The solution to staff shortages in hospitality

By Katherine Grass

Staffing is an issue in some form for nearly every industry across the world at the moment. However, the hospitality sector has no doubt been hit the hardest. The hospitality industry has always faced the challenges of high staff turnover, it reached new highs after the pandemic and according to the latest US jobs report, the sector is still down by 1.5 million, or 9%, from February 2020. As such, these difficult times have called for a fresh approach.

From changing work hours to offering visas and accommodation to overseas workers, our hotel customers have been forced to think out of the box and deploy a range of interesting strategies to attract, train and retain the best workforce possible.

Improving the employee offering
Addressing the workforce crisis in hospitality is no easy feat and in the current conditions, it truly is an employee’s market, so hoteliers have had to reflect on and improve their offering to compete for staff. Although wage increases have been inevitable across the board, many of our customers have gone above and beyond this to tackle the issue.

One solution to this problem is looking to fill the gap in the workforce by incentivizing workers to relocate from overseas. Candace Hassinger, director of continuous improvement at Nemacolin resort, a luxury retreat in Pennsylvania that features five properties, said, “We have developed a visa and housing program that enables us to bring in and accommodate workers from overseas. As a result, many international staff now work for the company.”

By expanding the labor pool on offer, hoteliers can successfully overcome labor shortages while providing employment to those who need it.

Meanwhile, Lloyd Green, head of operational effectiveness at Staycity, a hotel group of 2,000 centrally located serviced apartments in Europe, is looking to attract working mothers, who occupy a large proportion of the housekeeping workforce, but are often excluded due to difficult, inflexible hours. He comments, “We have introduced initiatives to make us more attractive as a place to work, which include offering school-friendly work hours and greater flexibility.”

Other hoteliers are turning to creativity with financial offerings, such as Austin Segal, VP of Curator Hotel & Resort Collection who said, “Like many other hotel groups, we have found it difficult to attract and retain staff, particularly in certain areas such as food and beverage. As such, we are being creative with how we attract staff and implementing benefits, such as upfront signing bonuses. One staff-retention scheme that we are looking to introduce is virtual tipping options. We noticed that over the course of the pandemic, the majority of hotel guests ceased to carry cash. To combat this and the resultant reduction in tips, we are in the process of adopting technology that will allow guests to tip our staff digitally.”

It is initiatives like this that will help hoteliers to retain staff by showing them that their needs matter and are being invested in.

Investing in technology
With hoteliers offering flexible contracts and staff working different hours, it is now more important than ever for hoteliers to have full visibility of their daily operations. We are seeing an uptick in investment into technology across the board and a recent survey by travel technology firm Duetto found that 78% of hoteliers plan to increase the investment in hotel tech in the next three years. For our customers, hotel management technology has been a lifesaver and has helped them to tackle the staffing crisis without seeing drops in revenue.

Green explained why technology is important for his team. “Housekeeping constitutes our biggest team, and it uses very manual processes compared to other departments. I recognized that this had to change, and we had to get more efficient and create the best working environment possible for the team. With the flexible policies we have adopted, our teams are larger, with each individual working fewer hours, which has big organizational implications. We have had to turn to technology to make sure that we manage this process properly and all-important efficiencies are maximized.”

Technology is an effective way to help empower your teams to do their job better and to help them do more with less is through investment in technology. Tools such as hotel operations software not only help with efficiency, but will also help to encourage proactive teamwork and engagement. Implementing the right tools that are easy to digest and make your team’s day-to-day jobs easier is essential for employee satisfaction and retention.

For example, if a family of four has not had a stayover clean, the room is likely to be messier upon departure and take much longer for the housekeeping team to clean. Technology can play a vital role here in helping the housekeeper to communicate with the supervisor if they need more time on rooms and adjust their schedule for the day.

Ultimately, in a labor market characterized by high turnover and staff shortages, hoteliers need to go above and beyond and ensure that their offering is differentiated from competitors. Incentives such as benefits packages, flexible schedules and the adoption of technology are just a few of the ways that hoteliers can successfully attract and retain talent and we encourage hotels to review their current strategies and act now.

Katherine Grass is CEO of Optii Solutions.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.