Photography from: "At TribeForge, we advocate that our only tool is knowledge" | CETT
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"At TribeForge, we advocate that our only tool is knowledge"

"At TribeForge, we advocate that our only tool is knowledge"

Marina Gil and Helena Pérez are students in the second and fourth years, respectively, of the Bachelor's Degree in Tourism, both specializing in Hospitality Management. They are finalists in the Young Talent Awards with an application that ensures a sustainable learning culture over time for companies in the sector. They will represent CETT in Paris on May 29.

The Young Talent Awards are organized by Hospitality ON and are an international competition for young people that rewards the best initiatives in the hospitality sector. Marina Gil and Helena Pérez's proposal is TribeForge, "a revolutionary application to promote dynamic learning, team building, and short- and long-term engagement." But what does it consist of, and how did they come up with it?

How did the idea for TribeForge come about, and what inspired you to develop this application?

Helena: The idea emerged when IHG Hotels & Resorts challenged us to create a sustainable learning culture over time. We met at a café and realized that the only way to generate good engagement among people is through play. Therefore, our solution had to be a game. It also had to be something easy to use, so an app with a simple interface was perfect. We realized it was something disruptive because we have both experienced the typical situation where you receive an email from the hotel you work at, telling you that you have two pending risk prevention courses that last two hours each. When you get to work, no one has done them, and those who have complain in the group chat about how boring and long they are. At the end of the week, management ends up publicly taking attendance and setting a deadline to pressure everyone to just "get it over with" as quickly as possible. Is this learning and understanding its importance? At least this is the learning culture that prevails in the sector, and we don’t see why it should remain that way.

How would you explain to someone with little knowledge of this topic how it works and why it is a useful tool?

Marina: Most hotel companies already have an application that manages vacations or mandatory training. So, the application is simple, the audience (the hotels) is already educated. In this app, you can find the mandatory training and some other "learning pills," but the fun part is that it’s like a game. In this game, you earn points and incentives for learning, but it also tracks your performance regarding the objectives (both individual and group). Everything is themed to make it more attractive. You are part of a tribe (to promote healthy competition), which is your hotel, and within this, also part of a clan (your department). It’s very useful because, besides solving the big problem of boring training in the sector and providing you with knowledge, it helps detect deficiencies faster, increases productivity and satisfaction (of both employees and guests), generating more profit for the company and staff. Moreover, mentoring is part of the game (multigenerational inclusion), as well as cross-training, reducing talent turnover and focusing efforts on employees' professional advancement and careers.

What were the main challenges you faced during the application development process and how did you overcome them?

Helena: The main challenge was anticipating all the obstacles TribeForge might encounter and responding to them intelligently and in advance. We had to present the idea to the same learning and HR managers at IHG’s headquarters, who logically have much more information about the state and needs of their company in every sense. They were going to ask us questions for 15 minutes (which ended up being almost 25) that we had to be able to answer without hesitation. Confident in our product as we are. For example, they asked us how we would manage the app and dynamics with people who don't have a smartphone, how we would ensure HR work wouldn’t be dramatically replaced or increased by having to implement all this from scratch, what if a hotel in the chain doesn't want to apply it, how to ensure learning doesn’t translate into overtime, or even how to handle employees in the chain who can’t read, as is the reality in some countries.

Marina: In the end, we responded to everything with criteria after long preparation and critique of our own product, also talking with our coach Álvaro Arrieta, a great professional with a lot of business vision, who always sees the industry's reality and thinks of the craziest questions that could arise from the application or, as he says, the "landing" of our ideas. We also relied heavily on our own experiences, as we have both traveled and worked in the sector, so it was easy to imagine TribeForge in a real scenario from various angles. In the end, it’s always about being the biggest hater of your own idea until you polish it and then explain it to others to see what you don’t see.

How do you think the app can contribute to addressing current challenges, such as climate change and new regulations?

Helena: The app is designed as a tool to respond to a major industry challenge. This challenge is that everything is changing, and the hospitality industry is vulnerable to a million things (pandemics, political instability, reputation, trends, technological advances...). In response to all this, at TribeForge, we advocate that our only weapon/tool against this is knowledge. Knowledge provides us with information to make better and faster decisions in this VUCA environment that surrounds us, as well as creating shared added value and, besides a competitive advantage, a benefit for the entire ecosystem inside and outside the company. Thus, the best response to current challenges is education and empowerment towards decisions and lateral thinking that the app offers employees.

How do you feel about representing CETT at the Young Talent Awards in Paris? What are your expectations?

Marina: First of all, it is an honor to represent CETT, which has given us the opportunity to enrich ourselves with these experiences and, above all, to try to be an example for other students to not settle and keep seeking challenges within their academic routine. Then, well, the truth is that it is a great stage. Not only because it’s the YTA or because we’re going to Paris, where we’ve never been, but also because this year is the first time the ceremony will be part of the Hospitality Operator Forum. This means that all the industry professionals attending this conference will have our award ceremony in the event program, they will be able to see us and hear us. Being able to bring our idea to a big think tank in the sector is exciting and very motivating. We will also be able to do a lot of networking and learn from all the workshops and conferences. Moreover, after winning the Emcup in February and seeing how these achievements position both CETT and us, we are very eager for these types of experiences. At the moment, we don’t know if we are third, second, or first... but only the podium is invited to Paris!