Winter 1986 // Volume 24 // Number 4 // Feature Articles // 4FEA3

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Energy Partners: A Model Program

Sucessful employee training in the hospitality industry.

Charles J. Delaney
Assistant Director, Energy Extension Service

Julia C. Graddy
Coordinator of Educational Media
IFAS Information
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
University of Florida - Gainesville

Partnerships, energy management, and the Florida hospitality industry-what do they have in common? These three elements comprise the building blocks of a programming model that can be easily adapted to develop educational programs for other nontraditional Extension clientele.

Florida's hotels and motels are the heart of the state's economically important hospitality industry. Although one of the state's largest energy consumers, the industry historically hasn't been served by Extension.

Energy costs in the form of utility bills represent four to six percent of a hotel's operating budget. On some properties, monthly utility bills are more than $30,000. The expense continues to pose a stubborn challenge to cost-conscious operations, yet the hospitality industry doesn't use routine, integrated programs that train personnel about energy management.

The Energy Extension Service at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) saw this situation as an opportunity to become involved with a new clientele group. The industry is an important component of the state's economy-it's growing, and it's represented by an influential lobbying group in state politics.

A program focusing on employee training emerged from a partnership between members of the hospitality industry and Extension. The combined effort won the 1985 Florida Governor's Energy Award and a U.S. Department of Energy award for innovation in the private sector.

The Model

The program model was developed by the county agent, with technical backup from several state specialists. The energy Extension agent designed an informal needs assessment, which then was administered by an industry contact. The survey results formed the basis of a program proposal presented to a number of industry representatives for their review and comment. Based on this review and on subsequent input from target audience members who had been organized into an informal advisory group, a program of employee training began to take shape. The first private sector partner in this endeavor was one of the largest motel chains in the country.

Holiday Inns of Florida immediately saw the potential value of energy training for its employees and took advantage of the opportunity to team up with and lend its support to the Energy Extension Service effort. The private sector partner piloted the program in six motels in the tourist-centered central Florida area. Because of Holiday Inn's involvement and support, the initial program was specifically designed for its needs. Similar programs have since been implemented by Extension in other hospitality chains in partnership with management.

Components of Energy Management Program

Six major components of the energy management program emerged:

  1. A reference manual prepared by the Energy Extension Service was provided free of charge to each participating property.
  2. Slide-tape training programs were developed for housekeeping, food and beverage, maintenance, and laundry employees. As part of its obligation to the partnership, the motel furnished employee time and made management available whenever and wherever needed. This assured maximum cooperation and served to demonstrate to employees that management supported the program.
  3. Seminars for top management at each property were developed and delivered. These focused on providing incentives for employees and maintaining employee motivation once training was completed.
  4. Regular follow-up with employees reinforced prior workshop information. Follow-ups included walk-through surveys with maintenance supervisors and engineers, additional workshops for food and beverage and housekeeping personnel, and pretests and posttests to evaluate comprehension and retention of material.
  5. A software package that analyzes trends over time in energy consumption was developed for management: The package, which uses data provided by management, produces monthly, confidential reports that each partner can use as a part of overall cost-control efforts.
  6. An informal advisory committee was established, composed of representatives from each property within the already existing local hotel/ motel association.

These components are familiar tools used by Extension professionals in programming for traditional clientele. The only difference is that Extension chose to work with a group from the commercial sector, one that previously hadn't been targeted for intensive programming.

It wasn't long before Florida Extension staff had their suppositions confirmed: these people needed help just as agricultural producers, rural and urban low-income families, and small communities have needed our help. Yes, they're in business to make a profit, but so are the farm families that Extension has served since the turn of the century.

What the Program Accomplished

The private sector partner expressed great satisfaction with results achieved in the program. Although complete financial data is confidential, one typical hotel reported saving $30,000 in 1984 over energy costs that had been budgeted at $140,000 - a 21% savings. Another partner in the program reported that energy costs were $4,000-$5,000 a month under budget during the first 6 months of 1986.

Extension now has greater visibility and credibility through its efforts to improve energy efficiency in the operations of one of the tourism industry's largest energy consumers. The program is expanding in the central Florida area and other parts of the state. The IFAS Energy Extension Service has received inquiries about the program from Sheraton, Ramada Inn, and various property management corporations in Florida.

As word of the program's success spreads, there are significant implications for other tourist centers throughout the nation. Holiday Inn now is making the program's training materials available to personnel in Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. The IFAS Energy Extension Service has also provided details of the program to Energy Extension offices in California, Nevada, Hawaii, and Vermont.

Reasons for the Program's Success

We feel the following are reasons the program succeeded:

  1. The agent was visible and took the time to become thoroughly familiar with her audience. To prepare for this program, the agent joined the local hotel/motel association and later co- chaired its Energy Education Committee. As a result of her membership, the local association surveyed its members to determine energy attitudes, consumption patterns, and needs. This visibility built a valuable base of trust that later served the program well. A newsletter column prepared monthly by the specialist serves to continue that visibility.
  2. Partnership was paramount. From the outset, the target audience was included in planning and implementing the program. The private sector partner maintained a vital stake in the program's success. The target audience defined its needs and became a resource for the program. For example, slide-tape program scripts were developed using ideas gathered from employees and management. Slide sets were shot on location in Holiday Inns using hotel personnel as actors. By providing incentives for employee involvement, the company continues to enhance its ability to control energy costs. Using Extension's methodology of planned change, the I FAS Energy Extension Service was able to offer substantial savings to the hotel/motel partners with very little investment of money or time on the part of the business.
  3. The program was a win-win situation. Mutual benefit is the key to a successful partnership. Each partner in the training program brought unique strengths and expertise to the relationship, and each gained from the experience. The firm's minimal investment of staff time and monetary support was recouped in substantial energy savings and a greater awareness of the need to reduce waste among employees.

The IFAS Energy Extension Service, on the other hand, gained entrance to and credibility with a new, energy-intensive service group. Because this program was successful, the hospitality industry may be more likely to implement greater capital-intensiv energy conservation measures in the future.


The IFAS Energy Extension Service's experience with Holiday Inn demonstrates that partnering works best when the relationship enhances and benefits all partners. It's a truth pertinent to and inherent in Extension's rich history and structure.

Extension's time-proven method teams a technical expert with local faculty and includes the target audience as an integral component of the planning and design process. In this case, the method provided a model that fostered a nurturing partnership experience for an economically important and politically strong industry that previously hadn't been served by Extension.