Five ways technology can ease staffing pressures

As the industry adjusts to trend changes post-pandemic, and changing customer behaviors when it comes to travel and hospitality, technology may just alleviate some of the growing pressures on hotel owners and managers in the face of staff struggles.

Despite pressures, search demand for ‘hotel jobs’ is 18 percent higher in the U.K. and 20 percent in the U.S. than in the same period in August 2022. This bucks the trend in demand for hospitality and catering jobs, which has seen search demand for open roles fall by 56 percent. 

Technology can’t go the full way in replacing staff headcount. But for those running a hotel, especially one that offers restaurant and bar services, there are ways in which you can ease the pressure and maximize profitability during an already stressful time.

Here are five tips to help you navigate the technology.  

1. Check out your manual check-in requirements

One of the biggest savings in terms of cost and time would be to streamline your check-in procedures. If you’re operating an establishment that requires your front desk to be staffed for large portions of the day to deal with check-ins and check-outs— investment in some form of automated digital system could save you resources in the long term.

While this can increase efficiency during these periods, consider whether this implementation is appropriate for your establishment and the demographic of your guests. While digital systems can improve efficiency and spare staff resource, if your guests are unsure of the process, it can end up being counter-productive.

2. Explore virtual concierge options

A virtual concierge system takes a lot of pressure off staff and allows for potentially greater service offering to your guests. Whether it’s through their in-room options on the TV, iPad or by providing an app—a virtual concierge allows guests to find recommendations 24/7.

Tech features such as language accessibility also mean that it can be more inclusive for international guests. However, for some establishments, the lack of personalization and the chance that guests' questions may still go unanswered is something to consider when replacing concierge services with a more tech-focussed solution.

3. Harness IoT and PMS systems to keep on top of maintenance

Unfortunately with staff shortages, existing staff have to adapt to varied roles within establishments meaning high hospitality standards can be harder to maintain.

Investments in IoT technology can help keep track of maintenance and housekeeping, which is especially useful if you run a hotel with a large number of rooms or separate buildings. Using sensors to monitor things like electrical equipment and HVAC systems can flag unexpected breakdowns or unusual behavior—alerting teams to problems before they escalate.

IoT technology can also monitor heating, water and lighting systems and adjust them to guest preference or to ensure more economically or environmentally friendly operations. This reduces guest requests on hotel staff to change conditions in their room.

While efficient IoT systems can keep things running smoothly, the initial investment can be costly for businesses. Additionally, they need to be monitored and updated by a competent team to prevent any software issues or potential cybersecurity risks.

4. Consider streamlining additional services during your shortage

If your hotel offers restaurant services, closely study your recent data and revenue to understand whether an employment shortage may make offering these additional services an unprofitable endeavor. Good inventory management is absolutely key to ensuring good efficiency, especially with the cost of food rising. If kitchen and catering staff are struggling to keep on top of inventory management, there are tech solutions that can help. 

By utilizing sophisticated inventory management software, owners can access up-to-date information on stock levels and ingredient consumption. This empowers them to minimize wastage and make well-informed menu adjustments in response to demand patterns, ensuring they’re prepared despite staffing constraints.

Of course, hotel management wants to run as efficiently as possible—but consider whether removing or streamlining some of these services would negatively affect your guest experience, and potentially diminish their experience that could have a negative impact in the long-term.

5. Take a data-led approach to training

By leveraging data analytics and combining it with knowledge of staff performance, managers can efficiently allocate available resources to meet fluctuating demands. This ensures that staff members with specific skills and expertise are strategically assigned to cover peak periods, minimizing operational gaps and enhancing overall service quality. Moreover, data-driven staff training allows managers to identify skill gaps and tailor training programs to address critical areas efficiently.

However, be realistic about what training may not be possible to be delivered virtually. The hotel and hospitality industry is a service industry, and an over-reliance on data for employee management could impact employee wellbeing and remove elements of the human touch. It’s important to consider a data-led approach, but ensure that valued employees don’t feel as if there’s no consideration for other factors.

Richard Goodall is managing director of Power EPOS.