3 Ways Cross Training Delivers Results in Hospitality

Posted 03-24-15 by In Skills Development

Charlie Chaplin and Lucille Ball made us laugh at early modern ideas of work because they failed (so badly) at doing “one thing well.”

Recalling those black and white images sheds light on why specializing can be problematic. One thing goes wrong and the whole system collapses.

At HWTC, we’ve piloted several cross-training programs with current Hospitality workers.  In a short time the benefits for workers and for the industry have quickly very clear.


Shirley, one of HWTC’s first cohort of grads has been very happy in her role as a Houseman at the Toronto Don Valley Hotel. With the support of her employer, Shirley enrolled in and recently completed HWTC’s maintenance course. Similarly, Lucie, a Room Attendant at Novotel Toronto is nearing completion of our Guest Services training course.

How do people like Shirley and Lucie benefit from cross training? Here’s what some of the experts say:

1. Access to Hours:  Zeynep Ton from MIT’s Sloane School of Management believes that both workers and employers benefit from the additional hours workers can access when they are able to perform different functions. Ton points to companies like Quik­Trip and Mercadona who train their employees for a variety of roles and are able to provide their employees full time hours. She concludes that full time hours lead to reduced costs associated with low morale (such as lateness and absenteeism) and improved overall customer experiences.

2. Stronger Teams:  It’s often said that the only benefit of smoking is that smokers break down barriers by knowing a cross-section of people in an organization. Behind this myth is the simple fact that teams are stronger when team members know each other and understand and value each other’s roles. Nokia’s “secret weapon” in building a strong culture is ensuring that members meet and interview individuals in other departments:

Typically, within a few days, the employee’s manager will sit down and list all the people in the organization, no matter in what location, it would be useful for the employee to meet…The gift of time—in the form of hours spent on coaching and building networks—is seen as crucial to the collaborative culture at Nokia.

3. Better Overall Competency: Industry veteran Bill Marriott highlighted cross training on his (really terrific) blog. He mentions a housekeeping supervisor who cross trained in a variety of departments including room service, guest services, the hotel restaurant and banquet department commenting “her bosses think she’ll make a great manager someday.” One reason Mr. Marriott believes in cross training is because it improves competency.

Hotel News Now ‘s Birgit Radin calls this “Bench Strength.” Radin tells the story of an executive chef who was cross trained as a front desk agent when she was a kitchen supervisor. Her cross training proved invaluable as she advanced, eventually becoming executive chef at one of the property’s high end restaurants.

She learned how pace can affect the overall experience…she is in a better position to understand how best to please guests, inspire repeat visits from visitors and locals and understand the financial responsibilities she must meet.

To better understand why cross training is part of a Good Jobs strategy, watch Zeynep Ton talk about it’s role in service environments

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