Why Training and Development are Essential for Employees

Could you share a little bit about who you are and what you do here at OML Consulting?

Oky: After receiving my Bachelor’s in Hospitality Management, I started working in the Front Office. During this time, I came to realize that along with my passion for serving others, I also thoroughly enjoyed designing and delivering training to my colleagues. I then had the opportunity to become a lecturer and instructor at a vocational hospitality school, crafting my instructional design, teaching, and training skills. Plus, working primarily with young people aged 16–25 improved my patience and audience reading skills. After moving back to Indonesia, I was able to use my experience in hospitality, training, and education to lead a team of trainers for Indonesia’s largest hospitality and lifestyle brands. My passion for guiding people in their development has recently led me to obtain my Associate Certified Coach credential from the International Coaching Federation. I firmly believe that coaching is an essential tool for development and globally, more people are reaping the benefits from it. At OML, my primary focus are projects which involve training, coaching, and learning and development.

Why are training and development so important for employees and their employers?

Oky: We can look at a couple of statistics which can support this fact. According to the survey by ClearCompany in 2019, 68% of employees say that training and development is the most important policy a company has. This shows that employees are keen to know that their employer is willing to invest in their development.

Another research by The Learning Wave shows that 74% of employees believe that they are not reaching their full potential. That’s overwhelming and such an untapped amount of potential! Can you imagine ¾ of your employees feeling like they are unable to get the best out of themselves? That surely affects their performance.

Another statistic shows that 85% of employees feel that they are disengaged at work. They are unable to deliver their best work, and a lack of training and support is part of this.

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Another one by go2HR, 40% of employees with poor training will leave the company in the first year. That’s staggering. That’s almost half of your first years’. What does that mean? Not only are you losing talent that you have already invested in, but you have to spend even more resources recruiting new employees. People often think that training only costs them money. However, training and development are imperative because you need to continuously develop your employees so that they can help you grow your business. As the statistics show, it also makes your employees more engaged and loyal. All in all, people generally enjoy becoming better versions of themself, even more so when it allows them to progress in their career.

What do you think are some important skills that everyone should acquire if they have the resources to do so? Why?

Oky: This is a very good question, especially now in this time where most of the world has been working remotely. I think that if you have the resources, you should develop the following skills:

I think the first one is learnability. The world is changing at an even faster pace, so you need the skills and mindset to want to continuously learn. Meanwhile, you also need to unlearn and accept that certain thoughts and competencies you have are no longer useful and need to be let go.

Resilience is a skill that, especially this year, has shown to be of tremendous value. Many people have learned a lot about themselves and may have gone through periods of stress and concern, having to adapt to working from home. Some people may have thought that working from home at the beginning is what they have always wanted, and then they are suddenly faced with day-to-day challenges, like running a household with kids who are now also at home learning and needing your attention. To be able to bounce back, remain positive, and tell yourself that as long as you try your best, there is hope. Resilience is definitely important.

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One more quality that I think it’s imperative and a lot of us overlook is self-care. To have awareness and a clear vision of who you are and what you need to give yourself in order to give others the best. There’s a saying that you “cannot pour from an empty cup”. I hear about it all the time, also from my clients, that people now are overwhelmed with what’s happening in the world and they are trying to adjust, but there’s a feeling of uncertainty and anxiety. You have to stay positive and look forward to the future. Having a clear self-care plan which includes simple and achievable daily self-care practices is the foundation. It is more than getting enough sleep, eating regular meals, and exercising. It involves looking at your mental, physical, social, and spiritual needs. If this is unknown territory for you, a coach can guide you in this journey.

Another definite skill to have is collaboration. Most work involves working with others and that synergy is still important. Especially now with remote working, where you do not have the daily face to face interaction, the collaboration will be of an even higher need.

Another skill would be creativity, which is also related to technology. Certain skills such as being able to build a website, having some understanding of social media, and writing a fitting text that supports exposure are important. Of course, there are specialists out there that can do that, but having the understanding to do that would also help.

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One skill that will always remain, I believe, is empathy. Being able to understand what others are going through and putting yourself in their position, that is a skill that will definitely stay. Problem-solving as well. Being able to look at things critically that you would want to approach and try to solve it yourself first. In a remote environment, that might also be stimulated because you are kind of on your own first. Of course, teams can get together and try to solve it after someone has taken a look at the problem, but that is still an important skill to cultivate.

Another skill is leadership and people management, although that is especially applicable to those who have the ambition to lead and manage a team of people. Last but not least, negotiation skills. Even though people believe this is a skill for someone who works in sales, negotiating is something that we all do on a daily basis. Some examples include discussing a timeline with your team, a training need you to have with your manager, or negotiating a fee or salary.

What is the most interesting project that you’ve ever worked on?

Oky: That would have to be one which was a tailor-made training and then delivered company-wide. I would like to point out the Brand Values training that I was fortunate to work on with an international Spanish hotel chain across five of their properties in Southeast Asia. Besides enjoying their excellent hospitality in beautiful locations, what made this experience unique was that the training groups were a blend of all positions from the general manager, the director, the supervisor, the housekeeper, to the receptionist.

Image from Oky Ceelen.

Being able to work with people from different positions and seeing how they were committed to wanting to learn and collaborate was amazing and gave a great sense of fulfilment.

About the Author:

Oky Ceelen is a founding partner of OML Consulting. He has a Bachelor’s in Hospitality Management from Hotelschool The Hague, is an experienced trainer and certified Transformative Coach with hospitality and vocational education background. His passion is to guide individuals and teams in their learning and development.

How to Leverage on Cultural Intelligence in the Workplace

Could you share a little bit about who you are and what you do here at OML Consulting?

Miriam: My name is Miriam van der Horst, a partner of OML Consulting, based in Hong Kong.

I am a global learning expert with 15 years of experience across Asia Pacific, primarily focused on leadership development, with a strong emphasis on Emotional Intelligence and Cultural Intelligence. In the OML spirit of ‘never stop learning’, I prepare clients for the future of work — how can they keep up with the constant change around them and continue to add value to their business, their teams, and their own role?

What is Cultural Intelligence and why is it important?

Miriam: To really understand the power of cultural intelligence you have to ask yourself the question; how does culture impact the way we see ourselves and the world around us? We are strongly influenced by our own cultural groups that are made up of individuals with similar understandings and behaviours. These groups shape our expectations on how to interact with each other, how to manage work together, and how to think about problems and come up with solutions.

Surely it will come as no surprise that, these days, most companies operate in a truly global environment where team members have daily interactions with individuals from other cultures, with values, norms, practices and expectations different to their own. This reinforces the need to think and function with a global mindset, and feel comfortable doing so.

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It is impossible for us to be an expert on every single culture represented by individuals with whom we interact. However, a step in the right direction is to first become aware of cross-cultural differences in working methods and behaviour, and then be able to overcome these differences by knowing how and when to adapt.

Individuals who possess a high level of cultural intelligence are very good at getting along with people from other cultures and build positive interpersonal connections. Their collaborative mindset encourages qualities such as tolerance, trust, respect and teamwork.

In any industry, the combination of all of these helps an organisation gain a competitive edge through increased productivity, innovation, inclusion, talent retention and team member happiness.

How can companies better leverage on Cultural Intelligence in the workplace?

Miriam: Apart from formal cultural intelligence training and coaching sessions, there are other practical ways to support team members in building their cross-cultural competence. One way is to facilitate regular discussions to allow employees to share their experiences that may have shaped their values, beliefs and ideas. Culturally intelligent leaders should also maintain clear standards of accountability around inter-cultural behaviour to ensure team members are involved and move in the same direction.

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What is a resource that you would recommend for an individual seeking to know more about Cultural Intelligence?

Miriam: A valuable resource to learn more about how to navigate cultural differences and get things done across cultures is the book “The Culture Map” by Erin Meyer. It provides a model for decoding how cultural differences impact international business, backed-up with engaging, real-life stories around global teamwork and international collaboration.

About the Author:

Miriam van der Horst is a partner of OML consulting with 15 years’ experience across Asia Pacific, primarily focusing on leadership development and cross-cultural learning. She helps her clients, ranging from first-time managers to business executives of multinational companies and government departments, get better at dealing with change and being flexible enough to adapt with knowledge and sensitivity. Having lived and worked in the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK, Vietnam, Australia, China, Singapore, and now Hong Kong, Miriam works comfortably, respectfully and effectively with people at different organisational levels and from diverse backgrounds.

Future of Work / Elevate Talent

Future of Work / Elevate Talent

Cultural Competence

Leading Through Cultural Differences in Remote Teams

  •  Understanding the dimensions of culture and its impact on work
  • Developing a global mindset
  • Leading remote teams effectively across cultures

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed work life as we used to know it. A recent survey by IBM found that prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, only 10% of individuals indicated they were working from home. By July 2020, this had quadrupled to nearly 45%.

The IBM survey further found that of those currently working remotely, 80% indicate they would like to continue to work away from the office at least occasionally, while 58% would like this to be their primary way of working.

What does this mean for international business leaders?

Many organisations around the world plan to make working from home the ‘New Normal’.

However, a more remote workforce challenges the way we successfully lead, particularly so as different perceptions can enlarge the intercultural differences amongst team members. In fact, GLOBE, a study across 62 countries on ‘Global Leadership and Organizational Behaviour Effectiveness’ (2004), discovered that national cultures have an impact on how people within that culture consider leadership styles to be acceptable and effective.

It is impossible for leaders to be experts on every culture represented by individuals on their teams. However, it is important to become aware of cross-cultural differences and be able to bridge these distances efficiently and effectively. This starts with an understanding of the impact of national culture on the way we see ourselves and the world around us.

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First things first: in simple terms, national culture is the set of norms, beliefs, behaviours, values, attitudes, customs shared by a certain population. The national culture of a country is highly dominant and shapes organisational cultures in the form of expectations on how to interact with each other, how to manage work together, and how to think about problems and present solutions.

There are a number of frequently cited theoretical frameworks of cultural competency, all with their own strengths and limitations. To start making sense of how we can manage the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the way we work and lead across cultures, we will focus in this article on Geert Hofstede’s original model in which national cultures are analysed according to four Cultural Dimensions.

Before exploring these cultural dimensions, it is necessary to be aware that although Hofstede’s framework helps us to assess a given culture and thus better guide our decision-making, we cannot predict individual behaviours. Another point to consider refers to the context when assessing a culture’s effectiveness. No cultural dimension is better than another; they are simply different. Each one has its own pros and cons in different circumstances.

Hofstede’s original framework includes the following four Dimensions of Culture:

Power Distance

In cultures with relatively flat hierarchies, we typically see democratic power relations where people are viewed as equals. Western cultures tend to be low in their power distance belief. The ‘New Normal’ gives team members more control over their own work schedules, emphasising their preferences for independence and trying something new.

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As leaders, it is imperative to consult with your remote team members about decisions related to their own job scopes and ensuring that they can continue to work independently without much supervision. Being open, friendly, and approachable, are valuable leadership qualities to support the remote work transition.

Low Power Distance example countries: Austria, Denmark, New Zealand.

In contrast, Asian countries are considered high power distance cultures; there is great respect for authority and inequality is a fact of life. In cultures with steep hierarchies, leaders are expected to clearly guide and direct team members in completing tasks and working towards deadlines.

Remote team leadership requires daily check-ins, explaining requirements, and expressing faith in the team’s ability to make decisions and act on them, whenever appropriate. Team members tend to respond best to an accessible, experienced, and strong leader who nurtures them to greatness.

High Power Distance example countries: Malaysia, the Philippines, Mexico.

Individualism versus Collectivism

In countries that emphasise individualism, team members expect specific and challenging tasks that come with a clear definition of roles and responsibilities. Employees from individualistic cultures typically like to feel involved, valued, and rewarded accordingly.

As there is a natural preference for independence amongst team members, remote leaders must stay away from micro-management to avoid feelings of distrust. Instead, leaders should actively manage expectations and outcomes whilst ensuring accomplishments are recognised, both at individual and group level.

Individualistic country examples: USA, Australia, Canada.

Collective societies value loyalty where individuals look after each other under a decisive and supportive leadership. In these cultures, team members tend to feel uncomfortable making decisions by themselves (as things can go wrong). They typically rely on leaders to set the direction and provide clear instructions.

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In a remote work environment, team leaders must focus on explaining the tasks and deadlines in simple but explicit terms; what is required by when? To ensure team members are on the right track, leaders should regularly check-in to monitor targets and timelines without coming across as too intrusive.

Collective country examples: Central America, China, Indonesia.

Masculinity versus Femininity

The Masculinity versus Femininity Dimension is about expected emotional gender roles, not about individuals. Both men and women can score highly for exhibiting masculine or feminine values and behaviours.

Masculine societies stand for ambition, decisiveness, clear role distinctions, rewards and the ‘live to work’ mentality. Workers are typically motivated by competition and a strong drive for excellence, which translates into working long and hard hours.

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In the ‘New Normal’, team members may feel as though they have to prove themselves even more as there is no leader around to observe what is happening. Leaders must make a point of demonstrating trust in their teams whilst focusing on progress and productivity, not necessarily the time period it is happening in.

Masculine country examples: Japan, Hungary, Austria.

Whilst masculine cultures are considered ‘tough’, feminine cultures are often described as ‘tender’. At work, people focus on interpersonal aspects such as managing through discussion, consensus, compromise, and negotiation. A strong belief is that life does not revolve solely around work, which makes achieving a work-life balance an important aspect of a healthy work environment.

When leading a remote team, a coaching leadership style is most effective to ensure people feel nurtured and cared for. This includes providing team members with a certain freedom to make decisions and manage their own work schedules.

Feminine country examples: Sweden, the Netherlands, Chile.

Uncertainty Avoidance

A high level of Uncertainty Avoidance is associated with a general feeling of being uncomfortable with change. In a work environment, risk avoidance is typically achieved through the implementation of policies, procedures and processes.

The rapid shift to remote work may take a hit on team members’ health and well-being through feelings of anxiety, stress and frustration. Remote leaders can support their employees by creating a lot of structure and predictability. This includes clear goals and expectations, regular check-ins on team members, and opportunities to share successes and safety for potential failures.

High Uncertainty Avoidance country examples: Greece, Portugal, Russia.

On the flip side is a low level of Uncertainty Avoidance where curious individuals enjoy new events and initiatives. Team members tend to be pragmatic in their thinking and accept change as a way of life, as they are used to revisions without much notice.

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Remote team effectiveness can benefit from this ability by engaging employees to move forward. Team leaders must also focus on getting everyone on the same page by establishing ‘rules of engagement’ to guide the remote work process, not to overly control it.

Low Uncertainty Avoidance country examples: Singapore, the Nordics.

As for working effectively across cultures, this article only touches briefly on Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions Theory. It does, however, show that cross-cultural leadership requires, first and foremost, an understanding and awareness of different cultures. The next step is to decide on appropriate adaptations to relate and work most effectively with people from various cultural backgrounds. There is no single approach right for every individual.

How should organisations go about leading through cultural differences in remote teams?

Currently, I am working with a group of business executives from a world-leading multinational corporation on bridging cultural distances. Through the coaching sessions, we establish ways to make collaboration, decision making and problem-solving more effective in remote teams. Starting with discovering their own cultural lens and that of the people they work with, clients quickly move forward by identifying how they can switch their leadership styles to ensure the long-term performance of their teams.

If you believe that you and your organisation can benefit from understanding and learning more about the various cultural differences and how to successfully lead intercultural teams, our coaching sessions might just be the right solution for you. Drop me an email at [email protected] and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

About the author

Miriam van der Horst is a partner of OML consulting with 15 years’ experience across Asia Pacific, primarily focusing on leadership development and cross-cultural learning. She helps her clients, ranging from first-time managers to business executives of multinational companies and government departments, get better at dealing with change and being flexible enough to adapt with knowledge and sensitivity. Having lived and worked in the Netherlands, Switzerland, the UK, Vietnam, Australia, China, Singapore, and now Hong Kong, Miriam works comfortably, respectfully and effectively with people at different organisational levels and from diverse backgrounds.

Want to improve your customer service — Here are some tips to provide a 5 star hospitality experience

  • What is 5 star hospitality service?
  • Offer supreme service to show your professionalism
  • Show genuine interest to understand your customer better
  • Exceed expectations to add value to your business
  • How to build service excellence and consistency

What is 5 star hospitality service?

If there is one industry where customer service is of utmost importance, it is the hospitality industry. You may have heard of the phrase ‘5 star hospitality service’; but what makes a hospitality destination 5 star? This may surprise you, but there are actually no international standards. One rating which is internationally known and respected is the rating outlined in the annual Forbes Travel Guide. Anonymous and independent inspectors travel around the world reviewing luxury hospitality destinations; testing them rigorously against 900 standards. The final score is based 75% on the hotel’s service and 25% on the quality of its facilities.

Last February Forbes Travel Guide announced their Star Award Winners and 265 hotels received their prestigious Forbes Travel Guide 5 Star. What makes these hotels the elite of the elite? As quoted by Forbes Travel Guide CEO Filip Boyen, “Each deserving recipient excels at enriching people’s lives through the power of exceptional service.” Three specific criteria which measured exceptional service were ‘supreme service,’ ‘genuine interest’ and ‘exceeding expectations.’ Let’s take a closer look at these three.

Offer supreme service

“When asking consumers what impacts their level of trust with a company, offering excellent customer service is ranked number one.” — Zendesk 2019

Offering supreme service gives your customers the feeling you are highly professional and give attention to detail. You must possess great product knowledge and communication skills. For the former this means being able to inform, advise, or take action competently — be that on the spot or within a respectable time frame. For the latter it involves a positive attitude which combines great listening skills, as well as speaking to your customers in a pleasant and certainly respectful manner at all times. Your goal is to connect and engage with your customers and avoid situations that may lead to complaints and confrontations. However, when confronted with a complaint, supreme customer service will usually be able to turn this negative into a positive; therefore, preserving the relationship you have. When you notice that your guest has shoes that need polishing, leaving them a note offering to do so, illustrates a level of offering supreme service.

Show genuine interest

Image provided by Patrick Tomasso

“Feeling unappreciated is the #1 reason customers switch away from products and services.” — Newvoicemedia.com

Human beings are social creatures; as such we are often deeply touched when someone shows genuine interest. The best way to do so is by showing empathy. Empathy is being able to place yourself in someone else’s position, and therefore have a better understanding of their needs and wants. Essentially, when you combine this with great communication skills, it allows you to optimally serve your customers. “What makes your customers buy your products and/or services, what challenges do they encounter, what recommendations do they have?” Showing genuine interest ultimately makes your customers feel heard and appreciated, which is a major factor of retention and referrals. Furthermore, their feedback provides valuable information to exceed their expectations and improve your products and services (which is imperative for any business, but that’s for another topic). An example would be to remember the preferred room temperature of a returning guest, and setting the ac to this prior to their next arrival.

Exceed expectations

Image provided by Patrick Tomasso

“54% of customers have higher expectations for customer service today compared to one year ago. This percentage jumps to 66% for consumers aged from 18 to 34 years old.” — Microsoft 2019

Customers are becoming more demanding, so the best way to differentiate yourself is by exceeding their expectations. This of course is easier said than done. First of all you cannot exceed expectations without successfully offering supreme service and showing genuine interest. Then, using all the information you already know about your customers, you can provide products and services that will positively surprise them. These deeply personalized gestures are usually complimentary. However, the memorable emotional experience you created greatly outweighs any investments. A fantastic example is when a hotel surprises a returning guests traveling by themselves with a handwritten card, chocolates, flowers and champagne to congratulate their wedding anniversary.

Build service excellence and consistency

“Increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits anywhere from 25% to 95%.” — Bain & Company

“Investing in new customers is between 5 and 25 times more expensive than retaining existing ones.” — Invesp 2019

Implementing 5 star hospitality service requires planning, commitment, and consistency. For the first two, a clear vision and standards must be set and communicated to every individual in your team. The process of owning these standards requires time, whilst providing product knowledge, excellence service and empowerment training are key (to name a few). Finally, consistency is threefold; firstly, monitor your team, secondly analyze any feedback and then use the former and latter to improve your standards and performances. The third step is ongoing personalized training for your team; this is often lacking or not done at all by businesses.

My previous experiences with regard to improving customer service include service excellence design, evaluating service standards and delivering service excellence training. Most recently I delivered a service excellence and brand values training for Melia Hotels & Resorts amongst 1,000 of its staff (general manager to rank and file) across five hotels in Southeast Asia. The main objective was to introduce new brand values, which all focus on creating a sense of belonging and memorable experiences for both guests and staff. Spread over two half day hands-on workshops, participants were encouraged to think creatively and team activities were implemented to discuss and practice excellent service techniques.

Are you in need of designing a service excellence culture or looking for ways to boost your customer service? Book a complimentary 30 minutes chat with me by emailing [email protected], where I can offer you insights and advice.

About the author

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Oky Ceelen is a founding partner of OML Consulting. He is an experienced trainer and certified Transformative Coach with a hospitality and vocational education background. His passion is to guide individuals and teams in their learning and development.