The pandemic came and they left. No, we’re not talking about guests. They returned as soon as travel restrictions were lifted.
This is about the staff. Dealing with understaffing in hotels might be the new big challenge emerging as a consequence of the pandemic.
Today, there are countless unfilled positions in the hospitality industry worldwide. For example, there are nearly 1.6 million openings in the United States alone, but barely any applicants to fill them. Things are similar in the UK and other markets.
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This creates new challenges for an industry still reeling from months of lockdown, restrictions and uncertainty.
Unfortunately, there’s no single solution to the problem. But on the bright side, there’s one approach that can address several aspects of this issue.
An old challenge takes on a new dimension
Finding and retaining skilled staff wasn’t easy for hoteliers before the pandemic either. The hospitality industry has always had a comparatively high turnover, reaching nearly 74% in the US in 2016. The pandemic only made things worse.
During lockdown companies furloughed good employees or let go of entire seasoned teams to avoid going under. However, once hotels reopened and wanted to rehire, many former staff didn’t come back. Many of them have found jobs in other industries that demand fewer hours, offer more stability and better pay. As a result, 94.5% of hotels claim to be understaffed to some degree.
Impacts of staff shortages on hotels
Staff shortages negatively affect hotels in many ways. First, existing teams carry a heavier burden. They work longer hours, have too many tasks and may suffer from anxiety or burnout as a result. This leads to deteriorating service and a reduced offering (e.g. limited opening hours of dining venues). Once the guest experience suffers, a hotel’s reputation will begin to decline as well.
Even hotel staff training falls short due to the lack of time which results in lower productivity, especially among inexperienced team members. Having to close venues or stop selling rooms is the worst-case scenario because you’re losing revenue despite demand.
Many hotels have recognized these challenges and attempt to win new staff through higher pay and better benefits. It’s a good idea to make your workplace more attractive this way. Be ready for your profitability to take a hit initially though, at least until productivity is back up and you can boost RevPAR.
Source: Hotel Effectiveness historical wage data, >5,000 hotels in the U.S.
It’s important to note that not all hotels are equally impacted by this problem. Around 5.3% of properties say they have no staffing issues. This begs the question: What do these less affected hotels have in common?
The answer is simple: these properties leverage the power of automation much more than their suffering counterparts.
Let’s see how that could look at your hotel.
Automation as the lifesaver for understaffed operations
The goal of automation is simply to save time on repetitive, manual, time-consuming tasks. In front office, this includes check-in/-out, sending confirmation emails, upselling and repeatedly answering the same questions.
Take online check-in as an example where automation can free up your team’s time and create a smoother guest experience. The system prompts travelers to supply their ID and credit card prior to arrival. Once they arrive, they only need to pick up their key from the reception. If you send guests a mobile key, you eliminate this waiting time, and they can access their room directly. This streamlines your guests’ arrival process and frees up your team for other tasks and more meaningful interactions.