if you need it],” says Plowright.

A restaurant owner can subscribe to the platform for $170 a month. It gives their staff access to hundreds of training lessons while using the Typsy business dashboard to schedule, measure and manage their staff’s online training.

For restaurants like Aria in Brisbane, it’s been a game changer. “We have training sessions on a Saturday and send out a schedule that helps reinforce and explain [the task] in more detail, as well as answer any questions that weren’t asked on the day,” says manager Michael Newbury.

“I’ve found using Typsy has also sparked a thirst for knowledge, where people can now keep learning for individual growth and don’t have to wait until next Saturday to learn something new.”

While online training can be great for skills-based learning, it’s important to remember employees learn differently—and many might require extra help or motivation, or in-person training alongside a program of online learning.

Hudson says some people are more kinesthetic learners, which is something to consider when planning online training and follow-ups. “Some are more touchy-feely and learn by doing the activity or the task. So, while online training has a solid component in teaching the basics, there’s still a need for the hands-on approach too.”


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