The Protea Hospitality Group has once again taken the lead in staff training and empowerment with the launch of an e-learning platform that will provide online teaching access to its 15 000 staff spread across more than 130 hotels in 8 African countries.
Ongoing staff training is every company’s most intelligent succession plan. Employees who buy into the culture of a business and understand its ethos and systems frequently become its most successful managers and directors.
At the beginning of March the Protea Hospitality Group began the rollout of an e-learning platform that will be accessible to every company employee. The Learning Management System (LMS) platform took only 10 months to develop.
But as Protea Hotels Institute for Professional Development (PHIPD) Director Mary McGuire says, the plan was to move fast. The Protea Hospitality Group has for more than 20 years been running two training programs. The first is a two-pronged 3-year diploma course in hotel management or in professional cookery; both of which result in externally-recognised qualifications. More than 60% of the senior managers and hotel general managers in the company have come up through these ranks. The second is the Protea Hotels Institute for Professional Development (PHIPD), which runs 24 portable short courses throughout the group that cover all business aspects from marketing and HR to computer skills and sales.
The LMS platform came about as a result of a training audit by the PHG Board in mid-2011 that recognised the logistical impossibility of offering all 15 000 employees ongoing training and asked the PHIPD to find a solution. The company elected to develop the e-learning platform entirely in South Africa. Co-developer was Bridgewater Learning SA, with animation provided by Cape Town design company Sea Monster.
The first course on the e-learning platform is a customer care programme called Juiced. All employees within Protea Hotels are being registered on the LMS and will be able to access the course. “Our intention is to have an e-learning academy that is content rich and reaches every corner of our very spread out business, but will fit into our blended approach to learning. Some courses by their content live more comfortably on e-learning, while others require classroom interaction,” said McGuire. “This is why e-learning will become the third leg of our training approach, rather than a replacement for the PHIPD.
“In time it’s likely to become the company’s primary short-course training tool, though, because staff can also access study material and work in their own time, rather than trying to absorb everything in a few days on a course.” McGuire said that while the development of an e-learning LMS platform was for the benefit of staff, it made sound business sense too. “Developing our people gives us a competitive advantage and makes us an employer of choice,” said McGuire. “I think the motto for the PHIPD says it all: What if we train our people and they leave? What if we don’t and they stay?”