Case Study: How To Create Community with Values-based Employee Training

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At Hamanasi Resort in Belize, the guest service experience begins with staff training experience--after all, a happy employer produces a happy customer. This is why the managerial team of the resort came up with a series of core values in the hiring process of new staff members which in turn creates a quality team, that contributes to the resort’s overall service quality, and delivers a meaningful guest offering.

Hamanasi employee, Jackie, has been at the hotel for the past 17 years and manager for the past 6 years--she explains that investing in proud, energetic, and happy individuals is more effective than individuals who may read better on paper. “Skills we can train, but the right attitude and energy, we can’t,” she shares. “Looking at a person and seeing what their true potential is, I think is more important than their education.”

The ability to embrace this managerial style was instilled by the owners, Dana and Dave Krauskopf, of Hamanasi upon its establishment 17 years ago. Their overall goal was to not just look at the company as a way for profit, but as a way to invest in the greater community. This same perspective of investing in the local ecosystem is similar across all Regenerative Resort hotels and part of why guests search out hotels who share their values for giving back and creating transformation through travel.

By investing in the community, Hamanasi has exposed their core values to their staff in an organic way, to allow them to want to care, and to be able to take these practices back to their families--and this happens to carry over into guest experience too. This echo effect of creating positive change and transformation throughout the community that the hotel serves is a core to hotels who are part of the Regenerative Resort collection.  

As the founding hotel in the Regenerative Resorts collection, Playa Viva demonstrates a similar managerial structure, and just last year employed Flip Brown, an American business culture consultant, to ensure culturally responsible standards amidst the resort, as well as throughout the community.

“We wanted to make an investment in workplace culture so the values of Playa Viva are lived into by the staff,” shares Brown. “So that not only do the guests have the optimal experience but the staff also works well together in the best possible sense.”

 
 
 
 

We spoke with Brown, along with Hamanasi managers Jackie and Rosemary, to learn a few more tips on ensuring a resort’s team management remains a priority throughout its growth:


Describe your management or training style:

Brown: Training isn’t an accurate description; it’s really facilitated conversations and coaching. It’s really a process of engagement to apply that information. We’ve all gone, “yes I get it, we’re going to make these changes” - but if it’s not engaged then it tends to evaporate.

Jackie + Rosemary: We have a combination of bureaucracy and freedom. General managers have an open door policy. We are not micromanaged and are allowed to plan our goals for our team, to share our visions with our team. We have a lot of freedom. In terms of burearcy we’re in the process of building KPI reports and ensuring we hit our goals so we have supervisor reports that are consistent.


How is this reflected in the values throughout Hamanasi?

Jackie + Rosemary: With the service we give to our guests--the energy we give them--the guests see that the staff is very happy. We always get comments from guests that they are very happy. So, yes, they want the money but they aren’t just working for the money.


In your opinion, what is the least productive style of management?

Jackie + Rosemary: Micromanaging your staff and wanting to know everything they are doing. If you’re doing this, you’re not trusting them. You’re wasting time.

Brown: You want folks, even if they’re just doing housekeeping or maintenance, to have a reasonable autonomy; they can do their jobs without being micromanaged, or without being criticized. At the same time, you need consistency. Balancing those two things is a challenge but ideally, the supervisors and the GM can find that balance between supporting and challenging the people who work there.

 
 
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What about the best thing?

Jackie + Rosemary: Having an open-door policy. Trusting your staff.

How do you create that trust between staff?

Brown: I think what many people think is that trust has to be earned. I think trust has to be bestowed and earned because if you just sit back and wait for everyone to act how you need them to, it’s not an effective approach.

Jackie + Rosemary: As management, we give the staff the chance to work on whatever they need to. We teach them our policies. We give them the chance to work with that policy and figure things out on their own and then we check up on them. So the trust is established early on. By doing that, we are teaching them and encouraging them that trust is something that we can just step back and give them, but we are still here for whenever they need us.


Have you ever encountered any problems with there being too much freedom?

Jackie + Rosemary: We do a lot of training and have a lot of systems to follow, including terms of sustainability and customer service, so not really. How we approach and solve issues sets us apart with our guests. You can’t do whatever you want, you can give, but there are still systems to follow.

If there’s any advice to leave fellow leaders and management with, what would you tell them?

Jackie + Rosemary: I’ve learned I was born to lead. I want people to follow me not because I’m their manager but because I want to lead them in the right direction… to where they want to go. Sometimes when you manage, you just want staff and to feel like you are dictating them. For me, I learned to just try to be a better leader for my team. You want them to know you’re taking care of them. You want to create a second home for them when they aren’t at home.

Brown: You need to have appropriate professional vulnerability. When you have leaders and managers who aren’t open to feedback or helpful criticism, there’s power dynamics; those folks are very hard to work for and work with. If you’re committed to continuous improvement in terms of your resort, you’re always looking for ways to improve all the various touch points for customers. So it’s as, or more, important that you have your own continuous improvement goals: What can I get better at? What skills and competencies would allow me to allow my team to have a better experience?


Regenerative Resorts share much in common including a commitment to constantly improving their local community, especially those they serve and those that serve their guest community and local ecosystem.

 
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