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Best practice selection on upskilling and reskilling from The Netherlands: Van der Valk

Van der Valk is a holding company that includes several hotels in the Netherlands and abroad. The holding company includes 9 Dutch hotels, a number of German hotels, 1 in Belgium, 1 in Spain and 1 on the island of Bonaire.

Background information

Internally, the organisation’s approach to training and development is highly responsive to specific queries and needs. A notable aspect of their internal training initiatives includes cross-training, wherein employees, such as those originally in service roles, have been successfully retrained or upskilled to perform support functions at the reception desk and vice versa. This practice has enabled the organisation to internally train employees to serve in diverse roles across different departments. Furthermore, if an employee expresses ambitions to transition to a different role within the organisation, these aspirations are actively supported. The organisation provides opportunities for retraining or upskilling to facilitate this internal mobility, fostering career development and growth among its personnel.




The organisation has observed, particularly during specific periods, such as the pandemic, instances where certain departments experienced a lull in activity.
Meanwhile, there was an active desire among the staff to remain engaged, while other departments faced staffing shortages. In response to these dynamics, the organisation undertook initiatives to retrain employees, enabling them to assist in departments facing increased demand when necessary. Additionally, the organisation supports employees who aspire to transition into distinct roles within the company. For instance, employees who initially began their careers at the reception desk but have ambitions in sales and banqueting receive tailored training and skill development to prepare them for roles in these areas. Over time, these employees transition into their desired roles. Similarly, situations arise where an employee may have started their career in the kitchen but harbours alternative aspirations. In such cases, the organisation provides training and facilitates their transition to other departments to align with their evolving career goals.

Analysis and overview

The organisation previously utilised an e-learning platform encompassing topics such as food service, organisational structure, and employee regulations. However, due to its significant obsolescence, it became challenging to maintain and develop new e-learning modules within this system. Furthermore, in December 2022, the organisation introduced a “Fan Factory” app designed for onboarding and e-learning components. While still in its initial stages, this app presents a promising avenue for hosting various training programs, spanning from hospitality and service to kitchen operations, as well as essential skills such as emergency response (BHV). Additionally, the organisation plans to incorporate specialised onboarding modules tailored to specific departments, including reception.

This innovative approach aligns well with contemporary preferences, given its mobile accessibility. The platform is accessible through laptops, PCs, and mobile devices, with the latter being particularly prevalent, as approximately 90% of employees possess mobile devices. The platform’s versatility allows for the straightforward creation and execution of e-learning modules, making it a prime candidate for modernisation efforts.

Currently, the organisation offers an online Wine course, available in two versions:
an extensive wine menu and a simplified one. This course aims to provide comprehensive knowledge about various wines through video-based instruction. While the organisation actively maintains this course, there is a strong commitment to modernising the overall e-learning experience, enhancing both the backend system and the user interface. Ensuring simplicity in e-learning module creation, even by non-technical staff members, is a paramount objective. The e-learning framework encompasses both standard training modules, such as those focusing on hospitality and conflict management, which serve as foundational e-learning resources readily available for use. In addition to these, the organisation has developed specific e-learning modules tailored for internal use.

For instance, consider the training needs of the reception staff. Given the distinctive nature of the hotel, which deviates significantly from conventional hotel formats, a unique approach to training is imperative. While certain foundational elements are applicable, such as the principles of hospitality, the sheer diversity of accommodations, with approximately 60 different room types, requires training that addresses these unique features. As a result, the organisation is actively engagedĀ  in the creation of new e-learning modules to cater to these specific requirements, adapting to the evolving demands of the business. The skills needed in the future were also discussed within the team, and the extent of this phenomenon varies significantly depending on the department in which an individual is employed. For instance, digital skills are less recalled in roles related to food service operations, where the impact of digital transformation is limited. However, when one shifts their focus to roles within the sales and marketing domain, the influence of digitalisation becomes more evident. In the context of sales and marketing, the processes are digitised, encompassing online marketing strategies, digital sales channels, and even online room check-ins. Presently, sustainability and eco-conscious practices have gained substantial traction as prominent industry trends. Within the hotels, there is a concerted effort to align with these trends, driven by market demand for sustainable initiatives.

This heightened awareness of sustainable skills extends to even the smallest details, such as the choice of materials used during meetings. In response to this, the organisation has transitioned away from disposable plastic cups, opting instead for environmentally friendly alternatives, such as biodegradable cardboard cups and wooden stirring sticks, reflecting a commitment to sustainability.

Examples and Case Studies

The organisation’s core message, encapsulated in its tagline “Valk Exclusief, where you can truly learn something,” succinctly conveys its overarching philosophy. This philosophy is consistently reflected in the organisation’s advertising campaigns, emphasising the commitment to not only providing operational roles but also actively investing in the development and advancement of its employees.

For instance, within the managerial ranks, the organisation offers comprehensive classroom-based management training. These sessions cover a spectrum of topics, ranging from effective personnel management to various leadership approaches. This structured training program is complemented by e-learning modules, which serve as valuable supplementary resources to support and reinforce the learning process. This multifaceted approach aligns seamlessly with the organisation’s vision for its workforce, fostering a culture of continuous growth and development.

The approach employed by the organisation aims to maximise visual engagement, effectively capturing the attention of individuals rather than merely presenting them with text. This strategy emphasises brevity and incorporates various interactive elements, including quizzes, throughout the e-learning modules. It is noteworthy that most e-learnings culminate in quiz assessments. Moreover, incentives such as rewards are occasionally offered to participants, such as a bottle of wine, lunch, dinner, or even an overnight stay for the highest scorers. This incentivizes participation and adds an active dimension to the learning experience. Additionally, the organisation has incorporated a recurring storyline within its application, featuring a series of questions related to the hotel, offering participants opportunities to win prizes. These gamification elements within the platform enhance its effectiveness. In response to a query regarding accessibility, e-learning content is made available both for desktop and mobile usage. It is accessible through a dedicated app and can also be accessed via a web interface, a recent addition that complements the importance of the app within the organisation’s training framework.

Broadly speaking, the organisation presents a core set of learning materials to all employees. However, specific departments and certain roles require tailored
learning modules. Some roles have distinct content requirements, leading to the need for customised learning structures. The decision-making process involves assessing whether we should develop these materials internally or seek external resources. Should the need for external resources arise, it is worth noting that such training typically involves physical, in-person components, complemented by e-learning support. For instance, roles like that of a mentor are traditionally conducted in a classroom setting but also incorporate self-study through e-learning modules. In such cases, the organisation procures external training solutions, ensuring that we remain informed about the content and methodology to be delivered.

Potential Pitfalls and Challenges

Furthermore, language proficiency plays a pivotal role in this evolving landscape. The utilisation of the Dutch language alone is no longer sufficient. Proficiency in other languages, notably English, is now a prerequisite. It is noteworthy that the hotels presently employ service personnel who exclusively communicate in English. Therefore, managers and colleagues alike must equip themselves with proficiency in the English language. These transformations exert a notable influence across all departments.

Benefits and Outcomes

With the previous e-learning tool, a cost analysis was conducted at the time of its implementation. The primary cost-saving aspect was evident in individuals’ ability to acquire specific information through the tool without requiring a trainer. This approach allowed the organisation to allocate its personnel to other tasks, thereby reducing the workload for many individuals, including supervisors. It enabled a directive where employees could independently study the material and subsequently assess their comprehension. In response to an inquiry regarding employee feedback and experiences with the former e-learning system, it was noted that the tool served as a valuable reference point. Employees can revisit their training history and reference materials when they encounter the need to refresh their knowledge. Consequently, the e-learning platform has been well received, with positive feedback from the workforce. Furthermore, the organisation implements a rewards system as an incentive to motivate and encourage participation in e-learning modules. This strategy combines the intrinsic benefits of personal development with extrinsic rewards, recognizing that individuals are more inclined to engage actively when incentives are offered. Consequently, a balanced approach is maintained, emphasising both engagement and recognition of participants’ efforts.

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