Qooco Opinion


How language can help to reduce hotel staff turnover

April 8, 2016

This year, it is pretty much guaranteed that another restaurant or hotel will want to poach your chef and/or staff, many of whom will be happy to move across town for an extra few dollars a week. High turnover puts pressure on the remaining team members, damages morale, and hurts the bottom line (it is believed that it costs twice an employee’s salary to find and train a new replacement). Moreover, the constant need to find, interview, hire and train new employees is distracting for departments heads, who would rather spend more time on improving their team, their products and increasing revenue.

While there are many different ways in which leaders can retain more of their staff, including pay raises, benefits and improved interview processes, one way that can help address the problem is by having your staff learn a new language.

For the individual employee, there are numerous benefits that will help improve his or her career. The fact that they will be able to communicate with foreign hotel guests or restaurant patrons will endear them to their leaders. They will be able to resolve disputes and misunderstandings more effectively; they will be able to upsell and generally provide a better standard of service.

This will lead directly to better career prospects. It is not unusual for multi-lingual staff to assume leadership positions before their monolingual colleagues. The confidence that knowing another language brings will make them ideally suited to leading teams, motivating employees and leading by example.

For a Front Office Manager or Director of Food and Beverage, the benefits of setting their teams up on a language course go beyond reducing staff turnover, but directly improve profitability. Language is inseparable to service. A waiter who struggles to communicate with their customer is unlikely to provide great service, on the contrary the chances of miscommunication and an unhappy customer are higher. Conversely, an Indonesian Front Office executive who speaks fluent (or a high level) Mandarin will be able to go above and beyond for their Chinese guests. This will result in highly satisfied, loyal guests who are more likely to return.

Lastly, teaching languages does not have to be expensive. While traditional, classroom based learning is costly and disruptive (hiring of tutors, training aids, booking of classroom etc.), not to mention quite ineffective, technology has allowed us to provide quality tuition as a fraction of the cost.

Mobile learning is highly suited to the hospitality industry. Most hotel employees are young, and have grown up using a smartphone, and therefore are more used to learning from a screen than from a book. Technological and pedagogical advancements have meant that smartphones can pick up the tiniest of nuances in language and tone, and provide instant feedback and improvement suggestions to users – perfect for a tonal language such as Mandarin.

To have a team of employees who can speak an additional language – organized by their employer – is a considerable asset for any hotel. Most importantly, they will feel like they have a stake in the property, feel more motivated and happier – and less likely to leave.