By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky
We all know a recovery is coming. But there are problems associated with ramping up quickly in order to capitalize upon a demand surge. Namely, you will need to rapidly deploy more labor, all the while preventing service errors from occurring. This is especially troublesome given that many hotels still have much of their labor force furloughed from the lockdowns earlier last year.
In a world that is vaccinated but still exceedingly sensitive to COVID-19, you cannot have new employees onsite who play fast and loose with the safety guidelines or with your brand standards. This is hurt your reputation and ultimately your long-term revenues.
In looking at what a frontline staffing ramp up may look like in a recovery scenario, let’s first dwell on how these variable labor issues were solved prior to the pandemic. That is, we used temp agencies. But we also largely ignored some of the intrinsic flaws of these provisional staff sourcing companies because, in 2019, business was good. We could afford to have a temp worker show up late (or worse) for a banqueting event or arrive in the wrong uniform because any perceived slight from the guest’s perspective could always be buffered by a steady influx of new customers.
The rigors of the coronavirus have irreversibly changed labor conditions for hotels. It has led to a significant exodus of knowledgeable workers from the hospitality industry and the introduction of numerous brand standards to heighten proper sanitization as well as guests who are now quite hypersensitive to any Covid safety infractions.
Temp agencies are not able to properly prescreen, train and hold their workers accountable to act as a trustworthy partner in the new normal. But as with numerous other pain points brought about by Covid, technology can help.
“One of our main inspirations for our company came from the ‘dance of the lemons’ problem within temp agencies,” stated Steve Anevski, CEO and Co-Founder of Upshift (www.upshift.work), an on-demand staffing platform with the backing of Recruit Holdings (parent company of Indeed). “A hotel recruits a temporary associate who then doesn’t perform as expected. The HR manager complains to the temp agency but, instead of reprimanding or firing the worker, the company just shuffles them off to another property or waits a few weeks before sending them back to the same hotel. It’s an infuriating lack of control.”
Getting Proper Accountability
With a tremendous risk associated with having unfamiliar faces onsite, hotels now need full transparency on each prospective worker. Platforms like Upshift can use a three-strikes policy to ensure only qualified temps make it through.
Continuing the baseball allegory, each temp – called Upshifters in this case – can only screw up three times before they are booted off the system permanently, for which the HR manager or any other hotelier has direct access to the app to file a transgression. And because the database is both global and verified against a person’s government identification, there’s no way for a misbehaving individual to ever get back onto the network, thus eliminating this dance-of-the-lemons obstacle.
Adding to the end-to-end control of the recruitment process, Anevski showed us the app’s prescreening process. Upshift accepts 65% of candidates who pass the initial personality assessment and only 12% are subsequently approved as Upshifters following an in-person interview and orientation (with all the necessary Covid safety procedures in place). This effectively weeds out potential interlopers from making it onsite.
The third key vetting feature on display was the ability to see each individual’s profile, giving hoteliers direct insight into any Upshifter’s work history, aggregated ratings from past shifts completed through the platform and any training badges they’ve accrued. Effectively acting as a resumé that’s updated in real-time by the app, such a tool can help HR managers see if a prospect has completed a required Covid safety education course, if they have been certified to serve alcohol or if they have been recognized for excellent service by customers.
Other Helpful Platform Tools
Staying lean will be critical for not just 2021 but for several years as hotels need bottom-line operating efficiency to service debt. In analyzing what advantages app-based temp recruitment has over traditional agencies, we found the following key benefits.
• Cutting out the middleman. This should be fairly obvious by now, but it’s worth restating. The platforms that work best are those that instill convenience and time-saving utility. A hotel posts jobs that are seen and evaluated directly by workers with no other companies getting in between to filter the entry.
• Networking power. Temp agencies are, for the most part, localized businesses that obtain their labor from specific sources. On the other hand, turnkey apps can rapidly expand in their awareness to engage with a far more diverse recruitment base, encompassing former industry folks looking to pick shifts back up, students who happen to be aspiring hoteliers or even mothers seeking some flexible part-time work to fit around their familial duties.
• Specific work instructions. How do you get temps to use the BOH employee entrance instead of ambling through the FOH lobby without having to manually tell each one prior to a shift? Instead of relying on a temp agency to pass this information along, an app can easily send out bulletins in advance and provide a graphical map of where the BOH entrance is.
• Programmed rehires. One of the main gripes against the gig economy has been that you get a different person every time. But suppose you really liked a specific worker; how do you draft them for additional shifts? With all past performance logged in a cloud-based system, an HR manager can easily find then solicit a temp for extra work, and possibly even extend an offer for a full-time position within the hotel organization.
• Fractional shifts to save labor costs. Whereas before a hotel may have had to assign shiftwork in minimum blocks – for example, a five-hour prerequisite for all catering hires – to abide by the contractual terms outlined with a temp agency, now the direct employee-hotel interface deregulates this. If a job is only three and a half hours, then you can post it as just that. And all those hours saved will add up to a huge amount on the annual bottom line.
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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry or Adam directly.