The labor market disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic have been consistently more severe for the hospitality industry. Over the last 18 months, leaders across the hotel industry have had their gaze fixed on a singular destination: the post-pandemic future. After all, hotel and travel brands rely on the unrestricted movement of eager travelers across domestic and international borders.
As stay-at-home orders were issued and airplane terminals fell quiet, our industry was forced to hold its breath -- would we make it to the other side? How long would it be? What would the travel and hospitality landscape look like as the dust settled and the world reopened? Finally, the post-pandemic future appears within reach. With vaccination programs rolling out and gaining momentum worldwide, travelers once again find themselves in a position to click ‘book now.’ But as hospitality licks those fiscal wounds inflicted by the pandemic while bracing for a long-awaited recovery, industry leaders are calling attention to another, perhaps unexpected challenge: staffing shortages. A Changed Labor Market
Hospitality is, of course, no stranger to the trials and tribulations associated with finding (and holding on to) great talent. In fact, our industry is rather notorious for boasting a staff turnover rate of almost 74%. This number appears especially staggering when we consider that the national average across other industries is 10-15%, comparatively. When the pandemic struck, hotels around the world were forced to furlough much of their staff, unable to provide reliable work within a climate that made travel nearly impossible. During that time, many former hospitality professionals began to consider other sectors that offered more consistent work or promised a more accelerated post-pandemic recovery. And if we’ve learned anything over the last few months, it’s this -- not all of them came back. Many of them didn’t. The result? An industry-wide labor shortage that leaves hotels increasingly vulnerable to the heightened demands of guests without adequate staff support. In a recent article, Karen Fichuk, CEO of Randstad North America, revealed that the COVID-19 pandemic had had the most significant impact on the labor market since the Great Depression. As of January, we still had more than 10 million jobs to be recovered. The Washington Examiner revealed that U.S. hospitality workers dropped from a pre-pandemic high of nearly 17 million in February 2020 to just 8.7 million two months later. Leveraging Technology to Maximize the Employee Experience When we consider these trends, the writing is on the wall: not only is it time to reexamine workplace policy and infrastructure to attract and maintain talent, but hospitality brands must learn to do more with less. Without a reliable influx of on-property support, hoteliers are encouraged to build out their digital infrastructure to utilize platforms that allow them to effectively minimize and eliminate tedious, legacy tasks. Hoteliers should also seek out platforms, such as new-age CRM and PMS applications, which empower a more streamlined and convenient user experience for both staff and guests alike. With an emphasis on self-service and high-touch digital support, hotels can create an automated and intuitive digital ecosystem that addresses key aspects of the hospitality experience, which, in turn, allows staff to focus their attention where it matters most: the guest experience. More importantly, as we consider the heightened demands placed on current hospitality staff as they strive to maintain brand standards with less staffing, hotels must take employee safety into account. While the size of the workforce has dwindled, the size of hotel properties and their associated workloads remains unchanged, and hotel staff have more ground to cover than ever before. With many daily tasks being performed in an isolated manner throughout the hotel, providing staff with digital staff safety technology in the form of employee safety devices helps ensure that support is always within reach via real-time location data. Ensuring hotel staff feel safe, comfortable, and well supported even as they take on greater responsibility, which will be crucial in hospitality’s recovery as industry leaders look to rebuild and incentivize the workforce. Simply stated, the hospitality labor market has changed, and hotels cannot expect to overcome this challenge without changing how they consider and prioritize the employee experience. Leveraging digital technology, hotels can tap into the power of self-service and enhanced convenience to do more with less while maximizing staff productivity and reinforcing their safety with employee safety technology. One thing to note however, technology can assist our industry as we regain our footing, but people and building long lasting relationships are the bedrock of what we do.