McCurry finds out how one of London’s most exclusive hotels has designed and
delivered a new competence-based programme
The hotel industry has long had a reputation for taking a superficial
attitude to training. High staff turnover and hectic working patterns have
meant that training has rarely taken centre stage.
But one of London’s most exclusive hotels, the Savoy, has now put in place a
tailored manager development programme. It is aimed not only at sharpening
management skills but also at helping break down barriers between departments.
The programme is backed up by a new appraisal scheme to measure whether a new
list of competencies have been met.
The programme grew out of discussions among the hotel’s 10 executive
managers, who were aware of the need to introduce a specific management
training scheme in order to ensure consistent standards.
One of the problems the hotel industry faces, says Savoy HR manager Andrew
Creeth, is high staff turnover and this often leads to a downgrading of
training. "It’s hard to get past first base with training when people
don’t stay long," he says.
The hotel has begun to change this picture by recruiting staff who want a
career in the industry rather than those who just want a short-term job. But
for real changes to be embedded and to retain more managers, a more ambitious
approach to management training needed to be put in place, says Creeth.
The executive managers began by defining a ‘Savoy manager’, drawing up a
list of competencies, ranging from teambuilding, communications and enthusiasm
to planning and commercial awareness. These were incorporated into the
programme and the appraisal scheme.
An external consultant was brought in to deliver and facilitate the
training, at a cost of around £40,000. Another helped design the appraisal.
Four teams were set up, made up of 35 managers, ranging from chefs to
accountants, sales people and food and beverages managers. The executive
managers also took part and helped lead the teams.
The first training sessions began in January and the teams have now
completed three two-day training sessions plus coursework. Smaller teams were
also created to carry out a detailed project on how improvements could be made
in another department.
"Each team was given another department as the subject project and made
recommendations for cost-effective improvements," says Creeth.
As well as giving participants an insight into the workings of another
department and therefore improve cross-departmental understanding, the projects
yielded a number of valuable suggestions, some of which have already been put
Creeth says: "For example, one of the recommendations was that all
waiters be given pagers so that the chefs could let them know when a particular
order was ready, which means the waiters can now spend more time with customers
and only return to the kitchen when needed."
Another improvement involved modifying the way multiple orders are handled
by the kitchen teams so there is more communication between kitchen staff and
less likelihood of dishes arriving cold.
Creeth says that one of the challenges any hotel faces is that the different
sections, such as the restaurant, reception, sales and HR, are often overly
focused on their own jobs without taking into account the needs of other
Bringing people together on the training teams and creating a more unified
management standard will help improve communication within the hotel, he hopes.
As well ensuring every manager understood the hotel’s business plan and
customer markets, a key part of the programme was instilling a knowledge of the
culture of the hotel and its history, which could be shared with staff and
"We wanted every manager to be able to take someone on a tour of the
hotel and understand the history, such what role the chef Escoffier played in
our past," says Creeth.
He adds that the participants have completed the first two stages and will
take the appraisal in the autumn. This is designed to ensure they have absorbed
the training competencies and it includes 360-degree feedback.
Probably the biggest lesson to emerge from the programme, says Creeth, is
recognition of the amount of time needed for effective management. "After
doing the course, people realised good management wasn’t something you could do
in 15 minutes every afternoon but that it’s about having the time to spend with
staff and to think creatively."
Case study: Feedback from the top
Head concierge Paul Pugh has been at the Savoy for four years
and manages 24 staff.
Hotel management can be a hectic business, he says: "It’s
not quite crisis management but there’s a lot of having to think quickly on
For that reason, he says he found the training on motivational
skills particularly useful.
Pugh’s team studied the workings of the famous restaurant, the
Savoy Grill, and came up with several recommendations that could improve the
"We got a lot of positive feedback on the project from the
executive directors," he says.
He has been impressed with the structure of the course. He also
welcomes the new appraisal scheme. In the past appraisals have been rather
perfunctory, he says, but with the new competency framework, appraisals will
play a much bigger role in performance measurement.