In-depth Training: Educating Staff leads to Award

Ian Powell with the Laurel Point Inn's students And having recently undergone a major re-branding process, the award affirms that the Laurel Point's overhaul was more than just 'skin deep.'

"We're blessed with a gem of a property in a stunning location,"says General Manager Ian Powell. "Now it's a case of awakening the sleeping beauty, so to speak."

But casting off the proverbial cobwebs involved more than simply renovating the physical asset. Ian wanted the Laurel Point’s new look to be enhanced by a highly trained staff team.

While Ian comes from a strong HR background, he knew that he simply didn’t have the time to train the hotel's less seasoned HR professionals. Instead, Ian opted to contract out the position of human resources director in order to give the team a solid foundation on which to build.

"I didn’t need someone to tell me what to do. I needed someone to jump right in and do it," says Ian, who hired Wolf Draegestein of Hospitable HR, a Vancouver-based consulting firm specializing in the hospitality industry. Although this commitment entailed a considerable investment for the Laurel Point, Ian has this advice for other small operators: "Don’t try to do it alone. [This investment] will pay for itself."

One of the principal goals of this training program was to encourage a solid culture of learning. "Curiosity is one of our four core values, and it's essential," says Ian, who is proud that the existing staff at the Laurel Point also embraced the opportunity to enhance their skills.

"It was as though the lid had been lifted – they've received more attention in the past 18 months than they had in the previous 20 years."

The training implemented by Ian and Wolf comprised of a diverse range of initiatives which included: a colleague review process; leadership training for management – such as coaching, goal setting and the development of a succession plan; in-depth training for HR personnel – including the introduction of structured exit interviews; and the launch of a health and safety program.

While Ian notes that implementing training programs in small properties can sometimes be challenging because they don’t have the level of infrastructure available to larger chains, he is quick to point out that there are also distinct advantages.

He feels his staff now receive the benefit of in-depth training, along with the advantage of being able to express their ideas and visions:"Here, we offer the training available at larger chains [such as service training and performance management] but we also value the input of our staff members."

The Laurel Point's new-found emphasis on learning and education is already paying dividends. In this highly competitive labour market the hotel is retaining staff, the level of service has risen and complacency has been replaced with curiosity.

"Watching the staff blossom is a joy to behold. And the bottom line will also be a nice reward," concludes Ian.

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