By Tanya Pratt
The hospitality industry continues to face major challenges as the labor landscape shifts, driven by the pandemic and global macro-economic factors. As in other industries, hoteliers find themselves having to re-write the value proposition of working at a hotel.
To recruit a new generation of workers and retain a skilled workforce, hoteliers must implement technologies that enable hotels to be attractive workplaces with unique employee experiences, while also continuing to deliver exceptional experiences that their guests crave.
How can hotels be successful? By using modern employee facing technology, including streamlined user interfaces with gamification and user self-service, implementing cloud-based technology allowing for device-independent applications, and automating as many tasks as possible.
Hotel staff, like employees everywhere, want the same user experience on professional software as they have on consumer software – intuitive and rational user interfaces that are quick to learn and easy to use. With today’s staff churn, fast onboarding is critical, so the more self-service, the better – from onboarding videos to intelligent knowledgebases – because when staff are training, they aren’t serving guests or generating revenue. Application landing pages that can be arranged to suit staff responsibilities make for quicker navigation, and chatbots and context-based help mean staff can be more responsive. Consumer applications have trained users to search for information, and hotel employees are no different. Giving staff easy access to knowledge empowers them to find solutions for themselves and for guests.
Gamification, or the use of game design elements in non-game contexts, can be a powerful tool for attracting and retaining employees, and is a familiar social media design element. Gamification can be used to engage employees and make work tasks more enjoyable, and can also also be used to reward employees for reaching certain milestones or achieving specific goals. Leaderboards, comparing performance of employees based on relevant metrics, like check-ins or upsells or room cleaning, can introduce transparency and healthy competition, not to mention a bit of fun, into hospitality positions.
“When we go to job fairs, our upselling program, is one of the first things we bring up in conversations with prospective employees. Staffing is tough everywhere. It’s competitive. Minimum-wage rates are going up across the country. But we’ve successfully enticed people with this program, especially because we now have two years of facts behind us,” Mary Wren, Director of Operations, Mohegan Sun Hotel & Casino Resort.
Cloud-based applications are a given, featuring automated updates, high performance, scale, integrated security, and availability, while lowering overall technology costs. Plus cloud-based apps facilitate multi-device usage; staff don’t have to be tied to fixed desktops or laptops. Forward-thinking hotels are implementing mobile apps and other tools that allow employees to manage reservations, communicate with guests, and access key information from smartphones or tablets. Mobile tools are critical to the hotel business because they allow employees to access important information and complete tasks anywhere – from a customer site by a sales manager, in the lobby by a floating front desk agent, from a hotel room by a housekeeper, from the remote kitchen by a room service agent.
Finally, no employee wants to get stuck repeating manual tasks. Automation, in many cases driven by artificial intelligence, can provide the solution. Across the hotel, automation can be applied to just about every commercial function including automating initial evaluation of incoming sales leads, the publication of rates and inventory to third party partners, onboarding of new partners’ integrations, and the selection, pricing, presentation, and fulfillment of upsell offers to guests across the guest journey. Reducing the amount of mundane work saves overhead, and makes the hotel workplace more attractive to prospective employees as well as to current employees.
If hoteliers want to remain competitive in this new labor market, they must adapt to the new workforce. It is essential that they provide employees with a seamless digital-first experience that is consistent with the technologies they have grown up using in order to convert them to the next generation of highly skilled hospitality workers. When hoteliers focus on improving the employee experience, everyone wins.