Give me 5%

Although our hotel enjoys the leading ADR, RevPAR and TripAdvisor positions in the city of Karachi with our GSTS (Guest Satisfaction Tracking System) results also at an all-time high, I still feel we can do a better job of improving our overall product quality and our service delivery. At the same time, I am also willing to accept the reality that unless this commitment to do even better every single day comes right from the top, we will not succeed in making gains. And when I say right from the top, I include myself as the chief training and development officer, a hat I gladly wear along with my general manager name badge.

When discussing this key business- and HR-related objective for the new budget year, which commences on July 1, with my EXCOM team recently, I informed them that while I sincerely applauded and appreciated their individual and team performances and their combined contributions to our current success, I remained bitterly disappointed with one important aspect of their responsibilities as team leaders. I was referring to their collective failure to implement any kind of pre-planned, structured and measurable training and development programs for our new and current employees that would tangibly improve their knowledge, skills and productivity, and thereby add to our staff and guests’ overall satisfaction, and as a result, add to our bottom line profits, which are slipping marginally due to external reasons beyond our control (e.g., the current volatility of the security situation in the city of Karachi, and in Pakistan).

I have faced similar training stagnation situations in previous locations, where for one reason or another, I have occasionally had to personally supervise the training and development of my teams without the assistance of a dedicated training manager. As a consequence, I have had to place the burden — or should I say the responsibility — for staff training and development directly on the shoulders of the departmental heads. I have always felt that it is ultimately up to them to select, train, coach, counsel and mentor their teams to the levels demanded by the organization, and by me as the head coach, instead of delegating the training and development of our people to a training officer, training coordinator or training manager who may not be sufficiently qualified or experienced.

Over the past several decades, I have tried numerous ways to get out of these training black holes, including linking my department heads’ training commitment and actual measurable results to their incentive plans, salaries and promotions, but mostly to no avail, as most felt that this was the responsibility of a training manager, and that they were just too busy to allocate any of their precious time to the training and development of their people, which is in fact their prime responsibility. Just look at Alex Ferguson, the legendary coach of the Manchester United football team, as he is the first one on to the training pitch each morning and the last to leave, and just look at the long list of world-class players and the world-class Man U teams he has personally developed over the past 20 years of glory, including all-time greats such as David Beckam, Wayne Rooney and Ronaldo.

I am pleased to confirm that this is no longer the case here after I instituted a simple but highly effective HR program entitled “Give Me 5%,” a request which in many developed and developing countries might possibly refer to a 5% service charge, a 5% tip, a 5% bribe or a 5% commission. But here at Avari Towers, it means give me 5% of your time for my training and development, and here is how it works in very simple terms.

If we assume that each employee spends an average of 10 hours per day in the hotel, including meals and rest breaks, then 5% of that 600-minute shift is exactly 30 minutes.

That 5% or 30 minutes is, therefore, the minimum amount of time that each and every employee in this hotel, whether a member of the EXCOM team or the pot-washing team, is entitled to have set aside for their own training and development each and every day, and an amount to which our heads of departments must commit to provide themselves.

If they cannot meet this 5% training commitment on a daily basis, for whatever reason, then they are allowed to carry it forward to the next day, which means one hour of training must be provided on the second day or they can carry forward six days (we all work a six-day week here) of missed training periods to a Saturday, which we have dedicated as TADS (training and development Saturdays), at which time three hours of training must be conducted (30 minutes multiplied by six days).

In the event a department head cannot provide any measurable training to their people for a 30-day period, perhaps due to vacations or sickness or overseas trips, then a full day of training (at least 8 hours, or 5% of the working month) must be arranged on the last day of the month or on the first day of the following month, which is of course a heavy commitment for the head of department and for the staff members and for the hotel operation, as we really cannot afford to have large teams sitting in training rooms yawning their way through dreary presentations.    

Thankfully, there has been no need for these monthly all-day training sessions, as most of the HODs have followed my lead, whereby I commit 30 minutes of my mornings to join the EXCOM team for our daily e-breaks at 10:30, at which time I present on a large screen in one of the training rooms all the latest information from various hospitality related websites, packed full of up-to-date informative material, which my team soaks up along with their doughnuts and tea.  

As a result of allocating a minimum of 5% of my working day to my EXCOM team’s training and development (sometimes its 10%, 20% or more), they also now allocate 5% of their working days to their own teams, mostly on a daily and weekly basis, which has resulted in major improvements not only in our overall product and service delivery, and indeed our results, but also more importantly in the improvement of the morale and motivation of our entire workforce. They can now see and feel a real commitment from our management team to do all we can to improve their skills, their performances, their productivity and, in the end, their share of the rewards.

So go ahead and demand 5% training time from your boss or from your HODs or from your training manager or general manager, because you deserve it, and so do they. We all need to keep on learning to keep on earning, and as a result, perhaps end up with an extra 5% or more in our salary and bonus envelopes next year.