The service industry has always had high employee turnover, but the “Great Resignation” has exacerbated the trend, with employees everywhere quitting in record numbers. And as restaurants, hotels and recreation spots now contend with the uncertainty of the Delta variant, they are having an even more challenging time with employee recruitment and retention.
To discuss how the service industry can navigate the ongoing worker shortage and why workforce technology is making it easier for organizations to recruit, retain and empower workers as industries face continued shortages, HT spoke with Matt Fairhurst, co-founder and CEO of Skedulo.
Tell us about why empowering workers via technology is beneficial to companies. How does it work and why is it important?
An empowered employee is a motivated, productive employee who enjoys their job and goes the extra mile for guests. Happy employees are more loyal, provide greater service, and ultimately improve the bottom line. All too often companies and hotels focus solely on end consumers or guests but investing in technology that improves the lives and experience of workers is equally important.
How can technology tools assist with scheduling workers in the hotel industry?
Deskless productivity software was developed specifically for the 80% of workers who don’t sit behind a traditional desk. Deskless workers are everywhere in the hotel industry, from cleaning professionals and facility engineers to the front desk and concierge workers. These days the entire hotel experience ties back to some type of technology foundation, and it’s the companies that learn how to connect all these services together to optimize the customer experience and break out from the pack.
How is the ongoing worker shortage affecting hotels and other businesses? What can they do to navigate the shortage? How can technology tools help in this endeavor?
There have been more jobs available than people looking for work for some time now, and the effect is being felt globally. Supply chains are strained, delivery ships remain at sea outside ports in major cities because there aren’t enough truck drivers and dock workers to unload, and many restaurants are operating at limited capacity because they simply don’t have enough staff. To navigate in the short term, businesses are already paying more while adapting to employing fewer workers. In the long term, technology can and should be used as a differentiator, particularly with younger professionals raised in the internet era.
What are the challenges to scheduling workers in the hotel industry? How do they differ industry by industry?
The biggest challenge scheduling workers in hotels, like many industries that employ a lot of workers who don’t sit in a traditional office environment, isn’t so much getting an initial schedule published, it’s handling all the changes and modifications in real-time. Many people don’t realize how complex scheduling hundreds of resources is, especially when those resources or workers are dynamically changing all the time. The complexity grows exponentially and becomes unwieldy once you get beyond just a handful of employees. From a computer science perspective, it’s a fascinatingly complex problem to try to solve.
How can technology help recruit and retain workers?
Recruiting has improved dramatically in recent years, especially with workers having the ability to apply for hundreds of jobs a day if they choose. AI also helps businesses automatically sift through resumes and recommend a shortlist in seconds based on criteria that businesses set ahead of time. From a retention standpoint, technology helps employees feel empowered, informed, and heard. When these three factors exist, businesses thrive as motivated employees not only want to stay but also want to excel.
How do the needs of workers in the hospitality/hotel industry differ from other industries? What unique challenges do they face?
One of the unique challenges of hospitality work is the work environment itself, where employees often have to “always be on.” This working in the eye of the public can be particularly tiresome, whereas office workers are generally removed from end customers, and more able to be themselves or voice frustrations without fear of ruining a customer experience. This is why employee breaks and keeping service professionals fresh are so important in hospitality; unfortunately, too many hotels push employees to the point where it hurts business.
Based on industry trends and your predictions from a tech perspective, what do you think the hospitality industry and its technology will look like in 1 year, 2 years, 5 years?
One thing is for sure, there will be A LOT more automation in the future, particularly with check-in and check-out experiences. Many millennials say they prefer not to have to interact with humans if given the choice. Another key trend where technology will play a key role: delivering wholly tailored experiences, from the color of sheets and preferred room temperature to automatic dinner and spa reservations that fit the exact wants of the client. With the growing number of preferences captured through loyalty programs supplemented by real-time insights captured on-site, a stay of the future promises to be a truly individualized experience.
Is there anything else our readers should know about hospitality industry talent retention or technology trends?
Don’t underestimate how massive and dynamic scheduling resources in a modern hospitality business can be. Choose a technology solution that can grow with you, but most importantly, can adapt and be tailored to the way your employees and end customers prefer.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Matt Fairhurst is the co-founder and CEO of Skedulo, a mobile workforce management platform. Matt’s background is in user experience and user interface design, and, from this, he has a passion for building great product. He spends his time working between the global headquarters in San Francisco and the engineering/product development headquarters in Brisbane, Australia.