The Dynamic Duo: How HR and Training Teams Can Combine Forces for Organizational Success
Patrick Yearout, FMP, CHT
Director of Innovation, Recruiting, and Training, Ivar’s & Kidd Valley Restaurants
CHART Past President
At the May 2023 National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago, I attended an educational session to support the two CHART members who were presenting it: Christine Andrews of Hostmark Hospitality and Jen Belk White of Lumina Foods. The session was titled Managing HR and Training When You Are in Charge of Both, and it focused on strategies for not only attracting, managing, and retaining talent, but also developing employees’ skills and knowledge at their workplaces (without going crazy from all this responsibility).
We have the opposite setup for Human Resources (HR) and Training at Ivar’s, as these disciplines are overseen separately by two people. Instead of finding time to get everything done, our efforts are concentrated on coordinating activities so that we can create the best possible work environments for the teams in our restaurants (and the best possible experiences for our guests) through improvements in onboarding, employee engagement, talent development, performance management, succession planning, and an endless list of other benefits.
To achieve our goals, we focus on three areas that help our HR and Training Departments partner together more effectively. If your hospitality company is in the same boat, these practical examples can help build stronger ties and improved performance between the two roles.
Successful collaboration between HR and Training begins with establishing open lines of communication. If the directors overseeing these departments promote the idea of sharing information, it helps individuals feel more comfortable talking about their needs, goals, and challenges. These efforts can take the form of:
- Leading by example, with both directors engaging in open and transparent communication with one another and encouraging members of their teams to develop professional connections outside their own department (going beyond HR and Training, this outreach should also include Operations, Marketing, Accounting, Maintenance, etc.) and outside the company via avenues like CHART or local hospitality associations.
- Implementing regular meetings or brainstorming sessions with representatives from both departments to review current work projects. You could also incorporate icebreakers or team-building activities for attendees to get to know one another better.
- Utilizing collective communication platforms, such as project management software, shared calendars, or task tracking systems, to facilitate real-time communication and discussions. If you aren’t up to that level of technology yet, at least consider creating an inclusive email distribution list so that everyone on both teams is copied on important messages, such as updates on HR policies, procedures, and any changes that may impact training initiatives or programs in your hotels or restaurants.
- Setting up the office so the HR professionals and trainers sit in the same area, which allows for spontaneous conversations throughout the workday to discuss what they are working on and what they need assistance with.
Beyond communication, cooperation between HR and the Training Department can be further enhanced by combining their actual work. Examples include:
- Inviting members of the Human Resources team to visit field operations with trainers to analyze employee performance gaps so that HR concerns, insights, and techniques can be included when developing and designing training materials to help close the gaps.
- Collaborating on the design (or revamp/revitalization, if you already have one) of an onboarding program that introduces new hires to the company’s policies, procedures, and job-specific training and acclimates them to the organization’s culture and values. Additionally, if you haven’t yet implemented a learning management system for your team members, working together on that project would allow HR and Training to centralize training materials, track employee progress, and simplify the training administration process.
- Creating recognition and reward programs for employees who not only succeed in job-related skills but also actively participate in learning and development activities.
- Arranging for cross-departmental training (or job shadowing) so that the teams can gain insight into each other’s roles, offer suggestions for improvement, and serve as backups when needed.
The third step that can create a stronger tie between the two departments is to identify joint performance metrics that will drive HR and Training to achieve common objectives. These metrics might include:
- Tracking the impact of training initiatives on employee engagement levels through post-training climate surveys, feedback mechanisms, and staff retention rates.
- Assessing your company’s diversity and inclusion achievements using workforce representation metrics, inclusion survey results, and training participation rates for underrepresented groups.
- Measuring the return on investment of training programs by evaluating cost per training hour, training cost savings, and impact on business outcomes (e.g., revenue growth, cost reduction).
- Setting benchmarks for time-to-competence metrics for new hires (based on team member performance times, quality of work, and guest feedback scores) and then identifying and implementing strategies that reduce the time required to achieve full productivity.
Everyone has the option to eat peanut butter and marshmallow cream separately, but why would you when it’s so much sweeter if you put them together? In the same vein, Human Resources and Training can function perfectly fine within their own bubbles, but more than any other departments in the hospitality world, the results of this dynamic duo’s combined efforts can spur both individual and collective growth among your teams and provide competitive advantages for your hotels or restaurants for many years to come.