It’s not only guests who love staying with Quest Apartments. Their staff are also happy staying with Quest for a long time. On-job training for significant qualifications has not only created employee loyalty, it can also help maintain excellent standards for guests across its 34 properties.
Quest Apartment Hotels – New Zealand Human Resources Manager, Avelien Strickland, says training is a vital part of the company’s strategy that is focused on attracting, developing, and retaining great people essential for upholding the high-quality brand, especially popular among business customers and tourists.
In 2015, Quest Apartment Hotels – New Zealand partnered with ServiceIQ to launch a pilot programme offering employees the opportunity to upskill and gain recognised qualifications on the job.
Avelien says: “It has been part of our ongoing mission to be an employer of choice and for talented people to stay with us. It was our primary driver for offering the programme. It’s an investment that rewards the business, our people and our customers.”
By training according to industry recognised standards, the pilot gave employees the chance to earn and learn, and achieve a New Zealand Certificate in Accommodation with a Strand in Reception (Level 3), or Housekeeping (Level 3).
When it was rolled out, there was an enthusiastic response from management and staff at the two properties selected to participate: Quest Rotorua Central run by Franchise Directors Colin and Lisa McPhee, and Quest Highbrook, operated by Franchise Directors Brendan and Keld Kelly.
Brendan explains: “It’s a real winner for our employees. They get a recognised qualification and it means they stay with us through the training process and for longer.
“Our customer reviews are always pretty good, but we have seen an improvement in guests’ comments on room service which I think is attributable to the ServiceIQ training.”
In a recent staff satisfaction survey, Quest Rotorua employees rated the business one hundred percent for skills development and training.
It’s a similar story at Quest Highbrook, where skilled employees are staying on thanks to more job satisfaction and opportunity to develop, says Lisa.
“Our employees’ skills and knowledge have all improved and so has their understanding of the bigger picture for the business and the importance of their role in it. Happy staff who feel valued equals happy guests and happy directors.”
The financial results are better too, because, as Lisa says, “lower employee turnover equals less recruitment and training costs for our business.”
This is a considerable achievement given that the average cost to replace an employee can be as high as $2,500 once you factor in recruitment costs, temporary cover and induction training for the new employee.
In fact, the results of the pilot have been so beneficial for everyone that both properties are now into a third-year training teams on-job for qualifications.
“We have decided to put all our staff through the programme to show we are providing useful qualifications and developing our people,” says Brendan.
Quest Apartment Hotels conducts regular guest satisfaction surveys that require each Quest Property to collect written feedback from 20 to 30 guests per month. Known as the Quest Guest Satisfaction Survey, guests are asked a range of questions about their stay, in particular whether they’d recommend the apartments to others, if they would stay again, and was it value for money?
The business also keeps track of guests’ opinions about Quest on TripAdvisor, Booking.com and other review sites.
As a network, Quest guest feedback responses have increased from 6,700 in 2014 to over 12,000 in 2016. Quest guest feedback via third party review sites has increased from 4,700 in 2014 to over 7,000 in 2016. Over this period, the Quest network’s 'goodwill' has increased by 5%.
Both Quest Rotorua Central and Quest Highbrook have maintained a high level of goodwill (99%) throughout this period. They have also both seen increases in their staff testimonials (23% and 33% respectively).
Based on the pilot’s success, in 2016 Avelien worked with ServiceIQ to link Quest’s operating procedures, including in-house training, with ServiceIQ’s industry standards.
It’s a move that means all 250 talented staff throughout the Quest network, from new entrants through to experienced employees, can upskill and achieve qualifications commensurate with their level of skill and expertise.
Later this year, Avelien is planning another graduation celebration when 40 more employees, including front of house, housekeeping supervisors and room attendants, will be presented with their qualification certificates.
The business has also defined career pathways that offer employees the chance to step up into senior positions. In 2015, Quest launched the Leadership Development Scholarship to upskill employees in management for tomorrow’s businesses.
The first two scholarship recipients will graduate in October 2017 with a ServiceIQ National Diploma in Hospitality (Operational Management) Level 5, and four more recipients will graduate in 2018.
Avelien says it’s thrilling to look at the progress employees have made so far and the prospects for success ahead.
“I’m really excited by what’s been achieved in the last three years. I love working for Quest and it’s uplifting to see people grow their skills and develop a career with us.”