By Bob Palloni
In case you haven’t noticed – the hospitality industry is short on labor. Perhaps this statement comes as no surprise; after all, hospitality is notorious for exceedingly high turnover amongst talent. The average turnover rate in the hotel industry is around 73.8%, and in 2020 69% of hoteliers reported difficulties in finding qualified candidates for their open positions. Unfortunately, this trend was notably worsened by the pandemic, as industries like hospitality were heavily impacted by the mass departure of workers. In fact, the AHLA revealed that over 4.3 million hotel jobs were lost in the United States alone.
“The pandemic caused a major disruption in America’s labor force—something many have referred to as The Great Resignation. In 2022, more than 50 million workers quit their jobs, many of whom were in search of an improved work-life balance and flexibility, increased compensation, and a strong company culture,” shares the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a recent report detailing the significant labor challenges faced by the health services, professional and business services, trade, and accommodation and food services industries. “But a closer look at what has happened to the labor force can be better described as ‘The Great Reshuffle’ because hiring rates have outpaced quit rates since November of 2020. So, many workers are quitting their jobs — but many are getting re-hired elsewhere.” As the travel and hospitality sector remained almost entirely shuttered throughout the pandemic, many furloughed workers turned their attention to other industries, and have not since returned.
As hospitality brands look to capitalize on the outpouring of post-pandemic travel demand (now popularly referred to as revenge travel), the on-going labor shortage remains an elephant in the room. In order to maintain brand standards and meet the ever-evolving expectations of guests, hotels must rely on the talents of their dedicated staff. When operational and on-property teams are spread too thin across various tasks and touch-points, service standards inevitably begin to slip through the cracks. At the same time, however, hiring remains an undeniable challenge for the industry, with the Wall Street Journal noting that many hotel operators are raising pay and boosting benefits, but many are finding those moves aren’t enough to get people to sign on and stay. Not to mention – hiring efforts to mitigate high turn-over are a costly endeavor, with SHRM reporting that the cost of replacing an employee in the hotel industry can be up to 33% of the employee’s annual salary.
So, what exactly are hotels doing to address the labor shortage and ensure they are equipped to service an uptick in travel-related demand? For many hotels, the answer lies in technology.
Embracing a Tech-Driven Future
While hospitality will always be a people-first industry, hoteliers must look to alternative solutions (such as emerging technology) to better streamline their operations and redistribute some of the pressure traditionally placed on staff. This isn’t to paint the picture of a future that lacks the human touch; but rather, a future that strikes an optimal balance between hands-on service and digital touch-points that drive efficiency and guest-facing convenience. As we’ve seen in the retail industry, digitizing (or otherwise technologically enhancing) certain touch-points and tasks can actually empower staff to refocus their attention where it matters most: the customer. At the same time, self-service technology gives customers more autonomy over their experience and reduces the likelihood of long, frustrating ques and missed service opportunities. Hospitality, as you might have guessed, is no different.
With this in mind, the embrace of new technology (specifically those cloud-based platforms which leverage open API’s, automation, and workflow optimization) will become integral to success as hoteliers look to navigate the post-pandemic landscape. To this effect, a Skift hospitality survey shows that 64.7% of executives surveyed consider incorporating new technologies for staff efficiency as a part of their labor strategy to attract and retain staff.
By moving away from legacy technology (and the additional stress those platforms inevitably place on workers), hoteliers can improve staff well-being and guest satisfaction alike while cutting costs, reducing workflow inefficiencies, enhancing service quality, and minimizing human error. More importantly, hospitality brands can lean on the efficiencies ushered in by new technology to fill in the gaps within their staff while they look to rebuild their talent pool.
It’s Time to Upgrade Your PMS
Although there are countless operational areas that could benefit from a digital overhaul, there is perhaps no better place to start than the property management system. The PMS is, after all, the central hub of a hotel’s operational ecosystem, responsible for managing reservations, check-ins and check-outs, room inventory, housekeeping, billing and payment processing, and more. With the right centralized PMS system in place, hoteliers can manage all property operations from one, easy-to-use system that provides a comprehensive view of the hotel’s activities and enables hotel staff to quickly and easily manage reservations, room inventory, housekeeping, billing, and more. Better yet, a modern PMS is also built to drive more direct bookings, glean actionable insights from data, improve online conversions, better accommodate guest requests, and seamlessly integrate with other systems.
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again – platform innovation is not something to fear. The introduction of new, more intuitive and versatile technology does not stand to replace the human connection that is the heartbeat of the hospitality industry. Rather, the embrace of new-age platforms, like the modern PMS, will ensure hotels are supporting their staff and operational eliminating bottlenecks during an otherwise challenging time. Incorporating new technology for staff efficiency is, undeniably, a key ingredient in an effector labor strategy – and the marker of a future-proof hotel. After all, for properties to showcase staying power in a hyper-competitive market, they must look ahead and ensure they have the offering, the team, and the technology required to meet (and exceed) guest expectations well into the future.