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Ready When You Are: The Power of Online Training (Part One)

This is part one of a three-part series covering the significant benefits of incorporating online training into the suite of staff development tools your club uses to prepare employees and managers to deliver excellence each and every day.


Every private club faces two critical challenges:

First and foremost, all must ensure that their members are not just satisfied with their membership experience, but are wildly enthusiastic about it. Transforming members into raving fans is the key to long-term success in today’s competitive and demanding hospitality marketplace.

And second, all clubs must develop methods of ensuring that employees and supervisors are fully prepared to make that happen from the first day they show up for work until the day they leave.

This is true, of course, in every kind of facility. It doesn’t matter if it’s a golf, tennis, yacht, city, or country club. It doesn’t matter if the property is old or new, big or small, in a large city or a smaller community. No club manager escapes the need to make sure that every single employee, from top to bottom, is ready, willing, and able to create a superior member experience.

The standards for the member experience are well-established. After all, the private club community is one of the oldest businesses in the United States, with the first membership golf clubs formed in Savannah and Charleston in the late 1700s. We come from a venerable tradition and a storied past, but our current and future success depends on embracing the world we live in today.

In particular, our industry, like all modern businesses, must react to, acknowledge, and incorporate new technologies, including the vast online environment. And nowhere is that principle more valid than in the area of staff development and training. Like Billy Beane said in Moneyball: “Adapt or die.”

Josh Bersin of Bersin by Deloitte, gave an interview in 2013 about the need for organizational agility in successful businesses. He said,

“The problem we’ve found over the years in HR is that many of the HR practices that companies still use were designed around the turn of the 20th century during the industrial economy. At that time, companies were very hierarchical, and human beings were considered resources. However, humans aren’t resources, they are appreciating assets. The more you invest in them, the better they get.”

He’s right. Our experience shows us that staff and management training is the best investment anyone in the hospitality industry can make in their club’s success.

And now, the ability to provide that training has expanded well beyond the traditional—but still important—methods of gathering large numbers of employees in a room and giving them classroom or hands-on instruction. Online training has revolutionized the way information, skills, procedures, policies, and institutional culture are transmitted to club employees. It’s become an increasingly important supplement to traditional training methods.

Online training has permeated all industries, including our own. E-learning, of course, has become a huge industry and has grown exponentially in just a few years.

  • In 2011, roughly $35.6 billion was spent globally on self-paced e-learning.

  • By 2015 that figure had grown to $107 billion.

  • Online-learning behemoth (144,000 videos!) was acquired in 2015 by LinkedIn (owned by Microsoft) for $1.5 billion.

Today, online learning is a growing part of both publicly available instruction and the corporate staff-training environment.

  • According to Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, in 1995, only 4% of American companies used e-learning technologies in their staff development programs.

  • Today, that number is 77%.

  • Training magazine says that in 2015, 26.4% of all corporate training hours took place via online or computer-based technologies.

  • Big companies like Jiffy Lube provide over 1.3 million hours of training to its 20,000 employees via its Jiffy Lube University, which has a strong online component.

Discover Financial provides 70% of its training via e-learning, videos, or self-study, which they report has led to 6% higher employee satisfaction scores and 42% less attrition. And of course, almost every major player in the hospitality industry, including Marriott and Hyatt, uses some form of online learning technology. Best Western is even experimenting with virtual reality training.

Online learning is here to stay, not because it’s the latest thing, but because it works.

But e-learning is not limited to large corporations with unlimited resources. It’s an affordable, effective training tool for small and mid-sized businesses, including private clubs. In fact, its inherent flexibility and low per-employee cost make it ideal for facilities that don’t have enormous training budgets or capabilities.

When used effectively and thoughtfully in conjunction with traditional training methods, online learning can be a shot in the arm for member satisfaction, staff morale and retention … and the bottom line.

There are many reasons why that’s true. In this first in a three-part series, let’s look at two of them.


A club manager’s time is extremely valuable, as is the time of others who provide traditional training services. New employees are being added continuously, making initial training and onboarding a significant time burden. This may be particularly true if there is an influx of seasonal workers. Online training, by definition, is always there. It’s ready when you are. It’s available at precisely the time when you need it, and without the need for your direct involvement.

Well-crafted e-learning resources can be critical in communicating consistent messages to all new employees. This is particularly true for helping new hires understand the unique nuances of working in private club environments, laying out core policies and procedures, and conveying your club’s culture.

With online training, everyone begins with the same set of assumptions and information. It fosters unity of purpose and sets standards that will last for the entirety of an employee’s time with your club. And all without requiring line supervisors or managers to interrupt their day to get each new hire onboard.

Online learning also can help reduce the amount of time employees are absent from their jobs. IBM reported that an e-learning program it created allowed employees to learn almost five times as much as they did in the same amount of time in traditional training. A Brandon-Hall study likewise indicated that e-learning typically requires 40-60% less time than classroom instruction.

Conveying more material in less time is a winning formula for both managers and staff. It’s efficient, non-disruptive, and can be used at any time, including during work-day downtime.

And because online training is available for one person or small numbers of individuals at a time, you don’t incur the time and money costs of pulling together big groups and blowing up several hours of productive enterprise. Nor do you have to wait until a big enough group of staff forms before launching the training. The gap between the time an employee needs training and the time they receive it is dramatically shorter, meaning they can be ready for high-performance member service without any lag.


One of the biggest expenses in the hospitality industry is frequent staff turnover. The good news is that training boosts staff retention and reduces the need to recruit new people. It turns out that one of the biggest proponents of staff training is the staff itself.

A 2010 study by the IBM Institute for Business Value showed that while 21% of new hires intend to stay at companies that do not offer training for their current jobs, 62% plan to stay when training is provided.

And, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2016 report on “The State of American Jobs,” 47% of workers in the hospitality industry perceive training and the development of skills as an essential part of work life (even though only 28% have received it).

The concept is simple: An employee feels valued when the club visibly and deliberately invests in his or her future. When someone feels valued, they reciprocate by feeling increased loyalty to the club and a greater sense of purpose.

But online training also does something else that’s just as important: it helps create better employees who know how to do their job and do it well. Training builds community and conveys key skills and expectations, of course, but it also builds intangible value.

Online training, because it’s available for everyone all the time, allows employees to hit the ground running from Day One and achieve rapid success. Success breeds confidence. And confidence fosters the kind of self-assured presentation that is crucial to high-quality interactions with members.

If employees perform well from the start, the longer they stay, the better your chances of finding candidates for internal promotions, and the lower your costs for recruitment and retraining.

Although traditional training methods will always be a part of your employee development plan, the availability of online components gives you the kind of flexibility you need to master the constant ebb and flow of the private club world.

Click here for Part Two!


Click here for part two of this three-part series on the role that online training can play in meeting your club’s staff development needs. In the meantime, please visit RCS University at or e-mail us at for information about online learning opportunities that are available today!

#rcsu #onlinelearning #rcsuniversity #employeetraining #training #HR #stafftraining #empoweremployees #hiring #managementtraining #competitiveadvantage #operations #technology #elearning #onlinetraining

Whitney Reid Pennell
 Founder & President

Whitney Reid Pennell is the founder and president of the award-winning RCS Hospitality Group (formerly Reid Consulting Services). She is a published author and widely praised seminar leader, with over 20 years of club operations management and consulting experience. 

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