How Can Technology Solve the Labor Crisis
Since the pandemic, the Hospitality Industry has had to weather numerous storms and while the Industry is showing significant signs of improvement, the staffing crisis is still a major concern. The Industry is currently facing a major labor shortage, according to a January 2023 survey conducted by the AHLA, 79% of hotels were experiencing staffing shortages, 22% considered those shortages to be severe and 43% of hotels were finding it most difficult to hire housekeepers.
What are Hotels Doing to Lure Employees Back?
Hotels have taken steps to attract more employees, 71% of hotels have increased wages, 64% are offering more flexibile work hours, and 33% are expanding benefits. Hotels still need to come up with ways to better attract employees, as 81% of those surveyed were still unable to fill open positions. This is an improvement from the September 2022 survey which found that 87% of responders were short staffed, 36% considered those shortages to be severe and 43% were finding it the most difficult to fill housekeeping positions.
According to the AHLA’s 2023 State of the Hotel Industry Report, the Hotel Industry is showing significant improvement compared to recent years. The Industry is projected to surpass pre-pandemic levels when it comes to demand, the average hotel occupancy is expected to reach 63.8% in 2023, which is close to the pre-pandemic levels of 65.9% in 2019. But hotels are expected to continue to face staffing shortages throughout 2023. Hotels are projected to employ 2.09 million people, which is a decrease from 2.35 million in 2019.
How Can Technology Help to Solve Staffing Shortages?
While the Hotel Industry has shown strong improvement and is on the way to recovering, hotels still need to fill vacancies that were lost during the pandemic. Travelers are planning to book more hotel stays and hotels need to find ways to operate more efficiently despite the labor shortage. Staffing remains a major issue for hotels, and many have turned to technology in an effort to do more with less resources. Hotel technology allows hotels to automate certain functions normally performed by hotel staff, allowing hotels to reduce workload, increase productivity and still provide guests with an enhanced experience.
Attract and Retain Employees
Hotels can utilize technology to alleviate many of the staffing challenges that are currently being faced by the Hotel Industry. Now that hotels have taken steps to increase wages and offer more flexible work hours, hotels can use technology to attract and retain employees. Technology has the ability to transform tedious job functions and change them into more appealing roles. Allowing employees to focus more on the customer service aspect and that can lead to a more rewarding work experience.
Increase Efficiency and Productivity
The labor shortage has led hotels to cut back on services, but hotels can utilize technology to increase efficiency, allowing them to do more with less resources. Technology enables hotels to do more in less time with limited staff by automating repetitive tasks such as check-in, check-out, and room service requests. By automating these tasks, hotels can free up staff time, enabling them to focus on other important duties. Automation also reduces the risk of errors that can occur when tasks are performed manually, further increasing efficiency and productivity.
Leveraging Technology to Address Staffing Shortages
Hotels can use technology to streamline the scheduling process and better manage staffing costs. Automated staff scheduling enables hotels to efficiently schedule staff based on their availability while adhering to employee labor laws.
Contactless Check-in and Check-out
One area that the use of technology can greatly impact is in the hotel check-in/ check-out process. By automating check-in and check-out, hotels can greatly reduce the workload being placed on the front desk staff. This reduces overcrowding at the reception area and free up staff to focus on other important duties. Contactless check-ins allow guests to check-in prior to their arrival without the need to visit the front desk or to wait in line to complete paperwork.
Guest communication is a very important part of the hotel experience, hotels can utilize technology to reduce phone calls and visits to the front desk. Automating guest communication enables hotels to provide guests with information regarding the hotel and local attractions. This reduces the burden being placed on hotel staff, allowing them to focus on guests that are directly in front of them.
Technology can also have an impact on the hotel payment process. Technology enables guests to make payments using their mobile devices, with contactless payment options such as digital wallets like Google and Apple Pay. Guests can pay for their hotel stay, their meals or additional services from anywhere, at any time, without the need to visit the front desk or a payment terminal.
Maintenance and Housekeeping
Technology can also help hotels manage their maintenance and housekeeping tasks more efficiently. Hotel maintenance teams can receive automated alerts when rooms are in need of repairs or maintenance. Similarly, housekeeping staff can receive automated notifications when rooms are ready for cleaning or when guests check out. This can prevent delays in providing services to guests.
Hotel robots offer hotels an efficient and cost-effective solution to the current staffing shortages and allow hotels to do more in less time. Hotels can utilize cleaning robots to fill the gap in housekeeping services, concierge robots can offer guests information about hotel services, amenities, and tourist attractions. And delivery robots have the ability to work around the clock to make room service deliveries and other guest requests.
Another technology that hotels should invest in is employee safety devices/panic buttons. 9 out of 10 Hospitality employees have experienced some form of sexual harassment while at work. Hotel panic buttons allow employees to summon immediate assistance when faced with threatening or dangerous situations. Employees are more likely to stay with hotels where they feel safe and valued, similarly, hotels that invest in panic buttons are more likely to stand out to prospective employees.
Digital tipping helps hotel employees to increase their earning potential and offers them an additional incentive to remain with hotels. Digital tipping makes tipping easy and convenient for guests by allowing them to leave tips using credit/debit cards and digital wallets, such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. Guests can tip employees for their hard work without the need for cash and tips are accurately and quickly distributed to the right employees.