Train the Trainer

By: Angela Sosnoski

Regardless of the size of a hotel, managers cannot be expected to do it all. The ever-growing list of expectations from guests, new technology, and increasing regulations demand that managers must share the burden of training with supervisors and employees. Many managers could also hone their training skills to increase the pace of implementation, overcome resistance to new programs, and enhance workplace morale. Effective new trainers can be developed with a simple framework.

A wise human resources person once remarked about the core training steps being: “I will tell you, you will repeat back to me, then I will show you, and then you will show me.” More formally, we recommend five key steps: preparation, explanation, demonstration, trying, and follow-up.


This is what you may recall from school to be the curriculum. Critically, it is about defining what outcomes you want to achieve at the end of the training and then putting in place the materials and activities to achieve those outcomes. Often this involves refreshing your own knowledge about the topic, making sure that any training materials supplied by a vendor or regulator are appropriate for your audience (and adjusting as needed), making sure that you have the training tools available (training on a new computer system, for example, will almost certainly require access to a computer), and things as simple as having sign-in sheets for the training.

Preparation also includes a focus on the learners before and at the start of the session. Learning or knowing about the training participants previous experience with the topic, understanding how they like to learn, and alleviating concerns at the start of the session will increase the likelihood of achieving the learning outcomes for everyone. Trainers should be prepared to pivot—through good preparation—to different types of activities or materials to match the needs of the learners. Even simple steps like isolating the best five minutes of a 20-minute video prior to the training can make a big difference in the success of the session.

“Plan your ideal lesson and plan to adapt that lesson when the inevitable need for change arises.”

Preparation for a trainer can be summarized in a short sentence: Plan your ideal lesson and plan to adapt that lesson when the inevitable need for change arises.


You should tailor the what, why, how, and when to the learners. The question “Why?” is often understated and not focused on something beneficial for the learner. While a new front office system may make things much easier for the accountant, if you are training front desk staff, you should think about a compelling “why” that positively impacts them such as “other hotels that implemented this system reported that they could check people in two minutes quicker, and the guest feedback about the check-in experience increased by 15% after implementation.” Connection to the “Why?” increases training success.

Explaining skills and tasks to learners is most effective using easy-to-follow steps, which are clear, concise, and free of jargon. If the steps are difficult, add more steps to the learning process. Consider having check sheets or other training tools to supplement your explanations.


Demonstrating brings a visual element to your training. This is not the time for the trainer to show off how good they are at something; shortcuts and “pro tips” come later in the learning process.

“Trainers should model the best way to perform the task.”

Trainers should model the best way to perform the task—safely with a focus on details and accuracy. As a trainer plotting out how you will demonstrate a new skill or task, you should question what is going to help the learner best understand and visualize the task. Think about product sales at a home show or on late night TV: people are more likely to purchase slicers, knives, and cleaning products after witnessing the demonstration. How will your “demo” entice the learner to follow all the steps to success?

Try Out

Practice and repetition are simple but effective tools if used in a planful way. Be prepared to safely stop the practice to allow the learners to discover and correct their own errors. Be careful to not let learners practice bad techniques. When people are “getting it”, ask open ended questions like “How did you know you were doing it right?” or have the learner train you on the task to demonstrate that they truly understand what they’re doing. Another effective technique is to have the learner verbally repeat the steps as they perform them.

Trying out new tasks is most effective when the pressure is off. For example, practicing checking in a guest for the first time, on a new system, is much easier in the back office than it is with real guests lining up in the lobby. Investing in a bit of extra training time so that your staff have a safe place to learn will pay future dividends.


Training is not a one-time event; it is best thought of as a process or as a journey. What are the one-day, one-week, and one-month goals? What are the accomplishments along the way that should be recognized? Are the goals and the accomplishments to be recognized tied to the bigger picture, which is why you’re doing this?

Learners should be aware of different options to go for help if it is needed. Can visual aids be placed where the task is performed or is there a website or instruction manual nearby? Finally, during the follow-up phase, continue to provide specific feedback at both the individual level (you need to pause after asking the guest how they are going to pay) and group level (our average check-in time dropped two minutes last month).

Continuously strive for improvement each time you conduct training. Have you got feedback loops built into your training from learners and are you achieving the outcomes you set out to attain at the start of the training process? Continual improvement in training can make your hotel more successful with better engagement, reduced turnover, and improved productivity.

Angela Sosnoski is a consultant at HR West focused on workplace investigations and anti-bullying and harassment training.  She can be reached at