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Covid forced much of hospitality into a period of introspection. With a significantly reduced customer base, hoteliers had to find creative solutions for how best to maximize profits, and in more extreme cases, how best to survive.
Every number was analyzed; every room rate and commission, every cent of ad spend. Anything that might help your property gain an edge. For the smarter hoteliers, that meant looking at people too. Not just firing or furloughing, but a rethink about how your workforce operates and how it can best serve your guests moving forward in the digital age.
Here are some of the most important changes that are already underway across hospitality.
More flexibility and role sharing
As much as sometimes we’d like to think otherwise, most of the roles at a hotel aren’t rocket science. That’s not to say they’re easy or that anyone could do them, but they don’t require years of specialist training. The skills you need in one specific role can often be easily transferred into another position at the property.
In our Evolution of Hospitality webinar, Daniel del Olmo, President and Chief Operating Officer at Sage Hotel Management, described the importance of identifying employees who can handle multiple roles. They tested this agile method of working in one property, and saw efficiency improve greatly – so much so that they’re planning on rolling out this model across multiple properties.
For instance, why do you need to employ a separate receptionist, a bell boy and a concierge? If you’re using a smart hospitality cloud like Mews (hint hint) then your front desk team don’t need to be bogged down in admin when checking a guest in. They’ll have the time to provide suggestions for things to do and will be able to upsell just as effectively as a concierge.
There’s also no reason for them to be stuck behind a reception desk. They can check guests in with a tablet from anywhere in the property, and have the time and the freedom to help take the guest to their room. You could even check them in from there and help them get settled even quicker.
As property management systems continue to become easier to use, this broadens the pool from which hoteliers can hire. Previous hotel experience is no longer a necessity, and digital natives can more easily perform a number of roles.
“We’re no longer focusing on existing hotel experience when we hire new staff, because Mews will allow them to quickly learn and catch up. We can give opportunities to more people – half of our reception team right now, it’s the first time they’re working in reception.” Marius Iuhas, Revenue Manager at Mola!
The moral of the story? Rethinking your operating model from a personnel perspective doesn’t mean damaging performance or the guest experience. In fact, by tapping into a wider talent pool, you might be able to provide even better service.
Embracing technology in every role
We’ve already touched upon it, but technology is changing the scope of what’s possible for hotel jobs that haven’t altered much in decades. However, hoteliers won’t be able to see the true benefits of this until they adopt a mindset shift: the realization that it’s not man vs machine, it’s man and machine working together to provide a more remarkable guest experience.
"There’s a misconception that Mews [or any modern PMS] is going to automate everything, that it's going to take away from the customer experience. But I think it enhances it." Charlie Delamare, Business Improvement Manager at Palmers Lodge.
One of the first things to say is that there’s an awful lot of hospitality tech out there. Mews Marketplace alone offers over 500 integrations, and more are being developed all the time. When it comes to streamlining and analyzing your workforce, assessing your tech stack is a great place to start. Many tools will automate lengthy manual processes, freeing your team to spend their time working in other areas.
From the guest’s perspective, the most obvious tilt to technology is when it comes to a mobile-first model, and the preference for a self-service experience. As more and more guests check-in online before arrival and use on premises self-service kiosks, the role of your staff will change. The ability to be more personal and less transactional becomes more important, as communication no longer revolved around an administrative question and answer. Instead of two people manning the front desk at all times, maybe now you only need one, with the other person floating around the lobby, bringing guests welcome drinks as they check themselves in.
If you have sales and marketing teams and the right technology, there’s no reason they can’t work just as effectively from home. In fact, some hotels like Koncept Hotels have properties that are entirely staffless, with everyone apart from housekeeping working from home.
If all of this wasn’t reason enough to embrace technology in your workforce, it can also help to boost your bottom line. Data skills and digital skills can be used to push direct bookings and create a customer base through smart marketing, data analytics, forecasting and planning. Your augmented workforce will have the time to market all the potential revenue earners in your property, from office space and meeting rooms, to parking, gyms, and more.
Upskilling your team
As travel continues its recovery, many workers are still reticent to take jobs in what they see as an unstable industry. This has led to a staffing shortage in many places. Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll find that this problem existed before the pandemic hit. There’s a sense of distrust about working in hospitality, brought about by years of low pay and unfair hours with no paid overtime.
Obviously, technology can’t directly help you when it comes to offering a fair wage – although the gains you make by embracing it should mean you can offer better salaries. However, it can help with providing a more engaging, attractive workplace. If you have more agility with role sharing, it makes work more varied and provides an easy opportunity for upskilling.
The right tools can boost staff happiness. Research shows that happy employees are 20% more productive and six times less absent if they remain engaged. There are scheduling tools that use smart algorithms to plan your staff timetables and keep your teams happy, improving working conditions and decreasing staff turnover. A rise in morale will go hand-in-hand with an improvement in operational efficiency.
Think about new job roles
Change happens slowly, and then all at once. The important thing is not to be left behind. Twenty years ago, no hotel had a Head of IT or Data Security Manager, simply because there was no need. Now, roles like these are more commonplace. So, what role could be pivotal in ten years’ time that doesn’t exist now?
Enter the Hotel Curator. It should come as no surprise that experiences have become the greatest currency when it comes to travel and hospitality. Guests want something that they will remember forever, or that they can post about on Instagram. The most successful properties will be those that can go beyond the traditional beds and amenities stay, and that involves creative thinking.
A Hotel Curator is a little like a concierge but with greater responsibility. Their role is to create a portfolio of services and offerings, to integrate design thinking into the facilities to create a more impactful experience, and also to offer services that will catapult their property above and beyond in the mind of the guests. No pressure, right?
At present, creating this distinctive, immersive experience is a job shared by the owner, manager, and all the team on the ground who interact with guests on a daily basis. This can work, but when responsibility is shared it makes it harder to put a cohesive plan into action.
Don't be scared of change
The Hotel Curator is the perfect example of how many roles in hospitality will slowly change to become more guest centric. This is the inevitable result of technology alleviating the need to admin-driven interaction, and is something that Mews Founder Richard Valtr explored in his think-piece about the hotel of the future.
If you do decide to make changes to your own operations, make sure you’re open and honest with your team. Good communication is vital, and will help to get staff onboard if you’re adapting their roles. Ultimately, people get bored doing the exact same tasks every day. A future of role-sharing with more guest-centric tasks is a more fulfilling role. Handle it right, and this change will be good for your team, for your property, and for your guests.
Shreya is a stalwart of the Mews Marketing team, having joined in 2018. From events to campaigns to high level strategy, there's nothing Shreya can't handle.
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Mews Data Dive 2023