How technology can help mitigate hotel staffing shortages

Many industries have struggled with understaffing over the past couple of years, but the hospitality industry continues to be one of the hardest ones hit. Hotels all over the world had to lay off or furlough staff due to the coronavirus pandemic. The pandemic is thankfully on the wane now and travel is surging, but many hotels are still struggling to hire and retain staff members. 

People are calling this new surge “revenge travel,” which the New York Post defined as “wanting to travel more, after feeling like they missed out on time and experiences due to the pandemic.” According to a survey of 2,000 Americans, 57 percent were able to take a once-in-a-lifetime trip during 2022 and 80 percent said they need a vacation in 2023 more than ever before. It appears that travel will continue to trend upward in 2023, but what does that mean for hotels?

Over the summer, the American Hotel & Lodging Association surveyed leaders at 500 of its hotels, 97 percent of whom reported being understaffed and 49 percent classified themselves as severely understaffed. Hotels are already extremely busy places and understaffing makes it doubly difficult for overworked employees to see to guest needs. While it’s impossible to predict the future with any degree of certainty, since travel will continue to surge in 2023 (possibly more than in 2022), it’s very likely that understaffing will continue into 2023 as well. 

Mitigating the Impact

Luckily, there are ways for hotels to mitigate the impact of the current and future labor shortage. Technology is a fantastic solution to help hotels increase productivity, boost guest satisfaction and do more with a smaller number of employees. 

It all starts with the onboarding process. Many understaffed hotels are forced to hire inexperienced staff who have never worked in a hotel before, which means onboarding takes longer than ever before. Staff operations technology can help expedite that onboarding process by putting the entire hotel in the palm of an employee’s hand. 

Digital solutions help new staff members learn their roles more quickly, communicate instantly with coworkers and find answers to their questions themselves instead of chasing down a fellow employee and asking for help. This is especially important as many hotels turn to outsourced labor, which they’ve been doing with increasing frequency. Accor, Europe’s largest hotelier, has begun actively recruiting people who’ve never worked in hospitality before. 

Sebastien Bazin, Accor’s chief executive, said in an interview with Reuters at the Qatar Economic Forum that Accor is “having people interviewed with no résumé, no prior job experience, and they are hired within 24 hours.” New employees are also only given six hours of training to learn their new roles. Things like a lack of job experience and a language barrier can make the onboarding process even more difficult, but technology can help here as well. 

Hospitality technology makes communication simpler, even if there’s a language barrier. With certain staff operations applications, hotels can digitize their documentation for things like brand standards and cleaning templates. That way, despite the chaos of a consistent churn in staff, brand standards are still maintained and the guest experience remains seamless. 

It all comes back to the guest in the end because the core mission of the hospitality industry is ensuring that guests have a pleasant experience, no matter what. Understaffing is a big issue, but hospitality workers still have guests they need to take care of and technology makes that job much easier by streamlining routine tasks. 

Things like work orders, room cleanings, inspections, preventative maintenance and guest requests are all made easier when they’re digitized. Digitization also gives the above property staff more insights into what’s going on under the hood at their properties because they can use that data to mitigate inefficiencies. Hotels that utilize technology tend to see an increase in guest satisfaction for this exact reason. 

Technology has become more commonplace within the hospitality industry over the last few years. While the future may be uncertain, one thing is abundantly clear: More and more hotels will continue to utilize technology as a means of increasing productivity and guest satisfaction amid the ongoing understaffing shortage. 

Scott Schaedle is founder and CEO of Quore.