By Ed Sanders
The hospitality industry in the United States is facing one of the most challenging times in its history when it comes to hiring and retaining team members. Before Covid-19 struck a massive blow to the industry, the turnover rate was already alarmingly high. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the turnover rate has been hovering between 70 and 80 percent for the last few years. Those numbers are enough to make most industry professionals cringe, and with the cost of turnover, they also reveal how expensive hiring and training really can be.
Why is there a labor shortage in the hospitality industry?
It would seem that in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic where an estimated 114 million jobs were lost that there would be an abundance of job applicants, but that is not the case. What should be a very exciting recovery for the industry has turned into another challenge as it has been reported that there are more job openings than there are people to fill them. Couple the labor shortage with the already high turnover rate and it is a tough situation for property owners. Some turnover is to be expected because of seasonal jobs, but here are some of the other reasons that turnover may be so high:
- Low wages/low benefits – The industry has never been known for paying the best wages, even from before the pandemic hit. Now, as labor economist Sylvia Allegro puts it, we’re witnessing a “wage and benefits shortage” as workers in the U.S. are looking for more than just a paycheck—they want paid time off and health insurance too. And with many open positions, people have more choices than before. While unemployment benefits may have initially played a role, experts point at increased competition from other industries such as retail, which pays their frontline workers an average of 17.5% more.
- Unpredictable schedules – Not knowing from week to week when you’re going to be working makes it hard to plan your personal schedule. The pandemic has made scheduling conflicts even more difficult for parents as many childcare facilities and schools shut down or limited their capacity, causing a disproportionate number of women to leave the workforce. The industry’s often unpredictable work schedules and shifts may discourage a large portion of the potential workforce from applying for a position.
- Working with the public – Not every reason that turnover is high falls on the property. As you can imagine, most everyone who’s spent time working in hospitality has dealt with some conflict, but not everyone wants—or is equipped—to deal with it. Add on top of that the fact that you have to come in contact with several people who’ve been traveling from all around the world, increasing your potential to catch the Covid-19 virus. Many people are not willing to take that risk.
How technology is helping hoteliers and hosts overcome the labor shortage
While the pandemic continues on and travel demand unpredictably ebbs and flows, properties may have to deal with labor shortages for some indefinite period of time. Property owners and operators will have to compete to hire a limited pool of employees and get used to getting more done with fewer resources for the foreseeable future, but how?
The good news is: technology can help. Here’s how:
Get easy-to-use, easy-to-train hospitality management software
Cloud-based hospitality management software is revolutionizing the way independent hoteliers and hosts run their business. With cloud technology, you can access your operations from anywhere in the world with an internet connection, so you don’t have to be physically at your property to be able to check in on your operations.
Plus, these new systems have an intuitive, user-friendly design with drag-and-drop calendars and one-click operations that make training new employees easy and quick. Some providers may even have a robust learning library to help with training. Cloudbeds in particular includes Cloudbeds University to help train new hires with on-demand courses, including thousands of self-service help information in the Knowledge Base.
These modern technology features and support provide more efficient training tools than operations still working off of pen and paper or old-fashioned legacy software that’s hard to learn—saving weeks’ worth of time and money spent training new employees.
Save time with automation and integration
Tech systems that are poorly integrated often result in many hours of manual or administrative work. If your property sells rooms on both Expedia and Booking.com, for example, not having an integrated channel manager means that you’re often working on separate extranets and across multiple spreadsheets to keep your inventory and reservations up to date.
Using a fully integrated technology solution can help save hours of work per week. For example, having a PMS that’s seamlessly integrated with your channel manager and booking engine means that you can manage and update your rates in the PMS, and they are then instantly updated across all your channels and your booking engine. Conversely, when a reservation is made through one of your OTA channels or on your website’s booking engine, the guest’s information is automatically added to your PMS and your room inventory is instantly updated across all your channels—saving you time and preventing overbookings.
You can save even more time when your PMS is integrated with your payments system, so you don’t have to manually input credit card information. This helps to reduce manual errors and reconciliation times, in addition to lowering merchant processing fees.
A system like Cloudbeds combines all the tools you need to run your business under one platform: PMS, channel manager, booking engine, payments, revenue management, and even website building and hosting. In fact, Cloudbeds’ suite of tools automates enough daily tasks to cover one or more full-time employees, giving you an extra hand while saving you money.
Build a contactless experience from check in to check out
Creating a contactless experience is easier than ever before, and today’s guests have come to expect it in many cases. Taking into account the labor shortage and the responsibility owners and operators now have to create a safe and trusted experience for guests and staff alike, now is a good time to invest in touchless technology.
Many contactless options can be implemented from mobile devices. For example, a service like Chekin enables self-service check in via a mobile app that integrates with your PMS so you can automate guest registration and securely capture and verify their identification. Other services like FLEXIPASS enable guests’ smartphones to be used as the room key, allowing for keyless entry. Some services like Operto and Lynx take contactless a step further and allow hoteliers and hosts to monitor noise and manage energy use from a distance.
To lighten the load for your current staff, you can integrate your PMS with a platform like Flexkeeping to streamline staff communication and property operations management by letting your team exchange real-time information, resolve issues, and organize workflow. You can also simplify your guest communications by using a platform like Whistle which offers a chatbot to automatically answer guests’ common questions and free up staff for other tasks.
Cloudbeds has a Marketplace of curated apps, tools, and services that integrate with the platform to help you rest easier and manage your property with less hands on deck while also giving guests the freedom and convenience of self-service options.
During the labor shortage, it may seem difficult to make an investment in new software for your property, but it will save a lot of time and money in the long run. And, with travel working at a slower pace, it may be the perfect time for you to make the switch before travel picks up speed again. In the end, modern hospitality management software can be your best ally in saving time and costs, while augmenting the productivity of your current staff.