The Great Resignation. The Big Quit.

Whatever you want to call it, it’s here, it’s real, and the hospitality industry has been hit harder than just about any other industry.

I’m going to share 6 Strategies for Dealing with Staff Shortages in Hotels.

Welcome to another edition of Hospitality Property School.

I am your instructor, Gerry MacPherson.

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When it comes to a turnover crisis, one would be hard-pressed to find a sector in more trouble than the hospitality industry, so finding strategies for dealing with staff shortages in hotels is imperative.

 

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With COVID-19 as the spur, and other factors adding energy — like relief funding, additional virtual training opportunities, and uncertainty for employees, the hospitality industry is facing extraordinary labour shortages.

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In the early days of the pandemic, lay-offs and furloughs became commonplace as stay-at-home orders were in effect and government-restricted travel. However, as the world begins to reopen and travel is top-of-mind, the industry is struggling to re-hire or even retain the employees they have. 

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In May 2022, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) surveyed over 500 hoteliers and found that nearly all the survey respondents (97%) experienced staffing shortages, while almost half (49%) experienced severe staffing shortages.

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These shortages were most pronounced in housekeeping, where 58% of respondents listed it as their greatest challenge. Across the USA, there remain over 130,000 unfilled hospitality positions.

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Properties are grappling to hire as years of low pay, long hours, and poor benefits catch up with them, leaving a good deal of hospitality properties short of staff. 

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Even before the pandemic, the hospitality industry had a reputation problem.

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According to a 2018 UK YouGov study, the number one reason people choose to work in hospitality is that it’s the last option.   

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That says a lot, don’t you think?  Envision hiring someone who really doesn’t want to work for you, but you’re the only option in town. 

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So, what can you do to hire and retain great employees? Given the cost of losing an employee can be between 0.5 X and 1.5 X their salary, it’s pretty clear that hospitality properties need to make employee retention a priority and develop strategies for dealing with staff shortages in hotels. 

6 Strategies for Dealing with Staff Shortages in Hotels | Ep. #318

1. Be a property worth working for 

You are going to need to stand out from your competition.

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Your property has to have a brand, a mission statement and a set of company values. Now you have to step back and consider how these values are actually showing up in what you do every day.

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By creating a values-based work environment, you’ll not only attract the next generation of employees, but you’ll also have a positive impact on your guest’s experience.  

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A wonderful chance to show your values is in your business culture. Following the pandemic, employees are being very selective about where they spend their working hours. Some might be missing the social and community aspects of the pre-COVID world. You can nurture a sense of community among your employees by creating a space for it.

  • Plan safe social events to bring your team back together

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  • Make team meals a tradition

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  • Celebrate employee milestones as a group

A major factor in hiring and retaining great team members is wages. As the labour shortage places the power back with employees, it’s time for hospitality properties to increase wages.

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But it doesn’t end there

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Coming out of the pandemic, most workers want to set themselves up for financial security. Offering retirement savings support and financial counselling can go just as far as money itself and show your employees that you care about their long-term happiness. 

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2. Make every employee your properties ambassador

Almost every person who works in the hospitality industry is at the front of guest service and experience, but very few receive the level of training and support needed to excel in delivering superior customer experience. 

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As we slowly come out of the pandemic, hospitality properties will only be able to grow by using innovation and not replication.

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Except for perhaps the front desk staff and concierge (if your property has one), few if any employees know what’s available to guests in and around a property, let alone help them use them.  The lack of awareness among hospitality property staff in terms of offered amenities and services can boggle the mind. 

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It wouldn’t take much for properties to provide easy access to support materials for the amenities for employees to share when guests ask.

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It’s time for all hospitality properties to put their employees first and give them the tools and training to ensure that they’re ready, willing, and able to deliver superior customer service to every person who connects with the brand. 

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3. Invest in your employees

Employees can be the best ambassadors for your property, but only if they have the tools and training to showcase your brand in every interaction with a visitor or customer. A beautiful lobby may impress a guest for a moment, but a memorable “surprise and delight” experience with an employee will last long after they leave. 

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A great way to attract people who are more likely to stick around long-term is with professional development opportunities and training. Your best bet at making your employees feel invested in your company is to invest in them first.  

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This could be through a buddy program, where new staff is paired with more experienced team members. Not only is it a great training opportunity, but it also creates camaraderie and gives employees someone they can share victories with.  

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It could also look like a more structured training program, based on skills and areas they’ve already identified they’re interested in.

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There are a ton of online courses you can offer to your staff as well if you don’t have the budget for formal training.

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As hospitality brands see virtual learning pull talent away from their industry, they can get ahead of the trend and use these same platforms and tools to further their team’s careers. 

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4. Give great perks and benefits 

A lack of benefits was one of the biggest reasons listed by employees who won’t be returning to their jobs. It may be time to reassess and revisit your benefits package to include traditional benefits like health and dental coverage for part-time and hourly staff as well. As other industries rewrite the standards for paid sick days, personal days and vacation days, consider what you can offer your entire staff.

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Offering greater stability to your entire team can make the industry feel far more supportive and realistic as a lifelong career option.  

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Outside the typical benefits, there are some creative perks you can include, like:

  • access to your amenities on their day off

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  • a day at the on-site spa

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  • friends and family rate at your property

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  • gym access

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  • special VIP menu preview tastings

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  • access to tech platforms

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Many of these strategies for dealing with staff shortages in hotels come at virtually no cost to your property — and the opportunity cost of keeping great people is huge.  

6 Strategies for Dealing with Staff Shortages in Hotels | Ep. #318

5. Establish (online) connection

This is a perfect time to upgrade your technology to meet the expected speed and connectivity of today’s younger workforce.

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Tools like Slack, Zoom, and Google Drive not only allow for better efficiency with internal communication but also make it easier to meet your employees where they already are –online.  

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Identify any tech advances you make in your property that will also benefit your guests, such as:

  • chatbots that alleviate your staff of mundane and repetitive work, also give guests faster responses

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  • mobile check-in apps free up your team to focus on higher-impact work while removing friction for your visitors.

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COVID-19 drove every interaction online, and your guests have new expectations when it comes to a seamless (and safe) hospitality property experience. 

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Some technology to consider including in your tech stack: 

  • A mobile-first website with automated messages and personalized offers 

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  • A mobile check-in app or a kiosk for self-check-in to streamline operations and reduce physical touchpoints

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  • A mobile app and functionalities for in-room requests such as housekeeping or room service

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  • Smart room technology, with features on a tablet or mobile devices that allow guests to access subscriptions like PressReader or Netflix, and even control the heat in their room.

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6. Improve work/life balance 

We’ve heard about this one for years, but the way this pandemic changed the way we work and live gives it an even greater meaning.  

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With so many companies and industries going fully remote and thriving in a more flexible format, many hospitality property employees are questioning their options post-pandemic.

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To keep them involved in the industry, it’s important to provide greater flexibility. If not, many will not hesitate to change their career path with the promise of a work-from-anywhere lifestyle. 

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Hospitality property owners and managers will need to get creative in how they can replicate these perks in a business that requires a physical presence.

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Think about ways you can offer your staff more options when it comes to location, hours, and communication methods to satisfy some of these needs.  

 

6 Strategies for Dealing with Staff Shortages in Hotels | Ep. #318

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If you are a member of the Hospitality Property School Group, as a bonus, I’m going to talk about 12 things you can do to stop the draining of labour.

 

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Members Material

When filling a position -hire the person, not the skills. 

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Look for someone who truly “gets it” when it comes to delivering a superior guest experience.  If that attitude isn’t there—even with employees who rarely have the opportunity to interact directly with guests—their skills won’t matter.  Your entire company should be filled with people who embrace your culture of service excellence.

  • Once you hire the right person, invest in them, so they never have a reason to leave.

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  • Treat team members of every position as well as the guests who stay at 5-star properties.

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  • Employees are an investment, not an expense, and they deserve more than just a pay cheque. 

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  • Along with a competitive salary, offer a benefits package (e.g., health, dental, vacation, and retirement savings matching).

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  • Communicate with your ears – listen

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  • Give constructive feedback on an ongoing basis to improve performance. But make sure that every supervisor is trained in the art of constructive criticism before letting them critique subordinates’ work.

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  • Foster employee development by giving them the training they’ll need to grow within your business; this could be a new skill, tuition, or language training, etc.

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  • Promote from within whenever possible.

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  • Embrace individuality and inclusivity

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  • Celebrate successes, even the small ones.

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  • Walk the talk.

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  • Say, “Thank you.” Often.

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Your goal should be to improve your employee experience, reduce turnover, improve customer service, and drive profitability.

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 In conclusion

Even as travel and tourism come back online, it remains a uniquely challenging time for anyone in the industry. But, if COVID-19 has shown us anything, it’s that we can adapt and find strategies for dealing with staff shortages in hotels. This is a great opportunity for hospitality properties of all sizes, anywhere in the world, to make changes that will allow them to retain and attract great people. In fact, with so many people thinking more intentionally about their workplace, it may be the best time to find the right people.  

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It’s simple.  If you want to take better care of your guests, so they keep coming back, start by taking better care of your people.

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What are you doing to retain great employees?

Let me know in the comments.

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6 Strategies for Dealing with Staff Shortages in Hotels | Ep. #318

 

We cover more on organizational structure in “The Guide to Owning & Operating a Hospitality Property – Successfully” book & course. You find more information at KeystoneHPD.com

 

 

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You will have access to this episode for as long as you would like but if you would like to see all the bonuses you would have access to as a member of the Hospitality Property School Group, check out the short video in this episode post-show notes.

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6 Strategies for Dealing with Staff Shortages in Hotels | Ep. #318

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In our next episode, I will be talking about how to Improve Your Employee Experience.

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TO READ OR LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE ON KEYSTONE HOSPITALITY PROPERTY DEVELOPMENT:

https://keystonehpd.com/6-strategies-for-dealing-with-staff-shortages-in-hotels-318

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“The Guide to Owning & Operating a Hospitality Property – Successfully” course.

https://KeystoneHPD.com/Course

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.6 Strategies for Dealing with Staff Shortages in Hotels | Ep. #318

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Did you get your copy of the “How to Improve Your Hospitality Properties Success” ebook?

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