American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute Research on Competency-Based Hiring & Certification

Organizational Overview

Established in 1953, the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AHLEI) is the premier source for delivering quality hospitality education, training and professional certification to serve the needs of hospitality schools and industries worldwide. AHLEI meets its education and training mission by providing materials for all levels of hospitality personnel via online learning, distance learning courses, videos, seminars, textbooks, and study guides.

AHLEI certifies and validates competencies in conjunction with academia and industry experts for more than 20 positions in the hospitality industry—from front-line to general manager. And it extends its reputation around the globe to serve the needs of learning institutions and hotel organizations through 74 licensed affiliates in 45 different countries.

Business Challenge

AHLEI wanted to study the role of competency-based hiring and certification in the hotel and lodging industry and to understand how its certification program was being used and could be strengthened. Specifically, there were questions as to:

  • The role of competency-based hiring and industry certifications in recruitment, hiring and employee retention
  • The differences between competency-based hiring at the entry, mid and upper management levels
  • How certifications can assist in building a talent pipeline throughout the industry
  • What obstacles exist, if any, to competency-based hiring, and what ideas can be put forth to address these obstacles

The organization received a grant to do the study, which required a white paper as the major grant deliverable. AHLEI wanted an unbiased and outside review, and asked J. Robinson Group to conduct the study and provide a white paper for their grantor.

JRG Solution and Implementation

JRG proposed conversations with Human Resource professionals across the hotel and lodging industry to represent a cross-section of representatives from both major and niche brands, and from corporate HR executives, local GMs and other hiring stakeholders. A pre-survey was recommended, as well as two days of focused discussions around the questions AHLEI wanted answered.

Fifteen hotel and lodging professionals were identified as key stakeholders in the conversation and were selected to participate in the study.  JRG developed and distributed an online pre-survey to begin the dialogue and to uncover initial perspectives for use in creating a discussion guide for the roundtable discussions. Having gathered this information, JRG created a discussion guide and organized two days of roundtable discussions with these executives, who were flown to Orlando for the two-day event. J. Robinson Group facilitated the event, which included full discussions and breakout sessions.


Results and Outcomes

The business roundtable revealed ways in which current practices vary—from brand to brand, from job level to job level, from corporate to local. While these different approaches had helped to identify some best practices, they also pointed to the need for more preparedness, consistency and training within the industry as a whole. The research uncovered several new paths to strengthening the industry through more focused awareness and training and through enhancing partnerships with industry and government organizations.

J. Robinson Group provided an executive summary and white paper for AHLEI to present to their grantor.