WASHINGTON, DC—In the past, working from home may have been associated with slow-paced, monotonous days. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has proved that working from home doesn’t always mean a laid-back lifestyle; it could mean livelihood. For those lucky enough to be employed during this time, working from home has certainly been an adjustment, and for those working in hospitality, a learning experience.
The Hamilton Hotel in Washington, DC, has launched Hamilton University, a program to
provide a variety of work-from-home training for all of its associates. The program was designed to not only keep employees engaged during this time but help them learn on the job. The program offers courses in hospitality and F&B training, so employees can learn about new protocols and procedures before returning to work.
“Our goal is and has always been to offer special programs dedicated to furthering our employees’ education,” said Mark Driscoll, managing director at Hamilton Hotel. “By launching Hamilton University, it enables continued trackable development for all departments in the workforce with the ability to work from home while getting paid. All of the courses offered are all skills hoteliers would love for their employees to have, but (due to the fast-paced nature of the hospitality industry, especially in urban areas) have never had this luxury of time to offer additional training programs. We saw an opportunity to utilize this time to further educate our staff.”
Each hotel department is assigned specific certifications to complete during a period of time including TIPS certification; Serve-Safe certification; classes on wine, spirits and beer; COVID-19 cleaning training; menu and ingredient training; barista certification/summer and fall drink production focus; hospitality online coursework; second language training; and harassment training for management and line-level associates.
“They are all enjoying the learning and development process. They appreciate that we have found a way to create a safe working environment with regard to social distancing and that we have added a component for their professional and personal development. It has only served to reinforce our commitment to one another, and our commitment to the Hamilton Hotel,” Driscoll said.
As an essential business, Hamilton Hotel has been allowed to stay open; however, it’s been far from business as usual with employees’ varying work schedules.
“Engineers work full weeks on-site with training on the job. All other departments have a combination work from home and on-site schedules allowing for daily task work as well as coursing for personal development and growth with the work-from-home component,” Driscoll explained.
Depending on each unique training and certification program, some courses are offered on site in small groups while others are conducted completely online followed by exams. Additionally, Driscoll explained that tradesmen have worked side by side with the engineering team to teach them carpentry skills, taking advantage of the low occupancy period.
“In many cases, associates would have been paid more with the extra federal incentive to the state unemployment checks, but we had no awareness of that when we made the decision to stay open,” Driscoll said. “In retrospect, I am very proud to have built and shared the Hamilton University Program as we were able to make the team understand the importance of a ‘we not me’ mentality, and highlight our commitment to growth, development and creating yet another unique experience.”
Each course does have an end period at certification; however, Driscoll is confident that when travel resumes, the program will continue.
“Learning will be a continual focus moving forward and we will look at incorporating more curriculum in the future,” he said. “Why would you stop anything so good for so many?”