Not to be confused with the exchange of taunts by athletes, SMAC is a helpful acronym. Each letter represents a direction in workplace learning that, if utilized together, they may combat hospitality’s globally crippling talent shortage. At the very least, they will boost your ability to compete.

Today’s dizzying multichannel marketplace offers attractive promotional packages designed to lure would-be guests away from their familiar haunts toward something/someplace 'new.' For many, to survive means cutting prices. But for those looking to thrive, first achieve superior customer engagement. Then, pray your customers will be loyal.
When it comes to engaging customers, there are two areas to throttle: technological gadgetry and old-fashion hospitality. As for technology, the options are seemingly endless (i.e. from front entrance touchscreen kiosks to back office optimization software suites and any number of devices in between). However, when it comes to hospitality, it’s really only your people that will be able to deliver what customers expect: a highly personalized experience. This assumes that you are able to successfully attract and retain top industry talent. Only they possess the professional range to impress even the most sophisticated international travelers.

If getting top talent has proved to be difficult, take solace in knowing that you’re not alone. The talent shortage is worldwide. Forecasts show a dire future where industry growth will likely be compromised by an expanding talent gap. For instance, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) issued a report in 2014 indicating the industry’s human capital challenges could create a net loss of as many as 11 million jobs across 37 countries by 2024.

Here’s the irony: The best approach in this competitive marketplace is to leverage your staff’s professional skills, however, talented professionals are becoming more difficult to find.

What to do? Well, when confronted by challenges, it’s often helpful to start talking SMAC.

1. “S” stands for Social

Scholars and workplace learning practitioners have long identified the fact that learning is social. Whether through direct instruction or observation, we’ve always learned from one another. The significance of this fact is our access to information. Put another way, we can learn almost anywhere and in a variety of formats (termed learning interventions). In order to take advantage of this, forward-thinking organizations are abandoning the top-down mentality of talent development toward strategies that incorporate informal learning and interactive games. Today, these organizations are transforming their “learner population” from passive consumers into actuators who are able to and even expected to contribute to the organization’s developmental goals.

2. "M” stands for Mobile

Mobile Learning or “mLearning” builds on the social basis of talent development by leveraging the portability of personal electronic devices. Effective mLearning presents the assistance people seek when they need it … smack-dab in the middle of the task at hand.

Also, mLearning is the ideal way to activate learning over time. With it, talent development interventions can be spread out, prior to the moment the knowledge is required on the job as well as afterward. These reactivation interventions are especially beneficial for memory retention.

3. “A” stands for Analytics

Evaluating training activities with smile sheet surveys consisting of “Did you enjoy the training?” and “Do you think the material was relevant?” questions are not good enough. Such satisfaction and reaction assessments have been widely used for two terrible reasons: they safely avoid accountability and are easy to tabulate.

Business solutions today must be supported by the collection, measurement and analysis of both valid and reliable data. In the world of talent development, organizations must measure the application of learning via actual behaviors, not by happy faces on an evaluation form.

4. “C” stands for Cloud-based

Digital, cloud-based interactivity means creating, sharing, viewing and collaborating. Learning leaders of the future will be less like trainers and more like librarians. Or, better yet, curators. Today, learning interventions are generated more and more by the consumers themselves. Meanwhile, content may be access farther afield in a variety of locations (i.e. Massive Open Online Courses or “MOOCs”). To complete, organizations must act as developmental custodians in a symbiotic exchange where both they and their people thrive.

So, to compete, you must start talking SMAC. You and your people will be glad you did.