Today, opening your news app means reading at least one story about the obstacles travelers face. Perhaps they’re stranded at an airport somewhere in the world, their bags nowhere to be found. Or maybe — once they do reach their destination — their hotel experience comes nowhere near meeting their expectations. The cause is simple: demand is high and there simply aren’t enough people to do the work.
A survey by the American Hotel and Lodging Association found that approximately 97% of hotels are experiencing a staffing shortage and around 50% of those hotels say the shortage is "severe." In the UK, meanwhile, some 15% of hospitality roles remain unfilled.
For hotels, the current worker shortage is making it difficult for them to return to “normal” following the COVID-19 pandemic. Hospitality industry leaders are focused on searching for ways to restore their workforce.
It’s important that they also consider solutions they can adopt and implement in the meantime to mitigate a major dip in customer satisfaction.
Why is there a hospitality labor shortage?
The simple answer is that COVID-19 massively disrupted the hospitality sector and it prompted unprecedented labor challenges. But there’s much more to it than that.
On the one hand, employees have little love for an industry that (in some cases) let workers go en masse without much security to speak of. The latest labor statistics show that this has left us in a post pandemic world (well, almost) with plenty of job openings and seemingly few available workers.
Moreover, with ongoing acquisitions in the sector, there’s seemingly less of a focus on creating great experiences for workers. Unfortunately, there appears to be more interest in the bottom line.
As a result, key individuals in hospitality are leaving in droves. Last year, half of US hospitality workers (a total of 13,000) said they wouldn’t return to their old jobs. A third of them said they weren’t even planning on returning to the sector.
What do they want instead? In many cases, the answer is simply "a new job." Like workers in other sectors who have joined the Great Resignation, they're searching for different work settings, the possibility of more money and better benefits.
A new approach to delivering services
Raising wages is one thing, but it's important to look at this problem broadly, from a systemic perspective. It seems it’s time for hotel companies to take a new approach to how they deliver their services.
This approach must prioritize investment in a new generation of hotel workers, better leverage local communities and involve adopting technologies that drive efficiency while still delivering the exceptional service that travelers demand for their hard-earned money.
Career opportunities for prospective employees
Without a significant shift in the hospitality industry, employers won't be able to attract those who have left back to their old jobs. Companies can start addressing the challenges of the labor shortage by investing in a new generation of workers.
Partnering with local tourism education programs, for example, can be a great way to create a funnel of employees who already know your business.
Investment in educational programs can create a more sustainable workforce, diminishing the potential for future shortages in the hotel industry. It can also support the development of local communities that might not otherwise have access to professional training.
Leveraging local communities
As a hotel manager, you likely already have a number of partnerships with local businesses. Did you ever think of leveraging these relationships to help manage your labor shortage?
A lot of the amenities you offer at your property can probably be delivered by a small business in your community. Take dry-cleaning and laundry services, for instance. Rather than have someone managing them in-house, you could outsource those tasks to nearby businesses.
Your local liquor store can provide recommendations for what wines to bring in. Your favorite deli, meanwhile, can provide you with all the pre-cut meats and cheeses your chef requires. An added benefit of this approach is that it keeps the money in the local community.
There are a variety of tech solutions and tools that can help hotel managers deal with labor shortages. These might include an automated chatbot that can handle simple queries from customers (like scheduling housekeeping or ordering room service), a mobile app and digital key card that helps travelers bypass the check-in desk, or partnerships with digital amenities like Netflix.
Technology can ease pressure on hotel staff
With PressReader, for instance, hotel workers don’t have to spend time selecting, ordering and distributing publications to rooms. That's because customers will have unlimited access to content from their favorite newspapers and magazines using their own devices.
By reducing the number of physical copies of publications in circulation at their hotels, managers can also control the time and money allocated to recycling and waste management while also complying with environmental best practices.
They can also use the PressReader platform to share important information (including house rules, a hotel directory and up-to-date menus) and reduce pressure on front-desk staff.
“Technology does make a difference," says Brian Evola, General Manager of Canopy by Hilton Austin Downtown. "To have an amenity like PressReader is something that entices someone who’s looking at multiple front-desk jobs; it makes their jobs a little bit easier. With this tool they can create unique experiences for our guests without the extra work.”
There’s no doubt that the hospitality industry is in need of a refresh if it wants to build and support a strong and reliable workforce.
These are the baby steps hotels can take to continue delivering exceptional guest experiences and set the stage for the change that’s coming.
Learn more about how PressReader can help you stay the course as the industry renews its workforce.