Q&A with UniFocus’ new CEO

Globe-trotting DJ turned tech company CEO doesn’t quite fit a traditional career progression. Moneesh Arora, the newly appointed CEO of UniFocus, however, makes it look easy and natural.

The CEO (pictured above) does happen to have a wealth of hospitality and tech knowledge and a resumé filled with leadership roles. Over the last 25 years, Arora has held top positions at Paycor and Thomson Reuters, as well as experience with Human Capital Management platforms.

We spoke with Arora about his new venture at UniFocus, what his first steps will be at the helm and how he plans to conquer some of the industry’s toughest challenges:

Why UniFocus? What attracted you to the company?
I have been focused on the human capital and labor management market since 2010. It’s been amazing to be part of this high-growth business sector—it’s 12 years later and everyone is better educated and understands how mission-critical labor management software is, especially in a post-COVID labor market. Our software combined with the right strategy and set of enabling services directly improves staff satisfaction and loyalty, which maximizes productivity and retention. I have always enjoyed being at the intersection of technology, being used to positively impact the lives of people in a way that you can measure quantitively and feel on a human level. Our software helps our clients become better listeners, incorporate feedback, improve operations, which leads to a better employee and guest experience—it doesn’t get better than that.

UniFocus wasn’t created just to build software, our mission is centered around generating better business outcomes for customers, while also improving the quality of life for the people tasked with performing frontline work—frontline workers are the heart and soul of our interconnected global economy. I don’t often come across companies that can both help increase productivity and staff satisfaction. UniFocus has proven to be a market leader in this area and really is on the cutting-edge of some great ideas to further expand on the capabilities of its customers. I also believe that UniFocus possesses a unique opportunity to gain a broader footprint and bigger role in the human capital space, both within the hospitality industry as well as for other vertical markets with similar characteristics.

What will be your first steps as CEO?
First on my list is to get to our many clients and to understand what their needs are and how we can utilize advances in technology to address the emerging challenges that the industry is facing. We will not only be focused on solving the problems that the industry is currently experiencing but will continue to position ourselves as adaptive leaders who are able to provide solutions to a constantly evolving market and industry. I am also excited to gain a better understanding and appreciation for the many talented individuals that make up UniFocus and our global footprint. This will ensure that we don’t lose any of the unique qualities that have made us the workforce solutions provider of choice, as we continue on our growth journey.

What about some longer-term goals? What’s on your mind for 2022 and beyond?
My longer-term goal for the business is for us to be recognized as a global partner throughout the service industry, and to expand the definition of what labor management technology can provide for adjacent verticals. Within the various industries that we currently serve, UniFocus will continue to build on its reputation as the trusted leader in labor management technology. We will also boost efforts to identify other industries that can benefit from our technology and expertise and will leverage our combined knowledge of serving various markets to identify new best practices and strategies that can be applied to other verticals.

What about the tech industry excites you?
Technology is particularly exciting within the hospitality space as it all comes down to building better connections between people—I am on a mission to find new ways for people to work better together. Enhanced logic processing plays a big role in accelerating collaboration and enabling smarter and faster decision-making, sidestepping the guesswork that was once needed to verify the accuracy of a labor strategy. Our solutions are going to continue to empower hoteliers to focus on what they do best, which is taking care of guests and ensuring that their experiences are always enjoyable.

I’m also excited by the prospect of removing barriers to hotel business success, which has only become more achievable thanks to the quickening pace of advances in technology. The speed of innovation at which great ideas can be brought to market is now astounding. We are looking forward to unveiling new capabilities that in the past would have taken years to launch, but that now can soon be made readily available for hoteliers to foster even stronger relationships with their guests and staff.

How have your previous experiences prepared you for this role?
Through my previous experiences, I’ve learned that you cannot solve an industry challenge from behind a desk or by simply analyzing data in a spreadsheet. Many of the answers to solving the industry’s workforce challenges can be found by engaging directly with frontline employees. If you want to understand what is occurring within a business, what issues it is facing and how they can best be resolved, data analysis alone cannot match the insights to be gained from those with first-hand experience in serving the needs of your guests. Ask the frontline staff and your guests what they need to be successful and happy—listen, develop solutions and execute, it’s usually not that complicated.

In serving as a leader and in leading other leaders, I’ve learned that being engaged with clients and their employees is the best way to identify the right tools that enable them to succeed. It is this approach that differentiates UniFocus and through our commitment to building mutually beneficial relationships, our company can continue to internalize and act on what matters most to customer business needs.

How do you plan on tackling industry challenges like labor?
With frontline employees often knowing the best way to tackle an issue, whether recurring guest complaints or staffing coverage difficulties, UniFocus will continue working to provide workers with a voice to scale such ideas and ensure their implementation across a property or portfolio. Our platforms allow businesses to implement a system of gamification that rewards employees for the submission of ideas that can improve business operations and performance. This not only results in a far swifter ability to identify ways of improving productivity but also has the effect of empowering employees and making them feel valued as contributing members of an organization. In turn, this also fosters a greater sense of loyalty between managers and their employees, resulting in a more satisfied and effective workforce while simultaneously resolving the challenge of ensuring staff retention.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received? And, what advice do you have for aspiring hospitality tech professionals?
People want tomorrow to be better than today, and they want to have a say in it. I regularly ask people what “great” looks and feels like to them—and what they would do to solve a problem if they had no constraints. The best ideas are often right in front of us—the most successful leaders often don’t come up with life-changing ideas on their own, instead, their superpower is the ability to communicate a simple, shared vision and surround themselves with smart people who know how to execute—removing barriers for them along the way.

What trends are you seeing in the hospitality tech space?
The industry has found itself needing to re-think the concept of labor management. The current labor crisis has impacted many industries, especially hospitality, yet it also provides hotels with a unique opportunity to re-evaluate how they utilize and interact with their workforce. Using technology, hoteliers are now finding that they can stay on track towards achieving higher quality service and revenue while addressing the individual needs and expectations of their employees. In today’s market where employees are leaving their positions for opportunities that can better address their needs such as schedule or pay flexibility, the use of such technology has become viewed as critical to maintaining the health of a business. Notably, these solutions are enabling hoteliers to care for the well-being of their employees as much as they do for enhancing guest experiences, creating a workplace environment where each staff member feels more inclined to proactively take part in catering to every guest’s need.

Is there anything else readers should know about you?
From an early age, I have had many service jobs, from delivering newspapers, pumping gas, delivering pizza, food service to tutoring, and even working in the hospitality/nightclub industry as a professional touring DJ for over a decade. In my prime as a DJ, I was ranked in the 100 most influential DJs in North America and charted for Billboard magazine. It’s a hobby I enjoy to this day. As recently as just before the pandemic hit, I spent two weeks in Ibiza DJing and enjoying the nightlife. I receive a lot of personal satisfaction and enjoyment from creating memorable experiences for people. Now with UniFocus, I am back in the hospitality space full-time, in a “slightly” different role.