University Partnerships Key to Learning at Best Western International

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After a year and a half with a limited learning management system, Best Western International changed LMS providers and rebranded the new system as BWI University.

This learning and training resource needed to outfit Best Western's more than 4200 hotels in 110 countries. Each hotel is a member, rather than a franchisee. That is, they choose to pay a yearly membership, and 98.6 percent of member hotels chose to do so year after year. That return rate is due in part to the existing learning and training efforts at BWI, the highlight of which is the corporation's annual convention.

The mission of BWI University was to act as a funnel where all learning and training requests can start. Keeping its clients in mind, the learning and training team organized the university by hotel department, and specifically by track (Are you a new employee in housekeeping or one who is looking to brush up on company policy?). The LMS also includes links to various resources and information for professional development.

BWI partners with the American Hotel Lodging Association to offer a series of the association's courses to its employees. Additionally the hotel chain has partnerships with a number of universities, including the University of Phoenix, DeVry, eCornell, and, most recently, Northern Arizona University.

Employees can earn up to 15 credit hours through BWI University, and each one of these partnerships with external universities serves a unique need of the hotel's employees. The University of Phoenix and DeVry, two of the biggest online college providers in the country, tailor much of their programs and content to the type of on-the-go adult learners who are trying to advance their careers that make up much of BWI's employee base.

Through its school for hotel administration, eCornell offer a series of targeted certifications in things like revenue management that help in the professional development of employees at the administrative level.

BWI University recently decided to partner with Northern Arizona University because the school offers hospitality MBA programs that can be taken through distance learning.

These university partnerships, as with all learning and training programs aim to answer a few key questions: What's the need of the learner? What gap are we trying to fill? "From a learning standpoint, we're working with a series of individual operators," said Mike Nalley, senior manager of education and training at Best Western International. "So we're constantly asking employees opinions and feedback to try and determine what needs they have."