Language has always been central to hospitality, but in todayÕs hyper-connected world it matters more than ever.
PHM Hospitality, one of IndonesiaÕs leading hotel brands, recently teamed up with mobile learning solutions provider, Qooco, to train their staff in English and Mandarin Ð via their smartphones.
David Topolewski, CEO of Qooco, and Nur Enddin Destiyani, Corporate Director of Human Resources at PHM Hospitality, talked about language, service and technology.
Why is language so important for the hospitality industry?
ED: It is impossible to separate language from service, and it is vital that our associates can communicate with our guests, and provide them with a high level of guest service wherever they are from in the world. PHM Hospitality has a wide range of properties all over Indonesia, from city hotels to luxury resorts, and as a company we serve a wide range of guests, this makes language important. For example, associates at THE 1O1 Jakarta Sedayu Darmawangsa may be welcoming local Indonesian guests one day, and international Ð English-speaking Ð guests another. The level of service they provide cannot be higher for those that speak the same language as the associates, and it is vital that they are able to communicate effectively and clearly.
DT: Numerous surveys and studies have shown that hotel associate language skills are important for guests, and even influence their choice of hotel. Additionally, if a hotel employee cannot fully understand the needs of the guest, then it is unlikely that he/she can provide a proper level of service. In todayÕs world of social media and online reviews, one bad incident caused by a language misunderstanding can have an outsized effect on the image of the brand, so a good level of lingual understanding should be a must for all good quality hotels.
What challenges exist, specifically to Indonesia, when it comes to hiring hotel employees who communicate well in multiple languages?
ED: As anyone who works in the hospitality industry will know, working in a hotel is fast-paced, exciting and challenging, and does not leave much time for learning a new language! We have great teams working in our properties, and developing themselves as professionals, so from an HR perspective, our challenge is finding an efficient way to further develop their skills in a realistic and time-efficient manner.
Additionally, we do not necessarily seek to hire employees with a high level of language proficiency, rather we look to enthusiasm, motivation and attitude. If the associate has these attributes, then it is only a matter of time before they develop the language and other skills required to be a great PHM Hospitality team member!
DT: As Indonesia grows and develops, it will attract more interest and investment from overseas, and more visitors. Indonesia drew 2.1 million Chinese tourists last year according to reports, and can expect even more in 2017, and overall arrivals came in at over 12 million according to the government data.ÊMany of these visitors will expect a high standard of service, and English / Mandarin language proficiency, adding pressure to hotel associates.
PHM Hospitality will potentially use QoocoÕs mobile learning solutions throughout the 11 properties. Why mobile learning?
ED: earlier I alluded to the lack of time many associates have when it comes to learning new languages and skills. Our team are very busy, and it is impractical to take up hours of their time a week to sit in a classroom and have them learn English or Mandarin. Furthermore, it is costly and quite inefficient, putting more pressure on the remaining team members who are left.
Mobile learning will allow our properties to overcome these challenges, as associates need only learn for 10 minutes per day. Additionally, they are able to do this anytime, anywhere Ð during their lunch break, in the bus on the way to work or before bed. This is quite exciting, not only will the associates acquire new skills and abilities during their time with PHM Hospitality, but the improvements in guest service will lead to better guest satisfaction, loyalty and an improved bottom line.
DT: Mobile learning is really the future of learning. Studies of QoocoÕs solutions have shown significant improvement of student language ability after a short amount of time, and in a hospitality setting our mobile learning solutions have been found to improve spoken English by 55 per cent compared to 11 per cent when learning in the classroom. The key to learning a new language is repetition, and we allow associates to get on their phone and learn for ten minutes per day, every day. This is very feasible even in a busy hotel, and produces real results.
I would also add that PHM Hospitality training managers will be able to view associatesÕ performance in real time, via an online dashboard. This will enable them to assist where necessary, and identify the star performers.
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