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  • Writer's pictureMark Heymann

Are Hoteliers Adapting From Past Operational Approaches With Today’s Workforce Management?

Updated: Aug 2, 2023


Hotel workers greeting guest

Throughout hospitality’s long history, one thing that has remained constant has been the need to replace staff who it seems, left as quickly as they joined. Far from representing a new challenge for the industry, what the ongoing labor shortage has done is simply further expose a recurring issue where unsatisfied employees are leaving for either better opportunities or better work environments.

According to a recent HAMA survey, 90% of managers view labor availability as a top concern. To correct course and resume efficient and high-service-quality business operations, hoteliers need to eliminate the various factors that are negatively impacting employees. They need to rethink their current HR and labor management strategies to see what changes will attract new workers while retaining the staff they have. Understand What Today’s Employees Want Many business operators believe that wage hikes are the answer to gaining and retaining additional employees. HAMA’s survey, for example, further shows that 70% are worried about the impact of wage increases on the ability to attract new staff. Yet hospitality professionals need to ask themselves, is this the only strategy that will impact the labor environment? If recurring industry news detailing hospitality’s ongoing labor struggles is anything to go by, the answer more likely than not is a resounding no. There is no single fix. More in line with modern worker expectations is the demand for work/life balance flexibility. With 36% of the workforce now freelancing, the desirability for jobs that can accommodate personal needs, from childcare to pursuing study, has left virtually no industry untouched. As Mary Jo Dolasinski, an assistant professor at DePaul University's School of Hospitality Leadership reflects, “This generation’s employees don’t live to work; they want mutually beneficial partnerships with their employers that allow them to live the life they want. Employers need to rethink the workplace and managers need to revamp how they staff according to both business and worker needs if they wish to be a competitive employer in today’s workforce climate.” Hospitality professionals need to address this now widespread demand with the seriousness it deserves. Sticking to rigid schedules will only drive more staff away who now have almost limitless options in finding an employer who is more in tune with their shift flexibility needs. Beyond addressing modern scheduling expectations, employees, in addition to seeking out adjustments in market pay rates, are also looking for enhanced flexibility over when they can access their wages. For low-salaried employees, wage adjustments do little good if rent is due before they are paid. Employers need to adopt a more modern operational infrastructure capable of accommodating staff requests to access pay at any point in time—whether traditional wages or hard-earned tips. One consequence of being unable to attract new workers is that those employees who do remain are frequently left with the nearly impossible task of making up for the shortfall in available labor. Businesses need to look for ways they can help lighten the load. Equipment advances can measurably help in completing required tasks. Take housekeeping carts, for example: They are overloaded, hard to push and a clear negative for the staff when new electrified equipment exists. With employees seeking out greater fulfillment from their roles, managers can kill two birds with one stone by adopting cross-utilization. Willing staff can be trained to perform multiple functions, such as a front desk staff assisting with restaurant operations—providing employees with room to grow professionally and improving their earning capabilities while offering a vital lifeline to departments at times when they are busiest Overcoming Resistance To Change Implementing each of these recommendations may appear to be a complicated task for managers who often are stretched for time when it comes to even designing a basic schedule. Businesses instead need to look to newer technologies that measurably assist their managers in affecting these changes. Crucially, however, businesses must overcome traditional resistance to new methods of managing operations. Advanced solutions themselves can do much of the heavy lifting by using AI and automation to make daily labor management tasks easier and faster. Such technology can provide employees with the ability to select their own shifts based on business needs, with little to no input required from managers. When a specific service area runs into higher demand volumes, the same system can instantly list available employees with the right skill set to help out—no more guesswork and no more overwhelmed employees. Even when it comes to providing workers with flexible access to tips and wages, an advanced labor management system takes care of all the hard work. In what would take managers hours to perform, an automated platform can instantly calculate wages and tips and provide immediate employee access without costing a business any additional expense. Further assisting in breaking down resistance to change, organizations can provide managers and employees with incentives to learn, use technology and come to work. Team members can notably receive points that can go toward earning a range of benefits, from a free night’s stay to extra vacation time. This not only encourages managers and staff to make operational improvements, but with such enhancements ultimately positively impacting the guest experience, it all translates into a more positive workplace environment that breeds enhanced productivity and, critically, employee loyalty. Andrea Grigg, senior managing director of global asset management at JLL's Hotels & Hospitality Group, emphasizes the importance of successfully adopting more robust technologies: “Investing in the right technology is essential to having a stable management team that is able to deliver on both business and employee expectations. It is what allows them to look at the entire picture, with the ability to have conversations on how daily tasks should be structured to ensure not only engaged employees, but also the building of business reputations that do more to attract talent.” Originally Published in Forbes

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