We Hire The Attitude And Train For The Skills – Toyin Dada


Mrs. Toyin Dada is the Manpower Development Manager for Eko Hotels and Suites a role she took up in May 2022. A thoroughbred professional, Mrs. Dada is committed to building a learning and development culture that is commensurate with the business goals of Eko Hotels and Suites. “And because we service the world,” she says, “most of our training and development initiatives are specific and international.”


Recently, the hotel introduced blended learning – a combination of classroom, online, and practical training programs to build the capacity of the staff. Most importantly, however, is the behavioral aspect. Because as Mrs. Dada emphasizes, “we hire the attitude and train the skills.” She further stresses the point that “we service human beings, and everyone has a peculiar character. We’re selling experiences. An experience is how the customer feels when they interact with anyone or anything representative of the hotel. Our service is feeling-based and rather intangible. As a result, we must take them back to the classroom to remind them of the culture that is obtainable here.”


Mrs. Dada is audacious about Eko Hotels being the best African hospitality brand. She believes that Eko Hotels has the perfect mix of culture, the right values, and exposure.


Q: How would you describe the culture that you have here?


TD: We have what we call “Respect for local culture”. We blend this with the western culture as well because we’re international. The culture is in our service delivery. How we do things, what we should do and how we should do them. Our “Service Culture Training” embeds and enforces acceptable behaviors in service delivery.


There is also what we call the “Guest Interaction Cycle” for staff to know that anytime a guest comes here, it’s a cycle of experience and everything is repetitive. The arrival experience for us starts from when a prospective client makes that call to book until the client is checked in.


We emphasize the behaviors of being ready, building rapport and remembering things about the customer. All these form a part of the Service Culture that we have here. We also reiterate the need to always exceed customer expectations and deliver delightful service based on what they have observed about them. Ultimately, it is only when you’re the best that you can retain the customer.


For us, a satisfied customer is loyal; the rule is, the customer needs to be 100% satisfied in order to earn their loyalty. 99.9% does not guarantee that you’ve retained a customer, it must be 100%. We aim to always satisfy our guests and keep them in the zone of affection in order to earn their loyalty and become apostles of our business, telling people of their positive experiences, and thereby recommending us to others.


Q: There’s a peculiar problem with Nigerian businesses. Everybody says it’s hard to be treated well in the country. So, is there a particular process that you go through to sift the people that you hire?


TD: What we do is, from the hiring point, we have a panel that conducts what we call the Behavioral Interview. When we meet them, we want to know about their past working experiences, allowing them to narrate scenarios where their actions have yielded positive results, we make the chats interesting to ensure they are relaxed enough to bring out certain traits of their personality.

And because we hire the attitude and train the skills, if the attitude is positive, we would hire you and invest in training you the skills. This has been working for us.


Q: So, what are the greatest challenges you’ve faced when it comes to managing people?


TD: Complacency, I would say.

When we train people, they enjoy it. But after a few months, we see some of them relaxing. So, we do these training minima biannually. Despite the peculiarity of our operations, we have managed to schedule the training to a minimum of twice a year.

We have adopted a rather corrective rather than punitive disciplinary method where staff will have to repeat certain training with tests to make them get better.


Q: So, what’s your vision for the organization?


TD: In addition to local professional certifications, right now, we are concluding the enrollment of staff for international professional certification courses. So, periodically, from General Manager to the least staff, each person would be attending a minimum of six months of certification courses online.


We have also subscribed to Typsy, an Australian online hospitality training platform. Every single department in the hotel has access to this training. Our staff are already having a wonderful learning experience on Typsy; they learn and receive their certificates upon completion of assigned courses. They are also acquiring more skills from the specific lessons for their job roles.


For post-training feedback, we conduct training debriefs when staff returns from trainings to ensure that the training is impactful and will help them add value to their business processes.


Q: What is it about human capital development that excites you?


TD: The fact that people become better after each learning event and the positive impact on business goals through their improved way of doing things.


Q: So do you see yourself doing this for another five to ten years?


TD: My vision for us is to have a Manpower Development Centre, a hotel academy that will eventually be extended to the public.

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