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Case Study: Creating Processes and a Compliant Experiential Intern Program for StarterStudio


A new client of Pivot Business Consulting and Intern Pursuit is in the hospitality industry. Not in the traditional definition which is defined as “broad fields within the service industry that includes lodging, event planning, theme parks, transportation, cruise line, and additional fields within the tourism industry.” (Wikipedia).

StarterStudio is a nonprofit that provides startups the needed resources to start, scale, and stay in-state in Florida. StarterStudio serves as hub for entrepreneurial start ups to access accelerator programs, events, resources, tools, mentors, collaborative work spaces, and funding opportunities.

Most nonprofits struggle with having enough human capital to get the work done. I began working with the StarterStudio leadership team to identify areas of need and provide solutions with the purpose of taking pressure off of the stretched thin small staff. I estimate the process to take 3 months and will allow the organization to obtain order in areas that have been neglected or unable to implement. For this client, I created a customized intern program to bring stability to the organization. My role as an organizational development consultant is to identify the process breaks or gaps and provide solutions to meet the need of the business. After a needs assessment, the following outcomes were identified.

  • Create processes and systems for the nonprofit board, organization, and members

  • Create training programs for staff, volunteers, interns, and new members

  • Create 5-star membership experience

  • Create talent pipeline to support the organization in the future

  • Provide existing staff to focus on higher areas of need and mentor intern talent

  • Provide tangible job skills for intern talent to help them stand out when ready to enter full time employment

Central Florida offers outstanding schools that provide degrees in hospitality such as

The experiential compliant intern program I created for StarterStudio pulls students from University of Central Florida and Valencia College in areas of hospitality management, marketing, and graphic design. I created a customized experiential intern program for my client and work with the client and intern talent to develop the processes the employer needs and provide job skills the intern needs for their resume. All of this has to be in compliance with the 2018 Department of Labor’s new criteria for internships.

Hospitality is big business and it is important for academic institutions and employers to partner to ensure students are equipped with the skills and knowledge to identify industry trends, close the skill gaps, and create job skills that align with trends. The interns working with StarterStudio will be exposed to some of the same in-demand trends on a smaller scale and help make them more marketable when seeking employment.

Before the age of easy transportation for recreation and business use, hotels, motels, and other hospitality businesses maintained a simple space. Think back to Howard Johnson’s Hotels or Motel 6 (now Motel 8). This was a place for the weary traveler to lay their head while on the road. Fast forward into the 21st century and this industry has morphed into providing an experiential oasis or spa environment for business and pleasure travellers. That means the role of technology in hospitality businesses has also drastically expanded. This requires the workforce preparing to enter this industry be up to snuff on technology and more important than ever for hotel operations and the guest experience.

The role of hospitality is changing quickly and academic partners are looking for trends to keep students informed and prepared. Hospitality employers interested in working with students seeking jobs in this industry should consider adding a robust training program that includes the top trends (according to in hospitality:

  1. Mobile device as door key, think of it. No room key, key card, or key pad.

  2. Self-serve is in. Today, many guests prefer technology over human interaction for simple tasks such as remote check-in and check-out options. Ordering room service is also being tested.

  3. Fixed-mobile convergence. Guests can pair their mobile device to the room phone and use it to control multiple technologies in the room. Request wake up call, adjust blinds, control the TV and sound system, coordinate for a Lyft, Uber, or cab and the list continues.

  4. Guest apps designed with the brand name that helps the guest track their usage, stays, etc.

  5. Battle for bandwidth. It is imperative for hospitality vendors to allow guests to connect quickly and reliably. Multiple this by dozens, hundreds, and thousands of guests (depending on location), this means hospitality providers have to stay at head of the curve.

  6. Location-based services. Tracking hotel staff and guests at any given time creates all kinds of opportunities to improve the guest experience and can improve safety measures.

  7. Tech lounges. Guests want to access tech to relax or get work done outside of their hotel rooms. This requires the hospitality industry think about guest desires and include semi-public spaces where guests can engage tech on their terms.

  8. Social listening. Guests are now becoming more vocal in their pleasure or displeasure about their experience by sharing on social outlets. These online reviews have significant influence every day. By tuning into feedback from guests using social listening tools, the hospitality industry can reap a treasure trove of business intelligence to their advantage.

Putting the tech aspects aside the next area the hospitality industry reflects innovation and value to discriminating guests includes the experiential aspect for the guest. (Hotel Trends Transforming the Guest Experience in 2018, Sept 2017).

  1. Use of natural materials and biophilic design. Biophilic design is based on the theory that people

have an innate tendency to seek out nature, natural elements, and natural forms. Guests desire exposure to:

  • Natural lighting,

  • Views of nature,

  • Rooms with a view,

  • Natural architectural patterns,

  • Use of sustainably sourced materials,

  • Living green walls/Vertical gardens,

  • Direct and indirect exposure to nature

  1. Showcasing local artists. By showcasing local artists, hospitality establishments can distance themselves from the overly generic feel previously seen in the industry. Guests note the unique, handcrafted, or created ambiance.

  2. Co-Work/Life Spaces. This trend creates spaces for both work and play. It is shifting the hospitality industry’s primary focus away from the guest room and towards public common spaces, such as the lobby, as the new hub for social engagement, entertainment, and business networking.

  3. Out with the Old. According to a Hotels Magazine and Readex Research report, 37% of hotel management plans to begin renovations within the next three to 18 months, with 32% occurring within the next year. We now live in an era where a hotel’s reputation can be irreversibly damaged by negative reviews and negative social media posts.

The key takeaway for every business owner, leader, and HR professional is to realize each industry has technology trends that are impacting internal processes, training our employees, contractors, and intern talent.

If your business needs a checkup to make sure you have an experiential compliant intern program along with training process checkup, please contact Isabella Johnston to schedule a free 15 minute consultation.

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