A New Era of Training

Written by: Amanda Charreton

Imagine putting on a headset and suddenly finding yourself behind the front desk attending to a guest in need or behind the scenes in the kitchen setting up the perfect tray for room service delivery. Even though virtual reality (VR) first made its name in the gaming industry, this technology has become increasingly popular in different sectors such as medicine and the military. The ability for a user to fully immerse themselves in a lifelike computer-generated environment is now slowly making its way into the hospitality industry. So far, VR has been an indispensable marketing tool for hotels to better manage their guests’ experiences and expectations. With a headset, anyone can be transported to any part of the world and benefit from visual tours and visits to different locations and sites. But what about using this technology for more internal and resourceful purposes? Hilton, one of the world’s largest hospitality companies, has started utilizing VR as a tool to successfully train all of its employees, starting from entry-level all the way up to corporate and executives. After being awarded a number two ranking in World’s Best Workplace in Fortune magazine in 2020, one can’t help but wonder: is VR the source of such success? What are its possible implications in HR and training?

Since the pandemic, one of the biggest challenges faced by the hospitality industry is a labor shortage. Hotels worldwide have had difficulty filling vacant positions, and when they do, most possess little to no knowledge about the industry. Since most come from different fields and sectors, they lack the necessary skills to confidently perform in hospitality. VR calls for a new, experiential way of learning that exposes employees to real-life working scenarios, role-playing and decision-making simulations. They are exposed to the complexity and physicality of all the different aspects of hotel operations, whether it be conflict management with a guest, room service or even learning all the different steps that go into the perfect room cleaning and housekeeping procedures. Nonetheless, can this technology be used for more than just the physical aspect of onboarding? Can VR help employees develop the empathy and emotional intelligence required to operate successfully in the hospitality industry?

With VR, companies can better assess how users handle situations by observing their emotional state, tone of voice, facial expressions, language and vocabulary. As a result, trainers can better evaluate the employee’s performance potential by analyzing their perceptual cues and stimuli to computer-generated simulations. Some hospitality companies are even using this tool as a way to train their corporate and executive-level employees in different coaching, leadership and empathy training programs. By exposing them to the hotel’s day-to-day operations, top-level teams can better understand the complexity of the daily tasks, developing greater empathy and appreciation for lower-level teams. Therefore, companies can now offer greater hospitality services and promote employee development, engagement and satisfaction. From an employer perspective, this type of training allows for more realistic training than classical in-room or e-learning training and onboarding. Employers can benefit from training their workforce at a bigger scale and faster pace, all at a lower cost. As mentioned by the senior director of learning innovation at Hilton, Blaire Bhojwani, the hospitality company was able to reduce its in-class training time from four hours to 20 minutes. PwC, which also uses VR training, has noted training completed at a much faster rate as employees demonstrated greater commitment and engagement to their learning from both a cognitive and emotional point of view.

The use of VR training in the hospitality industry now helps companies bridge the gap between unskilled labor and employee performance. As a result, employees benefit from cross-skill training in housekeeping, F&B procedures and conflict management. And who knows what comes next? As VR continues to expand, we are just beginning to discover all its different opportunities within the industry for customers and human resources.

This blog post received Third Place in the Fall 2022 HFTP/MS Global Hospitality Business Graduate Student Blog Competition presented by the HFTP Foundation. Participants are students participating in the Master of Science in Global Hospitality Business, a partnership between the Conrad N. Hilton College of Global Hospitality Leadership at the University of Houston, the School of Hotel and Tourism Management at Hong Kong Polytechnic University and EHL. The blog posts that received the top scores will be published on HFTP Connect through March 2023. Learn more at HFTP News.

Amanda Charreton is is a student in the Master of Science in Global Hospitality Business, a partnership between three world-leading hospitality management schools over three continents: EHL (École Hôtelière de Lausanne), The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Conrad N. Hilton College at University of Houston.


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