Three Ways to Combat Staff Shortage in Hospitality

After laying off or furloughing many positions during the height of the pandemic, the hospitality industry is now finding that a lot of workers are not coming back and is dealing with a staff shortage. And as more countries open to travelers, hotels are discovering they do not have the staffing required to service them.

Staff Shortage in Hospitality

Why did workers leave? A Joblist poll found that people left primarily for different work settings, but also for higher pay or better benefits, more schedule flexibility, and remote work opportunities. Workers have also expressed concern about exposure to Covid-19 in the workplace.

hospitality staff busy working

These conditions have taken a toll on hotel employees. As there is less staff on property, many jobs have been combined, requiring managers and employees to handle tasks in multiple departments and at multiple properties.

How are Guest Satisfaction Levels Post-Pandemic?

The pandemic caused two major shifts in the guest experience. First, to save costs and reduce health risks, many hotels scaled back staffing and services. And second, a lot of staff who lost their job during the pandemic found new opportunities in other industries, leading to a staffing shortage in hospitality. As a result, the guest experience today is quite different from what was pre-pandemic. Guests are encountering slower service, longer wait times, and reduced food & beverage services. Daily housekeeping services are now optional at many hotels. And hotel guests are becoming more self-sufficient: checking themselves in, carrying their luggage, cleaning their rooms, and ordering food from outside delivery services.

So, not only have hotels been receiving far fewer reviews than before the pandemic – which is understandable given the slowdown in travel – but hotel guests are significantly less satisfied.

Data on guest satisfaction from 2019, 2020 and 2021

And we can see that staff shortages are being reflected in the online reviews. This year we can see a 1.4% increase of negative mentions about ‘Staff’, compared to the same period last year.

Data on the effect of staff shortage in hospitality on guest satisfaction

So, What to Do About This?

It is key to get the most out of your team by being efficient and flexible, but also to adjust expectations.

Prioritize Your Time

While dealing with less staff, you will not be able to do everything as fast as you would like to do or are used to doing. Look at what is negatively impacting the guest experience the most and prioritize those improvements. Have the right processes and workflows in place to ensure your staff is happy and effective. This is key for staff retention!

Set the Right Expectations

Guest receiving clear pre-stay communication

Guests are comprehensive of the situation if they know beforehand what is awaiting them. If you cannot deliver daily housekeeping, make sure your guests are aware and avoid disappointments. How to do so?

  • Send out clear pre-stay communication, informing guests on what has changed, and what services will not be available or only limited.
  • Use your guest review responses to inform future guests of the situation, and use templated sentences to guide your staff on how to respond to reviews. The example below, a complaint about the closed restaurant, can be answered by first explaining why the restaurant is closed, and the duration of the closure, as well as highlighting the discounts with partner restaurants, or highlighting your room service offering.

Alleviate work where possible

Robot helping hospitality staff with workload

When prioritizing work and needing to be practical, some tasks can be adjusted. For example, you can send an in-stay survey or ask before arrival if the guest prefers to opt-out of housekeeping, as part of your sustainability program.

Another way of freeing up the time of your staff is by reducing repetitive work with the help of automation. Automate your communication with guests with a pre-trained hotel chatbot, that responds to your guests’ most frequent questions. This leaves more time for your staff to deal with more complicated requests.

This latest crisis requires the industry to show resiliency once again, but it is also an opportunity to reflect on current working conditions in hospitality and drive change, so we can come out of this stronger than ever.

We recently had a webinar ‘Maintaining Guest Satisfaction During a Hotel Staffing Crisis’ where hoteliers and experts shared their advice on how to deal with a staff shortage in hospitality and maintain high service levels.

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