Kingsmen Talks: The consequences of failing to understand the importance of proper hospitality training

Kingsmen Talks: The consequences of failing to understand the importance of proper hospitality training

Hospitality is changing in Thailand. More and more luxury hotels are coming, Michelin stars were awarded to selected restaurants in 2017/2018 and additional ratings are expected to be given in 2019, as fine dining and accommodations are established in other areas across Thailand. It is therefore becoming paramount for quality establishments to provide their staff with proper training in hospitality services. Most establishments compete on their food and beverage offerings or their pricing and location. We advocate adding to this competition based upon level of service.

The core of the hospitality industry is its software, in this case software being the people who provide the services. Regardless of the will of the international establishments coming into Thailand to implement their “service standard” for their guests, these establishments will often reflect the inherent service mentality of the Thai culture through their service providers. 

Thailand is famously known as the Land of Smiles and its residents rightfully pride themselves on being gracious and accommodating. As a collective culture, Thais are taught to be more concerned with what’s best for the group rather than what suits them personally. 

Hospitality, one of the cores of Thai culture, is visible in both professional and social contexts. Thais will welcome visitors into their homes and show their generosity by offering anything they might have, showing that service and hospitality are highly valued and given with a sense of modesty. 

In subsequent articles, we will discuss workplace issues and provide innovative and creative solutions designed to improve services in the Hospitality sector of Thailand.

The consequences of failing to understand the importance of proper training

Although most hospitality establishments train employees to behave appropriately with customers, the industry as a whole, and especially in Thailand, has a poor reputation for training.  While this assertion may not have been well tested empirically, it tends to be held among hospitality owners and management. Two reasons may be offered for why managers fail to invest in training. First, there is hesitation to devote resources to training when employees may choose to leave and apply their newly acquired skills with the competition. More frequently, however, it is because the manager’s time is already fully occupied with operations, recruitment & selection, and “fire-fighting” issues. 

The hospitality industry’s problem with recruitment, retention, and therefore under-staffing, has been well documented and recognised by several studies, as has its impact. High employee turnover affects employee performance which leads to customer perceptions of poor quality and therefore reduced levels of satisfaction, thereby undermining customer loyalty, resulting in lower profitability.

Training and development affect job satisfaction and company commitment, which in turn affects staff retention. Establishments that provide inadequate training experience increased levels of staff turnover which threatens performance standards and therefore the company’s bottom line of profit. In Thailand, current poor training practices and high rates of staff turnover suggest serious and persistent management inadequacies. Fortunately, with modest efforts, these shortfalls can be overcome.

Training should be and must again become a common requirement to avoid poor performance. Proper training results in reductions in disciplinary action and therefore becomes a positive means of raising performance standards as well as reducing the need for close supervision. 

Fundamental hospitality staff performance defects

Three major issues have been identified as negatively affecting hospitality staff performance: (1) poor training; (2) the misused concept of on-the-job training (OJT) and; and (3) sink-or-swim workplace initiations. Poor or inadequate training results in the staff member struggling to figure out how to perform many processes and having to “re-invent” the wheel on their own instead of learning the proper performance of steps and processes as they were designed to be performed. The results: each employee performs company processes the best they know how and quality suffers needlessly.

While “on-the-job” training can be a very effective method of training when experienced and knowledgeable trainers in hospitality are used, this occurs only rarely. Instead, most often a “buddy” system is used with the staff member being asked to shadow a more experienced staff member or a supervisor for a day. This “buddy” system becomes more of an onboarding into the establishment rather than a training to perform processes in an excellent manner. Even if the “buddy” system were designed to continue further training after the onboarding period, there tends to be very little or no follow-up training.  OJT seldom involves systematic evaluation and data collection so that the effects of the training are not captured and used for improvement. If you don’t measure performance before and after training, how do you know that what you are doing is having the desired effects?

The “Sink-or-Swim” workplace is an old onboarding technique used extensively in the hospitality industry. The staff member is thrown into his or her job with little or no instruction, with management only keeping those who can deal with the job. During this frightening and bewildering experience, the inexperienced staff member, usually develops an ad hoc method to manage the constant demands of the establishment which usually include faulty techniques, inadequate knowledge and poor skills This becomes a stressful ordeal for the staff member, especially as Thais do not like losing face by asking for help. Performing a task publicly with insufficient skill endangers service quality and can even demean and embarrass staff members.

Training solutions

If organisations trained staff instead of discarding them when they fail to “swim”, not only would they have enough staff, but their service quality would rise, as staff would be retained long enough to learn and perfect their jobs. Studies show that many managers are caught in a destructive and self-perpetuating cycle of workplace problems, some of which may derive from constraints on spending, and therefore, on effective human resource management.

Training may help break the cycle of reactive management by reducing the incidence of costly workplace problems, poor quality and high turn-over; factors which only strengthen and perpetuate the downward spiral.

Studies have shown that training and development reduced stress in employees and even influenced organisational commitment. The particularly strong relationships between under-staffing, poor training, and unfair dismissals, suggests that if staff were better trained they would stay longer and be treated more fairly. With proper training and development, staff are likely to stay longer, perhaps making a career out of work that has an engaging appeal to those who enjoy a stimulating and complex environment. Satisfied employees have been shown to provide much better service, which leads to more loyal customers and positive effects on profits.

Win-win strategies

Training is likely to reduce under-staffing, improve retention rate and eliminate employee dismissals, while simultaneously improving service levels and increasing profits.  It therefore not only makes economic sense to provide training, if only to avoid the complications and consequences of negative behaviour of managers and staff members.  

Formal, structured on-the-job training is a systematic approach essential to get past above-mentioned hurdles and reap the rewards of professional training. By having training conducted by experienced and knowledgeable trainers, in the employees’ workplace where the appropriate environment and props are available, staff will feel more comfortable and learn faster.  

We welcomes enquiries and offer advice on training and staffing solutions for the hospitality industry in Thailand. Employees need access to expertise in the hospitality industry along with a data-driven decision-making process. Staff must be provided with the training that they need to produce the quality service that guests desire.

Author: Michael F. J. Clarke, CEO & Co-Founder, Kingsmen Hospitality Services, a leading advisory and training organisation for the hospitality industry can be reached at or +66 (0) 94 323 7428

Series Editor: Christopher F. Bruton, Executive Director, Dataconsult Ltd, Dataconsult’s Thailand Regional Forum provides seminars and extensive documentation to update business on future trends in Thailand and in the Mekong Region.

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