Management Training Program, Innisfree Hotels

The training platform at Innisfree Hotels has been in development for years. When Andrea Case joined Innisfree as Director of Human Resources in 2015, she immediately identified the company was growing and needed leaders.

Together with senior leadership, Case worked to create the Management Development Program. Ultimately, the program will have three tiers:

Managers in Training – line-level employees who show potential

Managers in Motion – managers who need to refine certain skill sets

Executive Training – leadership training in fostering a team, coaching and mentoring

A huge proponent of internal promotions and succession planning, Innisfree wanted to create a platform that would prepare top-performing employees who had the potential and dedication and drive – but not necessarily the experience – for a leadership role.

“There’s an intrinsic, intangible value to having individuals grow up with Innisfree,” Case says.

Ironically, the first two individuals to come through the program came to Innisfree from outside the company. Nicole Klimkowski, a graduate of hospitality management, and John Rockett, who earned his degree in business – both impressed senior leaders, who invited them on board.

Klimkowski was attracted to Innisfree’s focus on hospitality and giving back to the community, and the fact that it is a growing company with vast opportunity for personal and professional development.

“Being in the first ‘class’ of Managers in Training was, and is, still nerve-wracking at times. More often than not it was due to me expanding beyond my comfort zone,” she says. “I could not be more thankful for the guidance and extra push from my peers, because without them I wouldn’t have learned nearly as much as I have for the duration of this program.”

During their year as Managers in Training, Klimkowski and Rockett have helped write the curriculum for the new program.

The pair have gone through six- to eight-week rotations through each department, beginning in housekeeping because it is the most difficult position in a hotel, according to Case.

In each rotation, they have learned technical, management and systems skills, spending the first two weeks performing the job, two more with the assistant and the final two weeks with the executive leader.

Managers in Training rotate through Housekeeping, Front Desk, Maintenance, Food & Beverage, and Sales. The capstone rotation is three months with an Assistant General Manager.

“The biggest thing I want them to gain from each rotation is to understand how their decisions in that department impact the property as a whole,” Case says. “They learn the mechanics, so when they are in a management position they will have a knowledge and appreciation for what their employees are doing on a daily basis.”

At Innisfree, you never ask someone to do something you’re not willing to do yourself.

Klimkowski and Rockett have performed interviews, disciplinary actions and even terminations. As new projects arise, they may be assigned to a property that provides the greatest learning experience. They have spent time with local hosts, with regional managers, on revenue calls and in culture sessions.

“Because of this program, I’ve been able to combine the best attributes I’ve seen across the different properties to create my own style of management,” Rockett says. “I don’t think people realize how critical learning from the ground up can be.”

The goal, but not guarantee, at the end of the 15-month program is a full-time line-level supervisor position with Innisfree Hotels, such as an Executive Housekeeper, Chief of Maintenance, Director of Sales or Food & Beverage Manager.

“They can pursue their passions,” Case says. “One thing that endears me to Innisfree is that wherever your passions are, that’s what we know you will do well in.”

The future of the program will depend on the rate of growth at Innisfree. Historically, the company has grown so quickly it has promoted standout employees who have never been managers, missing the opportunity to give them the skills they need to succeed, Case explains.

She calls to mind a line from Thomas More’s Utopia: “We create the thief, and then punish him.”

No more.

The Management Development Program of Innisfree Hotels will create a new generation of leaders.

“They will come out of this program with a network greater than most managers, who often do not have ongoing conversations with their counterparts at other properties,” Case says. “Our new leaders can take the best of the best and carry it with them.”

– Ashley Kahn Salley

Lead Storyteller, Innisfree Hotels