In the hotel business, success hinges on an organization’s ability to provide quality service and ensure that each guest’s needs are met in a timely and courteous fashion. Wyndham International has taken that tenet to a new level by applying it to employee learning. With 22,000 employees to educate in Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and the United States, Wyndham also provides learning support for its franchise partners, approximately 6,000 associates.
“Our goal at Wyndham International University is to provide learning experiences for every level of the organization, from our CEO down to an entry-level employee,” said Steve Schuller, vice president of organization development and staffing for Wyndham International. “We do that using a variety of tools focused on customer service, basic job skills, leadership and personal development.”
Creating effective learning opportunities for such a large, geographically dispersed populace is a challenge. Wyndham has 175 properties ranging from 100 to 1,600 rooms. In some hotels, 26 different languages are spoken, and Schuller must take all of the cultural backgrounds, languages and dialects into consideration for each market. To that end, most of Wyndham’s learning programs have been translated into Spanish.
“I would love to translate into every language that is spoken in our properties, but it’s just not possible,” Schuller said. “When we’re not able to translate into the native language, we take into consideration the way in which people learn. We’ll use a lot of graphics, pictures—different learning aids to impart the gist of the training. We also consider different literacy rates. We offer ESL (English as a Second Language) and SSL (Spanish as a Second Language) classes. While many of our hotels have partnered with local community colleges to do ESL, we also recently implemented a self-paced program that puts the power to learn right into the hands of our employees. This new solution uses technology that they can take home and work at their own pace, which doesn’t take time away from work and provides a valuable tool not only for them, but for their family as well.” This, Schuller said, enables managers to communicate more effectively with their team.
With a company-wide goal to provide 40 hours of training for each employee every year, Wyndham has employed a blended learning strategy that includes on-the-job training and traditional workshop or classroom learning, as well as e-learning. “We have some classes that are stand-alone that you can go in and take, and there are others that are modular in format,” Schuller said. “We have about 200 subjects that are available via e-learning. For instance, we do all of our property management system training via e-learning. In the past, we sent a trainer to each property to train a new guest service agent how to use the computer, check someone in, check someone out. Using e-learning, we took a modular approach, so there’s a module just on check-in. We’re able to have one trainer here in Dallas, and they can train someone in California and in Boston at the same time.”
Technology offers substantial savings of time lost to administration, eases learning delivery and lowers cost. Wyndham has deployed a learning management portal through its HRIS system that tracks all classes, evaluations, self-paced assessments and e-learning modules. The HRIS system has separate databases for classroom and e-learning training and can run reports to see who’s taken what course and what courses might be needed. “We’ve created a personalized road map for every employee, which includes a curriculum of courses that are required for each position,” Schuller said. “There’s a checklist for each position that the employee and manager sign off on. We hold people accountable for what’s required in their position, and at the same time try to be supportive and show them how to get there.”
“Our philosophy is, if you’ve experienced our hotels, it’s all about personalization,” Schuller added. “Our goal as an organization is to take the concept of Wyndham By Request, which is really a guest-focus program, and take that to all of our employees so they can have a personalized employee experience with Wyndham. It starts the moment they come on board. It’s all about them. Employees fill out a profile, take refresher courses–there’s a lot of choices– and everyone has a role to play. It’s not a management-driven program. It’s a grassroots effort to culturally transform this organization from one that was very focused on creating an enriching experience for the guests to one that creates an enriching experience for everyone.”
Kellye Whitney is associate editor for Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.