The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly shifted the labor workforce, and the hospitality industry is continuing to face a shortage of workers to help house those returning to travel. To discuss the labor crisis facing the hospitality industry and how hotels can handle those challenges, LODGING spoke with CEO of UniFocus Moneesh Arora at the 44th annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference.
The hospitality industry is in an environment that’s changing day by day. Has anything changed for you in recent months?
I’m relatively new to hospitality, and most of my career has been in the software industry. Having worked in human resources, payroll, and human capital, I think of what the employee experience looks like, and, for me, coming into hospitality, it’s guest-experience focused. Labor is the industry’s biggest issue. To combat this, hotels need to take the focus off the guest experience and shift that to employee experience. That’s where there’s an inflection point to take lessons learned and investments made and turn those into great experiences.
The industry is also focusing on daily pay flexibility for employees. In this gig economy, people want to be paid when they need the money. They are working multiple jobs and they don’t want to think about being paid in two weeks. So, daily pay has been a consistent drum that’s beating louder, as well as dynamic scheduling.
What is impeding some companies from managing the labor crisis in a better way?
I believe it’s the issue of what’s urgent versus what’s important. The people solving labor issues are focused on the need to staff for tomorrow or next week, and the labor problem at their level doesn’t allow them to think strategically. So, if they don’t have time to step back, they continue to stay focused on what’s urgent when the bigger opportunity is the need to solve the labor issue more broadly.
Is UniFocus looking toward implementing new technology to better service the hotel industry?
It’s important that we’re able to take care of employees for our clients. Compensation and digital tipping are areas where we had the foresight to develop a solution that doesn’t fall squarely in workforce management but impacts the employee experience. A great employee experience leads to happy employees.
What’s UniFocus looking to do next?
We’re looking to take the value proposition we have with UniFocus and Knowcross and make it easier for clients to do business with us, so they understand that these aren’t two entities. We are a company with multiple products that talk together, work well together, and are easy to use. We’re getting better at executing and creating value for our clients. We have enough innovation and products that we can market.
Do you have any concerns about the industry moving into a rebound period?
I’m encouraged by how the hospitality industry is making a rebound, but I’m also concerned that we’re not going to generate several hundred thousand new workers in this industry. This depends on how the industry spotlights the issue because we’ve historically been able to solve problems with inefficiency and getting workers into hotels, and that hasn’t happened this time. Now, this is highlighting opportunities within organizations that labor alone can’t fix. The operators who are strategic and can view this as an opportunity are the ones who are going to benefit long-term.