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The Hospitality Industry CAN Combat the Labor Crisis. Here’s how.

By Mark Heymann, CEO for UniFocus
25 July 2022
6 min read
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It doesn’t take much effort to see that the global hospitality industry is experiencing severe staff shortages that are grinding business operations to a halt. Much harder to determine are the exact reasons behind why the industry is continuing to struggle with recruitment and employee retention. Many simply look at COVID-19 as the main factor. 

Yet the truth is that the pandemic has only served to highlight long-standing challenges. Even before the pandemic, hospitality businesses experienced turnover as high as 73.8% annually. However, for much of its history, the industry has been able to rely on a steady stream of people to replace ex-employees at the same starting pay. 

With job markets now more competitive in attracting employees and with candidates expecting employers to provide a suitable living standard, hoteliers and restaurant managers no longer have the luxury of tapping into an unlimited labor source. Instead, to continue meeting the service needs of their business, managers must re-evaluate how they approach employee relations to ensure that employees see the value in a specific job function or role. Only then can they hope to attract the right candidates, ensure their loyalty and maintain a successful labor management strategy that will prove critical to staying on the road to recovery in 2022 and beyond. 

Show you value your employees by providing them with value 

Maintaining a sufficiently staffed and trained workforce is the ultimate dream of any hospitality-based manager, but it is often one that misses the mark. With a reputation for offering menial, low-paying jobs and limited potential for career growth, it’s not surprising only 42% of hospitality workers report being satisfied with their job and are looking for better options elsewhere. 

To combat this, hoteliers need to find new ways to provide their employees with value beyond a wage increase, which for many is simply not enough. Today’s employees want to expand their skills and accelerate career development. With their wide array of jobs, hotels can address this need. For example, hoteliers could give housekeeping staff opportunities to learn how to manage the front desk. Perhaps a kitchen employee wants to be a concierge; by offering opportunities to pursue their long-term goals, hoteliers can gain a vital edge in ensuring employees feel fulfilled and are willing to stay with their current employer. Hoteliers can even introduce a system that rewards employees for the new skills they learn. Businesses that value their employees enough to invest in their future will also find they can cross-utilize staff, reducing the need to depend on a larger workforce and drastically minimizing the effects of the labor shortage. 

With workers seeking jobs with better benefits, hoteliers should also consider how they can attract and maintain employees by providing unique job benefits. For many frontline hospitality employees, working at a hotel is likely the closest they can get to have a 4- or 5-star experience. To increase loyalty and the appeal of a job, hoteliers could and should provide employees with the opportunity to earn points toward staying at a hotel. Points could be earned based on attendance or productivity and while serving as an incentive for employees to improve their performance, it also shows each staff member that their efforts are not going unnoticed. 

Revising Business Operations from the Ground Up 

Jobs in hospitality are notorious for working long, hard hours, yet much of this is because many operational areas have barely evolved over the last half-century. Housekeepers still push heavy room service carts and vacuum every room. Restaurant staff still juggle orders as they enter high-volume periods. Hoteliers can cut much of the stress responsible for driving otherwise loyal team members away by simply re-evaluating how daily operations are structured and looking for ways to make work more efficient and less arduous. 

With housekeeping, hoteliers could use newer technologies such as robot vacuums that can automate an otherwise time-consuming responsibility. Such vacuums have the capability to ensure all areas are cleaned while providing housekeepers with more time to focus on other tasks. With F&B operations, food prep and running back and forth between guest tables is time-consuming. To alleviate the pressure on employees while providing guests with faster service, hoteliers can buy food items that come pre-chopped or peeled. By identifying both busy and slow business periods, hoteliers can structure their shifts to provide employees with the support they need during the precise times they need it most. 

Fostering Stronger Communication Between Managers and Employees 

Managers tasked with ensuring adequate service coverage already have enough on their plate from preventing employees from going under or over hours each week to ensuring that all workplace rules are followed. This often leaves them with little time to consider the unique needs of individual employees or to analyze potential areas where improvements can be made to the scheduling process. To offset this issue, businesses need to seriously consider adopting newer labor management and time & attendance platforms that are designed to fully automate many of the time-consuming scheduling tasks. Using intelligent algorithms, these solutions can instantly find coverage areas needing to be filled and who is available to fill them. More advanced platforms can even remove the guesswork of creating a schedule that matches work/life balance expectations by providing employees with the ability to select their own shifts. 

Today’s employees are making their expectations for greater collaboration known by staying with employers that are willing to work with them in addressing both service and personal needs. Keeping an open line of communication between managers and employees is crucial to ensuring both needs are met. To be successful, hoteliers looking to combat the labor shortage must take a hard look at how they can best integrate new technologies into their operations to provide both current and prospective employees with a modern, flexible and enjoyable work environment that they have come to demand.

About the author 

With more than 40 years of expertise in the hospitality industry, Mark Heymann is the Founder and Board Director of UniFocus, the leading workforce performance firm in the service sector.

UniFocus was founded in 1998 and was the first platform for labor management in the hospitality industry. UniFocus’s commitment to first-to-market innovations includes a single solution that intelligently automates and communicates precise scheduling, task management and performance improvements. Odin and Shift Genius are some of our newest upgrades and with the recent acquisition of Knowcross, the combined platform is the first complete workforce management solution in the hospitality industry. 

Mark holds a B.A. in economics from Brown University and an M.S. in business from Columbia University. He is a frequent speaker at hospitality conferences and is a member of the Forbes Tech Council where he is a frequent contributing author. 

Mark Heymann