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Why L&D matters at the Dorchester Collection

Eugenio Pirri

45 Park Lane

In their second blog for us on talent, Eugenio Pirri, VP People and Organisational Development at the Dorchester Collection, shares what learning and development is so important to them

For any service business, the talent, skills and engagement of its people provide the competitive advantage.

Things like how warm the welcome was, whether genuine care and interest was expressed, were people working together seamlessly and did the guest leave feeling appreciated; all combine to create what we define as the ultimate guest experience.

As a luxury hotel management company, it is our mission and focus to deliver this level of experience; better-than-world class guest service consistently. It’s no surprise then that the previously mentioned behaviours are, but a few, of our guest engagement key drivers. The delivery of which is entirely dependent on our highly competent team members.

As such it is vital that our people are appropriately skilled, developed, engaged and motivated throughout their employee journey. What’s more, if we are to truly deliver exceptional service, then this development must be driven by our guests.

Development with an impact

This is why, at Dorchester Collection, all the development initiatives we undertake have to have a positive impact on both guest engagement and the bottom-line.

It’s a misnomer that learning and development has to focus on a tick-box exercise based on employees’ skills alone. It’s much more than that and, when learning and development strategies are designed with employees, customers and owners in mind, the benefits are significant.

How do we do it?

Our long-term learning and development strategy is focused on increasing employee engagement and retention; up-skilling high potential individuals; and developing creative learning innovations to enhance guest experience.

Consisting of five modules, our in-house Dorchester Collection Academy supports an individual’s development throughout their career journey within the Collection. All employees, regardless of level, complete the first two modules – Engage and Core – after which Academy learning reflects the role the individual holds within the organisation. This forms part of their developmental journey; providing continual growth for our employees.

As previously mentioned, our learning is driven by guest engagement. This is measured through clear physical, functional and emotional drivers such as décor and maintenance of the hotel; experiencing seamless processes; improving a guest’s life and working as a team.

Therefore, fundamental to the success of the Academy is the inclusion of guest feedback in relation to these drivers. Before implementing any learning programme, there has to be a proven requirement as defined by the guest through customer satisfaction data or our own people’s insights from the floor, and through the executive team.

For example, guest engagement scores highlighted a mismatch between guest complaints and employee response.

As a result we launched ‘ProMisses’ – problems and missed expectations – to solve guest issues. Aligned to this was learning through the Academy; enabling skills and confidence to take initiative when handling complaints.

We also place a far higher focus on personalised training and coaching as, being in the business of serving people, we have found that these methods are far more effective for the development of our people than other channels, such as online learning. So whilst Academy sessions are completed in a traditional classroom learning environment, we have designed our modules so that learning can also take place on-the-floor with our people following bespoke personal development plans pending on where they are on their development journey. This allows our people to interact and collaborate with each other and our guests; witnessing first-hand the impact their training can have on our employees and customers.

Empowering our people

As with all central people and organisational development (POD) strategies; we empower our hotels with learning delivery. The modules within the Academy are set, however each property has the freedom to deliver them, and offer supporting development, in line with their own unique personality.

As a POD team, we support this empowerment by hosting global and departmental quarterly and annual forums in addition to monthly L&D video conferencing. This ensures all of our people know how to access learning and provides us with the opportunity to gather feedback; helping us continually evolve our approach to learning.

Our learning and development provision is respected as a direct influence on the profitability of the business as we are able to prove that the connection between staff training and guest happiness leads to improved guest experience, employee engagement and financial results. Our guest engagement drivers have increased significantly; driving additional revenue and savings across the Collection. We’ve also been able to better mobilise of our talent with continued double digit growth of our people being promoted or transferred each year over the past three years. And our engagement scores relating directly to learning and career development continue to increase year-on-year.

It goes to show that with some careful consideration, aligned to business strategy, learning and development can be the lynchpin for growth.

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