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Hospitality upskilling: Key metrics to measure the effectiveness of workforce education

The pandemic-hit hospitality sector faces staffing challenges, with over 500,000 roles vacant. Evolving consumer expectations demand personalized, digitally integrated, sustainable, and culturally competent experiences , pressuring organizations to enhance customer service offerings.

6 min read



Still reeling from the widespread layoffs and closures of the pandemic, the hospitality industry has struggled to attract and retain employees. Many hospitality workers left the industry over the past few years and have not returned. As a result, more than 500,000 hospitality roles remain unfilled today.

Alongside this, consumer demands for hospitality experiences have evolved significantly: guests now seek more personalized experiences, expect seamless digital integration during their stays, are increasingly conscious of sustainability and value cultural competence in service.  This evolution places additional pressure on hospitality organizations to enhance their offerings and provide a new level of customer service, adapting to these diverse and modern expectations.

In order to reduce employee turnover and meet these new standards, hospitality organizations must create loyal and highly skilled teams. One increasingly popular way to accomplish this is through workforce education and skill development programs, or upskilling programs. This is especially salient, as hospitality businesses increasingly find themselves competing for talent with retailers, quick-serve restaurants, and logistics companies that offer robust education benefits. Participating employees in these benefits can not only take courses in a wide range of subjects but also obtain professional certifications and high school diplomas as well as undergraduate and graduate degrees, with upfront tuition costs covered by their employer.

By helping employees build relevant skills, upskilling empowers employees to play a more vital role in their organization’s success. Upskilling may also hold the key to winning back the talent hospitality companies lost during the pandemic. And the promise of upskilling can make for a very compelling incentive for potential hires. Recent research found that 70% of U.S. employees would consider leaving their current jobs for another company that prioritizes workforce education and skill development.

As upskilling programs become integral to business growth, evaluating their outcome through quantifiable metrics is essential to determine whether these programs have achieved their intended objectives. By understanding how to evaluate the outcome of an upskilling program, hospitality companies can find out if their programs warrant further investment and adapt their educational opportunities to the changing needs of their business and the current workforce. Here are some of the most important metrics for assessing an upskilling program’s impact on business growth.

Jonathan Lau

Program participation and completion

The earliest indicator of a successful upskilling program is participation. It’s your first notion that you’re doing something right, and it provides the context for further metrics. So, to get an idea of your program’s potential impact on your company, you might start by measuring your program’s take-rate, which represents the percentage of eligible employees who are participating in the program.

A low take-rate (e.g. less than 2%) suggests that the organization is not marketing the program effectively or has put up too many barriers for participation (e.g. waitlists, low coverage limits). Conversely, a high take-rate (e.g. above 5%) suggests that the program is resonating with employees and is well positioned to achieve its intended outcomes.

However, just because employees participate in a program doesn’t necessarily mean they are satisfied with the actual courses. To answer this question, you’re going to have to determine your program’s completion rate, which represents the number of participants who complete an education program. You might discover that many employees have dropped out of a certain program, and you need to find out why. Maybe your employees are having a hard time balancing work and education, or don’t feel that their manager supports their desire to build a certain skill. Whatever the case, assessing which learning options are attracting participants is essential for improving the long-term success of an upskilling initiative.

Employee retention and performance

Employee retention is one of the central objectives of upskilling. Companies that invest in their employees’ growth usually end up increasing their retention rates, especially for program participants. It’s not unrealistic to expect a retention rate of over 90% for participating employees.

In addition to retaining employees, the ideal outcome of upskilling includes participating employees applying their newfound skill sets to the company’s benefit. You can gauge this outcome through two main metrics. The first is participant productivity, which can be represented through sales, reservations booked or other performance indicators.

You can also gauge upskilling’s impact on performance through the promotion rate of participating employees compared to all employees. Organizations typically see two to three times more promotions in employees who participate in upskilling programs compared to non-participating employees. A high promotion rate is more likely in companies that make the effort to show employees which specific courses will bring them closer to specific positions.

Recruitment and ROI

Successful upskilling programs can serve as highly effective recruitment strategies that make hospitality companies significantly more attractive to potential candidates. To gain a sense of your program’s impact on recruitment, you can conduct surveys for new hires, asking them how much of a role workforce learning and development played in their decision to join yourcompany. Once you’ve assessed how potential candidates view upskilling opportunities, you can incorporate your findings into your marketing and recruitment tactics moving forward.

If workforce education turns out to be a major factor for new recruits, it’s only natural to want to extend your upskilling program to keep the applications rolling in. Extending your program requires further investment, and you’re going to have to justify this to your CFO. In other words, you’re going to have to prove that your program has generated a positive return on investment (ROI).

Work closely with your finance team during your program’s development phase to determine the best internal measurements for factors such as talent retention, promotion rates, and employee performance. With these measurements in mind, upskilling programs have been found to yield an ROI of around $3 for every dollar spent.

Final thoughts

The indispensable role of metrics in upskilling further emphasizes the importance of developing specific objectives for your program. Different businesses have different requirements for growth, and your upskilling program should be tailored to improve these specific areas, whether that’s employee engagement, employee retention, promotions, or recruitment. By tracking the impact of upskilling through quantifiable metrics, you’ll gain a clearer picture for fostering career advancement in a generation that prioritizes mobility among their most valued workplace benefits.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.

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