TecHR Interview with Allan Taylor, Chief Executive Officer at Boost
Know My Company
What is your experience about the journey into Mobile Training and Experience Technology?
I co-founded Singapore-based Boost in 2018 and manage a team that spans Asia, growing the mobile training company’s footprint within the region’s hospitality industry. I have a long background in hospitality technology, developing innovative tech solutions for the industry, driving adoption and growing businesses in Asia. I started my hospitality tech career with the then called Fidelo GmbH based in Germany. A little more recent was FCS Computer Systems providing software for 5,000+ hotel installations in 42 countries and setting the company on a path to move from a legacy server-based technology to cloud (SaaS). I also established the Asia Pacific presence of the hospitality and travel software firm Nor1, setting the company up in Australia, China, Japan, and India, building the team and securing major clients including Hyatt, Hilton, IHG, Accor and Pan Pacific.
What galvanized you to start Boost?
Until relatively recently, hotels that conducted regular employee training did so through traditional, classroom-based methods. However, this is expensive, time consuming and disruptive and does not generate the kind of results that the hotel needs. I knew there must be a better way to do this and that we needed to look to mobile technology as the solution both because it was cost-efficient and – more importantly – it works.
Boost’s mobile training solutions allow hotel employees to learn anytime, anywhere, ensuring constant growth. Gamification and progressive learning techniques ensure faster learning, while instant feedback and results can be measured allowing the student and training manager to see exactly where to improve on, this also ensures consistency in learning, with all students receiving the same tuition.
Importantly for hoteliers, mobile training benefits the bottom line. There is no need to hire teachers, block classroom space, purchase books and pull service staff from the front line and into the classroom. With mobile training, employees need just ten to fifteen minutes per day, and can learn on the bus, during their afternoon break or before bed. Secondly employees who have more skills – be they language, upselling, vocational or others – are more confident, earn more and provide better service. This translates directly to higher guest satisfaction which, as every General Manager knows, leads to higher revenues.
Mobile training is highly scalable. While classroom learning programs across multiple properties requires more than one teacher, each of whom may differ in approach and quality, mobile training curriculums and techniques are the same no matter how many employees use the solutions. Boost trains thousands of employees in different hotels across multiple countries to the same level of quality and standards. Additionally, we are able to continually update the programs to reflect changing trends and needs.
What is Boost and how does it fit into the current language training and employee upskilling landscape?
Boost is the leading mobile training solutions provider for the Hospitality industry, improving hospitality employee productivity through Mobile Learning and assessment for vocational skills, upselling and languages. Boost empowers employees to provide better service, increasing guest satisfaction levels which in turn benefits hotel bottom lines thanks to reduced recruitment and training costs, and more loyal guests.
Hotel employees are able to learn at a time and place of their choosing, fitting perfectly into their busy schedules. Unlike traditional classroom-based methods, Boost’s mobile solutions are scalable, providing high quality training and assessment options from a single independent to a group/chain hotel at a regional or even global level. Boost Apps allow HR to track employee performance and highlight additional training needs in real-time.
We work with any hotel or chain that has its eye on staff productivity improvements, guest satisfaction and/or better staff engagement at a training level. Boost is backed by funding from a number of private investors including École hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) and is currently used by over 250 hotels throughout Asia, teaching over 25,000 hotel employees the skills needed to improve guest satisfaction and grow their careers. Boost is headquartered in Singapore and has 65 employees in Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, China and in our R&D centres in China, Vietnam and the Ukraine.
What does your ideal customer profile look like? Which businesses are the fastest to adapt your mobile training solutions?
Boost is used over 250 hotels ranging from large chain hotels across multiple geographies to small, boutique hotels. Currently Boost is very focused on the Asia region. At a regional/global level we are providing Boost services to Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotels, Marriott, Hilton, Accor Hotels and IHG Hotels & Resorts to name just a few. Hotel employees have notoriously busy schedules and there is simply no time to take the whole teams out for traditional, classroom-based training which is what they have been forced to do until recently. Mobile training is much more flexible and cost-effective – and gets better results – so hotels are our main customer profile.
How should heads of businesses leverage technology to digitally transform their department and organizations into effective workplaces?
The hospitality industry is very personal – guests appreciate face-to-face interaction – and so any leader in this industry needs to ensure that technology helps service employees rather than replace them. A hotel is an incredibly diverse working environment with dozens (or more) of positions from Valet to Chef to Front Office and while these all require different skill sets; one service culture needs to be inculcated across all employees. Technology can help drive both improved skillsets and help leadership develop a service-orientated culture.
For example, facial recognition technology promises to make life a lot easier for guests. Rather than queuing up to check-in, they can quickly scan their faces, be presented with their key and make their way to their room. For a jet-lagged business traveller with a slew of meetings the next day this is much more preferable. Mobile training is another example of how technology can improve the guest’s stay. You cannot separate language from service and so when hotels train their employees in Mandarin or English, they are able to provide better service. We already see this in a number of our client’s hotels.
What are the benefits of Boost Voice and how can it help staff managers become better with their employees?
Boost Voice teaches employees English and / or Mandarin language skills using content that is department specific and developed by hoteliers. It is a highly interactive solution that includes gamified elements encouraging continuous learning, teaching employees department-specific language that is most relevant to their workplace. We also provide additional solutions including Boost Profile, Boost Voice, Boost Skills, Boost Upsell and Boost Select which train employees in a number of areas including upselling, languages, vocational training (F&B and Housekeeping) as well as assessment and recruitment solutions for HR. As employees become better at their jobs, they provide better service, become more confident and their career prospects improve.
One of our clients, The Continent Hotel Bangkok, have used our solutions for almost a year now and have seen significant improvements in both guest service and in revenues. They use Boost Voice (English language) which has resulted in guests noticeably appreciating their English language skills including leaving TripAdvisor reviews. The hotel also uses another one of our solutions, Boost Upsell, which has resulted in a 5% increase in upsell revenue year-on-year since they started using Boost. Another client, the HARRIS-POP! Hotels & Conventions Solo (Indonesia), has seen the confidence of staff improve thanks to Boost Voice which has led to better guest service.
Apart from hospitality, which other industries can benefit from your Mobile training suite?
Service industries in general – from airlines to retail – can benefit from mobile training for many of the same reasons that hotels can. With mobile training employees are able to learn at a time and place of their choosing – on the train, during their lunch break, before bed – and it is easy to use and understand. There are gamification elements within the app which makes learning fun, yet it is also challenging. Importantly, training managers are able to measure results and those employees who are struggling they can identify and help, and for those who are doing particularly well they can place them in front-line positions.
For retailers – high-end luxury stores for example – being able to speak the language of their customer is vital if they are to make the sale. The same for airlines and cruise lines. Furthermore, these sectors often experience many of the same challenges that hotels do, including increased labor costs and differing staff to customer ratios, and experience the same benefits from Boost including better optimization and improved skills sets. Mobile can also help with assessment, identifying the right candidates for the job in a much more cost-effective way.
Boost’s mobile assessment solutions are available for cruise lines through our partnership with CTI Group Worldwide Services, Inc. (CTI Group). Launched earlier this year our mobile solution, called CrewHire, will be used to pre-screen all cruise line applicants, accurately testing for suitability and language proficiency and is available to all cruise lines, and global recruiting and placement agencies. CrewHire will be used by Virgin Voyages to validate all non-native English-speaking candidates’ English language skills globally in preparation for their inaugural voyage set for 2020.
How can modern HR teams fully-transform their overall organization and promote diversity/inclusion using technological capabilities?
Speak to any HR leader and they will say that one of the biggest challenges they have is sifting through the hundreds of CVs they receive to find the right candidate for the job. Employees are required to shortlist candidates’ CVs, contact the candidates and conduct pre-screening interviews before identifying those most relevant for follow-up interviews. For an industry such as hospitality that has relatively high employee turnover, this is a very time-consuming, inefficient way of hiring. It is also ineffective in many instances with capable candidates often falling through the cracks.
Mobile training and assessment allow for an employee’s skill set to be documented and measured with the strengths and weaknesses identified. This will then allow for a more accurate and quicker assessment of a candidate’s abilities and suitability which, combined with references from his/her superiors (if available), will allow HR teams to properly validate and assess a candidate. Furthermore, as we are seeing with our cruise line solution, CrewHire, we can use mobile solutions to quickly and accurately pre-screen candidates based on language or other abilities, before identifying those needed for the next stage of recruitment.
By measuring performance, documenting that performance and making it easily available we can improve hiring outcomes for both hotel and candidate.
What are your views on growing revenue opportunities for HR Technology platforms?
We have ambitious plans next year and while I cannot go into too much detail due to confidential considerations, one thing is for sure – we will open in the Middle East at some point in 2020. I also see our direct operations expanding in South East Asia with a focus on Vietnam. We also plan for continued product innovation with improved content and enhanced user experience.
I mentioned earlier about the inadequacy of the traditional CV and we fully aim to digitize the hiring process through mobile. Now that skills and performance can be measured and documented we have a much more realistic and accurate picture of an employee’s ability and so it makes sense to make this available to HR teams. One day candidates will be sending potential employers their Boost profile instead of their CV.
How do you play a part in the Digital Transformation of such culture-driven organizations?
Hotels are often very traditional in many ways, preferring face-to-face interaction and more traditional methods of training. However, Boost is viewed very positively among hotels due to the fact that we provide both language and vocational training, and also assessment. Once they start seeing results then our clients – usually highly skilled General Managers with decades experience in the industry – often become champions of Boost. I mentioned earlier how we have generated real upselling revenues for one of our clients, and the confidence and superior service that they see from their employees. It makes us proud to be part of this digital transformation and actually seeing real results. Lastly, we have a very strong leadership and advisory team including Mr. Horst Schulze, one of the world’s leading hoteliers who co-founded The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company and founded The Capella Hotel Group. This team advises and guides us on our own growth and strategy as well as how we can help our own clients transform their own service and quality standard.
Which Marketing and Sales Technology solutions do you use at Boost?
We use Salesforce and LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator tool.
The Crystal Gaze
Which start-ups in the tech industry interest you the most and why?
- Not sure they are still classed as a start-up but WalkMe – they pioneered the Digital Adoption Platform (DAP) transforming a user’s experience in today’s overloaded digital world.
- Not really following any particular start-up in hospitality tech but more keeping up to date on AI, Blockchain, robots and Biometrics in general – looking for ways to impact HR and its use of these technologies.
What technologies within AI and HR Technology are you interested in?
AI – I think you have to mention Machine Learning and its three disciplines, Unsupervised, Reinforced and Supervised Learning plus Natural Language Processing – Text to Voice or Picture to Text – and similar innovations
In HR Technology, what are the new emerging markets that you see providing the biggest opportunities?
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Use Boost Assess to screen potential candidates before you see them.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Sorry no one person, but anybody at a VP HR level at a major hotel chain.
Thank You, Allan, for answering all our questions. We hope to see you again, soon.
Boost is the leading mobile training solutions provider for the Hospitality industry, improving hospitality employee productivity through mobile learning and assessment for vocational skills, upselling and languages. Boost empowers employees to provide better service, increasing guest satisfaction levels which in turn benefits hotel bottom lines thanks to reduced recruitment and training costs, and more loyal guests.
Through five distinctive mobile training applications: Boost Profile, Boost Voice, Boost Skills, Boost Upsell and Boost Select, hotel employees are able to learn at a time and place of their choosing, fitting perfectly into their busy schedules. Unlike traditional classroom-based methods, Boost’s mobile solutions are scalable, providing high quality training and assessment options from a single independent to a group/chain hotel at a regional or even global level. Boost Apps allow HR to track employee performance and highlight additional training needs in real-time.
Allan Taylor is the CEO of Boost, a mobile technology platform for the hospitality industry that is driving the future of learning through vocational training, mobile learning and HR solutions for hotel employees. Able to provide mobile learning anytime, anywhere, Boost improves hotel employee confidence and empowers them to provide a higher level of service leading to happier, more loyal guests. Allan co-founded Singapore-based Boost in 2018 and manages a team that spans Southeast Asia, growing its footprint within the region’s hotels.
Allan has a long history in hospitality and technology, developing innovative tech solutions for the industry, driving adoption and growing teams in Asia. He started his hospitality tech career with the then called Fidelo GmbH based in Germany. Allan worked with FCS Computer Systems providing application software for 5,000+ hotel installations in 42 countries and setting the company on a path to move from a legacy server-based technology to Cloud (SaaS) within 3 years. Allan established the Asia Pacific presence of the hospitality and travel software firm Nor1, setting the company up in Australia, China, Japan and India, building the team and securing major clients including Hyatt, Hilton, IHG, Accor and Pan Pacific.