Traditionally, great hospitality has been defined by a great guest experience. This remains true today, as those hotels and hospitality brands that see the most success repeatedly go the extra mile to identify and cater to guest expectations and industry trends. Today’s hospitality leaders adopt a proactive and thoughtful balance of digital convenience and in-person service, combined with other guest-centric bells and whistles such as luxury amenities, beautiful grounds, and enhanced guest rooms. But of course, none of this would be possible without the most critical piece: hotel staff.
While there is no denying the benefit of enhanced digital automation and self-service functionality, hospitality will always come back to the people. The role of hotel staff is both simple and lofty; ensure each guest leaves the property with a wealth of memories worth talking about and, more importantly, worth returning to experience again. In our world, the guest always comes first -- that much is certain. But what about the staff? Where do they fall within the hierarchy of consideration, especially within an industry that relies almost entirely on acquiring and retaining great talent? How can hoteliers and hotel brands better advocate for their staff to ensure that their experience, safety, and satisfaction come first?
This question is, perhaps, more important today than it ever has been. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality industry faces an undeniable staffing crisis. Hospitality, which has traditionally grappled with uncharacteristically high staff turnover rates, is now struggling to bring talent back to work as the industry braces for post-pandemic travel demand. For hotels to remain competitive, they must shift their internal practices and systems to actively advocate for their current and future staff. They must consider the sum of all interactions an employee has while doing their job, from guest-facing duties to individual tasks that may put a staff member at risk of physical harm or injury. Simply put, it’s time for hoteliers to truly consider the way(s) in which hotel staff perceive the brand they work for and demonstrate that they genuinely care for the experience and wellbeing of their employees. This can be achieved in a number of ways, of course, but in the coming months, hotels are recommended to do a comprehensive audit of their internal culture. An audit of this nature can be informed by questions such as: Are staff members given an opportunity to express concern(s) and feedback relating to workplace culture and/or policies without fear of retaliation?
Are staff members offered paid sick leave or other related employee benefits that create a more secure work environment?
Are staff members equipped with easy-to-use staff safety technology to ensure they have easy access to help in the event of an accident or emergency (e.g., a panic button)? Does that technology utilize real-time location tracking?
Is your organization compliant with union requirements, city and state laws for safety buttons, and AHLA’s 5-Star Promise?
Currently, what practices and/or tools (if any) are in place that focus on employee advocacy and satisfaction?
Do employees feel as though they come first within your organization? If not, why is that? What could be changed?
Does your organization offer opportunities for advancement and career development?
Does your organization actively prioritize the quality of life of staff members?
There is simply no denying it; workplace culture mattered before the pandemic but, now, it bears new weight. Hospitality professionals have their work cut out for them when catering to ever-evolving guest expectations, but that work becomes insurmountable without the talent required to tackle it. Suppose hoteliers and hotel brands don’t go out of their way to advocate for employee safety, satisfaction, and wellbeing in the same way they advocate for guests’ experience. In that case, they will be unable to overcome the talent gap. A connected and well-supported team is the key to our recovery and, more importantly, sustainable success in the post-pandemic landscape.