Regardless of threats to the economy, world conflicts, and ongoing concerns about the status of the COVID-19 virus, the leisure and hospitality industry is projected to mostly recover from pandemic-driven demand losses by the end of 2023. Unfortunately, labor-related challenges are expected to continue for the foreseeable future.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the U.S. economy will add 8.3 million jobs from 2021 to 2031. Of those, 1.9 million jobs—23.1 percent of all new jobs projected—are expected to be in leisure and hospitality. That is a large projected increase for a sector that made up 8.9 percent of total employment in 2021. This rapid projected growth—the fastest of any sector, at an annual rate of 1.3 percent—results from the recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic.
In fact, seven of the top 20 fastest-growing industries for labor needs are in leisure and hospitality. Within that segment, the BLS projects the promoters of events, planners, and managers to be the fastest-growing industry, at 3.4 percent annually. In addition to recovery from the pandemic, employment growth in leisure and hospitality will be further driven by the general desire to participate in recreational and experiential activities.
With that good news comes the reality of bringing new staff up to speed quickly and efficiently, especially with technology and business applications. Failure to do so will result in the frustration of new team members, abandonment of the technology at the property level, or worse, mismanagement of the system and higher direct and indirect costs. All result in increased staff turnover, which ultimately impacts guest experiences and satisfaction.
As the industry continues its recovery path, actively working on rebuilding and retooling, a key area of focus on these efforts must be ensuring that the technology in place is working properly and being used to its full advantage. Additionally, it is vital to implement tools that actively monitor those investments, ensuring they function as promised and reveal if staff is using them efficiently.
Are We Really Drowning in Data?
Some say the hospitality industry is drowning in data yet starving for information. While the amount of data is vast, it will continue to grow. Therefore, our industry must gain control of the systems in place, ensure seamless integration between them, and, most importantly, create an environment that ensures both above- and on-property adoption. With staff buy-in at every level, the investment will produce the intended results.
While the industry is benchmarking recovery in numbers against 2019 levels, from a technology perspective, there is no return to 2019. Artificial intelligence and automatic machine learning are rapidly evolving, providing insights in almost real-time with price points much more attractive than just two years ago.
From a data perspective, software’s intelligence and actionable insights have continued to improve. Many of these tools can help teams sell better and care for guests and customers more efficiently. In many instances, access to technology is becoming more widely available.
The key is to close the gap between “knowing” and “doing”—organizations that claim to have too much data are likely not translating that data from knowledge to action, which is frustrating for users and managers. Tech teams need to work with users to establish the actionability best practices of their existing as well as new technology to avoid these pitfalls.
As software advances continue to push the industry forward, the reality is that the responsibility lies with management to keep staff up to speed with training and actionable applications as these advances occur. Failure to do so will result in disappointing ROI on technology investments and a lack of buy-in from the people it was supposed to help in the first place.
It is a challenge for all technology and software providers to evolve their “training” strategies to align with how users consume information today. “Learning by using” with easily consumable role-based education through video and social-media-like engagement is the best way to ensure outcome-driven success for new and returning users.
Data’s Role in Alleviating Staffing Shortages
It’s time to become reacquainted with the technology already in place versus looking for something new.
Because technology ecosystems support both guest and colleague experiences, it is a mesh of many different applications. Therefore, integration points are critical to ensure those experiences are genuinely friction-free. If one integration point is broken, the experience is broken. This, in turn, leads to frustration and dissatisfaction for all involved. It can also lead to more work.
Most of today’s software innovations provide so many features and functions that there isn’t time to learn them all in one sitting. It is up to management, as well as a hotel’s supplier partners at every level, to ensure each team has the proper training associated with the software they use daily. This will mean the difference between failure to launch or accepted adoption.
For instance, gathering team members once a week for a “coffee clutch” to discuss ways guest experiences can be improved will provide an opportunity for them to share ideas, gain insights into using a specific function or dashboard, or learn that one new tip that will save hours of frustration and time and ultimately lead to improved guest experiences.
Forward-thinking hoteliers who have implemented ongoing training, even in small bites, will reap the benefits of their investments. Doing so helps gain the loyalty needed to ensure the technology is used correctly. Given an opportunity to learn even one feature a week will create a level of understanding that will increase productivity and, in turn, profitability and guest satisfaction.
Outcome-Focused and Role-Based Training
When technology is put in place and the experiences are activated, training tools are often forgotten. Even worse, they are not included in colleague onboarding or refresher training. As new team members join the organization, training should be outcome-focused and role-based—not technology training. For example, how will the front desk user drive guest satisfaction outcomes from the PMS versus the night audit team that needs to generate accurate reporting and performance assessments? They are both using the same technology but with different goals in mind. It is time to re-evaluate colleague training models across functions and customize the focus based on desired outcomes for each user type as part of the overall training mix for onboarding. Don’t forget to incorporate refresher training, technology education/engagement, social skills, brand messaging, and more as part of the overall training or upskilling plan.
With technology working correctly and colleagues adequately trained, the intended experiences are delivered, desired outcomes are realized, the number of demands placed on new employees is reduced, and as a result, staff turnover is avoided.
The labor shortage is real and will continue for the foreseeable future. The future looks bright for the hospitality industry, so use the technology available to help minimize staffing pains. Put information in the hands of colleagues to help them do their jobs more efficiently, and leverage reporting tools to monitor usage and better understand learning gaps. This will result in less frustration, more commitment, and better results to propel organizations forward.
About the Author
Jeff Bzdawka is CEO of Knowland.