Despite being hit hard by the pandemic, the hospitality sector is seeing solid demand now from event planners as travel has returned globally. But an old problem is becoming a trend. Today, the hotel staffing shortage is a major issue for many hotels, causing them to turn away business or reduce their service offering.
We take a look at the reasons behind it and how you can address this challenge at your hotel.
Reasons behind the hotel staffing shortage
Staffing shortages in hotels are an old problem. It was already cited as a major challenge in 2019, well before COVID-19. But the pandemic took it to a new level.
At the beginning of 2020, hotels everywhere began furloughing or laying off employees. According to Statista, roughly 62 million jobs were lost in the hospitality and travel industry worldwide.
With bills to pay and no job, former hotel staff looked to other industries and were snapped up quickly. That's hardly a surprise given hospitality workers have many transferable skills, are good at working in diverse teams, and are very customer-focused.
Apart from furloughs, there were many other reasons people left the industry behind for good. Globally, Medallia Zingle found that the top three reasons for leaving the industry include health and safety concerns, a high perceived lack of job security, and people having found new jobs during the shutdown. Hospitality workers worldwide say their roles are harder and less rewarding since the pandemic’s onset and claim their employee experience has worsened. They feel less engaged and feel the customer service they can provide has also deteriorated.
This left many hotels struggling once demand returned. The skilled workforce they had before the pandemic was decimated. And the remaining team is having a hard time coping with returning demand.
6 ways to address the hotel staff shortage at your property
Let the following six points give you ideas for how to provide great service, unburden your team and attract new talent at a time when your competitors scramble for staff.
1. Set priorities
First, examine where your guest experience is suffering due to a staffing shortage. This could be in housekeeping, at the front desk, or in your F&B department. Pick the most important areas i.e. those with the biggest impact on guest satisfaction and look for ways to solve the issue here first. Then work your way down the list.
2. Manage expectations
Recent consumer surveys show that guest expectations have increased during the pandemic. Many travellers are more demanding now and low staffing levels make it even harder to keep up.
Address this by managing expectations and informing guests of the situation during the booking process and pre-arrival. Do this via your hotel website, direct messages or when they check in.
Highlight which services may be limited or unavailable and encourage advance bookings of restaurant tables, or spa treatments to avoid disappointment. This ensures guests know what to expect, get everything they hoped for, and leave satisfied.
3. Unbundle services
Certain services like daily housekeeping were a given in the past. Now, many large brands have started changing this. For example, Hilton announced an opt-in model for daily housekeeping at its non-luxury U.S. properties. Consider doing something similar at your hotel.
Given the choice, many guests will not request daily housekeeping. This will unburden your housekeeping team and cut costs for equipment and cleaning products. Attach an extra fee to this opt-in to cover your costs and drive extra revenue from housekeeping services.
Don’t forget to communicate clearly that you’re using this approach. That will avoid unpleasant surprises for guests and subsequent negative feedback.
4. Support your team with technology
Today, technology helps streamline and automate countless processes in hospitality. And, throughout the pandemic, it has been used to offset hotel staffing shortages. Keep in mind that the goal here shouldn’t be to replace humans with machines though. Instead, new tech solutions should support your team by lightening their load. Let tech take over repetitive, boring tasks, so your staff has more time for the important work, i.e. providing an amazing guest experience.
Here are some options for several departments:
- A chatbot on your website can answer FAQs. This gives your reservations team extra time to respond to more complex guest inquiries.
- Modern PMSs support online check-in and check-out. This allows you to create a fully digitalised guest journey where guests don't have to rely on staff for every action.
- Hotel operations platforms streamline internal communication. They let you keep track of all hotel operations in one place and help smaller teams manage their tasks more efficiently.
- Self-service kiosks in the lobby can handle simple tasks. Here, guests can book a spa treatment, print boarding passes, or reserve a table, among other things. This frees up your front desk team to attend to other guest needs.
- Automated upselling tools help you drive ancillary revenue. Send automated messages pre-arrival to allow your guests to customise their stay with add-on services or paid upgrades. This saves your front desk team time and generates extra income.
- Event planning and management solutions increase efficiency: Event management is one of the most time-intensive activities at many hotels. But innovative tools can help you work more efficiently. For example, Cvent Event Diagramming lets you work collaboratively with event planners to design seating arrangements. Passkey helps you manage room blocks. And the Cvent Supplier Network lets you get your property in front of the right potential guests to generate more MICE business at your property.
5. Invest in existing employees
Long-term, well-trained team members are invaluable, especially today. They know your standards, your guests, and your property's ins and outs. Do everything you can to keep them around. This can include offering additional training and development opportunities, financial incentives, flexible scheduling, or more vacation days for long-serving staff.
Not sure which benefits your employees crave? Ask them directly what could make them happier at work and act on their feedback where possible.
6. Make yourself attractive to new talent
Working conditions such as low pay, long hours, and a lacking work-life balance made many people decide against taking up their hospitality jobs again.
Show that you’ve learned the lesson and find ways to do things differently at your property. Yes, that’s easier said than done, but it’s crucial.
Apart from benefits and pay, offer a supportive work environment, internal training, and career development programmes. Show that you’re invested in your staff’s growth and wellbeing.
Finally, if you can't find the right candidates to fit your job descriptions, hire for soft skills rather than experience. Someone with the right attitude and the willingness to learn will quickly pick up the new skills needed on the job.
Set your hotel up for a better future today
A hotel staffing shortage can have many consequences for your property, including negative guest reviews, and overworked teams. However, there are ways to address the problem. Of course, there’s a lot to consider and clearly, the challenge won't be solved tomorrow. But it’s important to start leveraging new tech solutions and investing in both new and existing staff now.