AT THE LANGHAM Place Hotel, staff training is five days a week, 15 minutes a day. The hotel has taken an innovative approach to improving staff performance and raising customer service standards by making staff training virtually part of its daily operations. Ivy Leung, director of human resources, said the 555 Service Excellence programme was designed to make the best use of limited resources to support staff learning and development. 'Rather than taking people out for several hours of training, we focus on brief but intensive learning sessions from Monday to Friday,' she said. The topics for training change every week, according to the hotel's latest requirements. The 665-room hotel at 555 Shanghai Street, Mongkok, became operative last August. It has a workforce of 490. The 555 Service Excellence programme focuses on five aspects of customer service: the concept of service, professional skills, language skills, product knowledge and tourism information. 'The training and development exercises are held five days a week, and the three fives together make up 15 minutes of learning each day.' The human resources staff, in their capacity as trainers, join the daily staff briefings in the various operational departments to familiarise themselves with staff practice and performance. 'This cutting-edge training approach is new to the hotel marketplace,' Ms Leung said. 'It is also a breakthrough to have someone from human resources participating in the daily staff briefings. There is a generally negative perception of human resources people. Our initiative to join the staff briefings was a challenge and the staff had reservations at the beginning.' Training manager Eva Lo said staff eventually came around to accepting the HR presence and saw that HR was there out of genuine concern for them. They found their performance improved with the training and became more open during discussions. 'We are working closely together for the best results. For now, all staff divisions that have direct contact with hotel guests are being trained. They include food and beverage, front office, concierge, housekeeping and security operations,' Ms Lo said. The 555 Service Excellence programme was implemented last year at The Place restaurant. There were clear signs that the restaurant's service quality had improved and that revenues had gone up as a result of the training programme. Revenue exceeded the restaurant's target by 22 per cent last December and the guest satisfaction index was 80 per cent at year-end, up from 64 per cent last August. Tips for staff increased to 11.5 per cent of revenue from 5.8 per cent, reflecting strong customer approval. Equally encouraging was the high degree of satisfaction among restaurant staff. Ms Leung said most of them felt the training programme had been a positive contribution to their career and personal development. The Place restaurant programme emerged among the six top entries in the HKMA awards. Ms Leung said the 555 Service Excellence campaign was being run on a tight budget without extra resources from the company. 'Financial backup does not guarantee the success of a training programme. You can achieve your objectives with a fresh and creative approach.' The hotel has also introduced a mentorship scheme to further foster staff development. Ms Leung said the hotel was training staff with potential to be mentors.