Upskilling to Boost Retention: Three Programs to Try

By: Danielle Leroux

Employee retention is at the top of every employer’s mind. Labour shortages continue to be a challenge for BC’s hospitality industry. The province now has as many as 50,000 job vacancies in tourism and hospitality and federally there’s a shortage of 300,000 workers.

Employees are also expensive to replace. Cost-of-turnover estimates for a single position range from 30% of the yearly salary for hourly employees to 150%.

Upskilling yourself and your employees is one tool employers can use to boost retention. It’s also something employees want. According to a 2021 PricewaterhouseCoopers survey, 77% of workers said they’re ready to learn new skills and 74% saw upskilling as a matter of personal responsibility.

Here are three educational programs to try:

1. Fast Track Financial Training with David Lund

David Lund is a Financial Coach helping hotel teams and leaders effectively manage their operational finances with financial coaching and educational workshops.

Earlier this year, Lund partnered again with the BC Hotel Association (BCHA) on a Financial Leadership training series. The program covered six modules: financial leadership, business principles, financial statements, managing payroll and productivity, controlling expenses, and advanced financial leadership and analysis.

Lund says that for many people the biggest takeaway was accounting, which is a lot easier than they thought. “People tend to think about numbers and accounting as something that requires a lot of training and experience, but this is more about business thinking,” he notes. “People realize that if they want their career to grow and advance into more positions of leadership and responsibility, they need to know their numbers.”

Lund believes that by developing your leaders around financial skills, you’re investing in them and giving them another good reason to stay. “People want to work for employers that are invested in their future,” he adds.

Outside of the BCHA training program, Lund offers one-on-one coaching and mentoring programs, online workshops and video courses, and custom content. On his YouTube page and blog, you can find hundreds of free videos and articles.

2. Leadership Development with Blue Mountain Solutions

Blue Mountain Solutions provides leadership development, customer service excellence training, and operational support to organizations and companies of all sizes.

Principal Owner Theresa Ito has been in hospitality for 39 years and is passionate about supporting the industry and helping leaders find the joy in leadership again. Ito and her team train leaders to function more efficiently and effectively and help them upskill on the job by providing formal leadership development.

Ito believes leadership development is integral to retention given the impact a leader has on the people around them. “We are so influenced by the people who are leaders at work,” she says. “We spend so much time with them and they impact our mental health so much. Yet as leaders, no one has taught us those lessons. The things that we get right—we’re lucky, we think we’ve got it right. The things we don’t get right—they backfire so badly; we feel shame and embarrassment.”

“Leadership development is integral to retention.”

In a six-part series with the BCHA entitled Leadership for Hospitality Professionals which kicked off March 7, 2023, Ito is taking leaders back to the basics. She chose the topics based on what she thought were most impactful: becoming assertive, mastering your time, team meetings, and the magic of one-one-ones, handling complaints like a pro, switching on your emotional intelligence, and keeping yourself motivated.

Ito designed the series to be impactful and relevant and allow leaders to take away one or two small things every session, allowing them to make a small change each day and ultimately improve their leadership skills.

When it comes to retention, Ito believes it all starts with developing yourself as a leader. “Start with ensuring that you as a leader are performing well, showing integrity, passion, and an open heart,” she suggests. “Your approach to yourself and how you act attracts people and inspires people to align with your vision and actions.” Leaders should also ensure they’re organized, delegate well, are able to have difficult conversations, and are people that others want to work around.

Outside of the BCHA training series, Blue Mountain offers in-person and online training and courses.

3. Operational Excellence with Western Community College

Western Community College (WCC) offers a Bachelor of Hospitality Management and Diploma in Hospitality Management. The college also runs applied skills training projects, working closely with organizations like the BCHA or YMCA to upskill individuals.

“There is a serious gap in employment for the hospitality industry for the upcoming summertime,” says Rob Fahlman, Associate Vice-President of Academic Affairs at WCC. “We’re working hard to try and get people out there and into jobs.”

WCC is not just training people for entry level positions. They train people to become or level up into supervisors, general managers, and other leadership roles.

Fahlman says there is a lot of focus on leveling up right now and emphasizes the importance of focused skills training when it comes to retention. “It is a very competitive marketplace. Staff members will change positions for more money,” he says. “If there is an opportunity for education that provides a pathway to advancement, that is huge. That is an investment in an employee to keep them there.”

It’s also important for employees to demonstrate to their employer or future employer that they’re invested in their own development.

Later this year, WCC is running a live training on Operational Excellence with the BCHA. “We’re working with hotels to design a program specific to them and meet their needs,” Fahlman explains.

Upskilling as a Competitive Edge

Upskilling makes you a better leader and creates a stronger, more knowledgeable team. It also keeps employees away from your competitors.

Plus, it’s a trend that’s here to stay. According to a 2020 World Economic Forum report, by 2024 it’s estimated that 40% of workers will require up to six months of reskilling, while 94% of business leaders expect their workers to pick up new skills.

By upskilling your team, you’re building managers and leaders of the future and making a worthwhile investment in your business and its long-term success.