Post COVID-19 and Brexit, hotels are struggling to find staff. This has hit the industry hard, leaving the remaining hospitality workers “burnt out”. In extreme cases, this has led to a more stressful and hostile work environment, which is not what you want for your staff; especially those in customer-facing roles.
In the US, roughly 3.5 million people left their jobs in March 2020. One-third of them are hospitality workers. (https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/USLAH)
“This Great Resignation” took place during and immediately after the pandemic; ironically after the majority of hospitality staff were put on furlough. Being conscientious and eager to be productive, a lot left the industry to take advantage of the online delivery logistics challenges which developed during the pandemic or to less stressful, personally fulfilling jobs with a better work-life balance immediately afterward.
According to a survey, 94% of hotels are currently understaffed 47% are severely understaffed. An astonishing 96% of the hotels say they are trying to hire but can’t fill the open positions. (October 2021 AHLA members survey), whilst 65% of hospitality workers polled say they plan on quitting their job in the near future.
Aside from the overwork issue, nearly one in three hospitality workers plan to quit their job due to a lack of career progression opportunities.
Training & development coupled with career progression (29%) are more important than salary (14%) when it comes to attracting talent.
So why are hospitality workers leaving the industry?
Along with creating the above significantly pressing issues, the pandemic crystalized issues within the industry, such as low pay, long hours, poor potential for advancement and frequent discrimination and mistreatment at work. This is a crisis in the making for many young workers in the hospitality sector. Signs asking for personnel are posted on the fronts of cafés, bars, restaurants, and pubs have become ubiquitous in this post COVID and Brexit era. This has exacerbated ongoing problems which have been brewing for years.
The press tended to focus on the management, owners and directors of pubs, clubs and hotels in the industry when reporting on the effect lockdown had on the businesses. However, the media rarely ever touched on what our grassroots staff were going through. This is a serious oversight because as we all know, it’s our staff who make or break an experience for guests. This is backed by the study carried out by Economic Insight, which shows 45% of the Hospitality and Tourism workforce is employed in roles where staff behavior makes the crucial contribution towards a great guest experience.
This staff shortage problem has therefore created an imminent industry crisis that really needs to be addressed urgently.
Staff burnout rates can be illustrated and put it into perspective as follows:
- Hospitality staff rarely get to sit down, stand for long periods and work in a fast-paced environment
- Staff rarely get a break. From my own experience in hospitality industry, a lot of workers take up smoking just to get a quick 5-minute breather (pardon the pun)! The British Health Foundation conducted a study stating that the hospitality industry has the most smokers, with 31% of workers being active smokers. This is almost three times as much as the education sector, which is 11%.
- Staff are rarely listened to. Staff who are heard are often more engaged with management and any issues can be addressed and rectified. The majority though are not, because senior management are more focussed on supply chain issues and soaring energy costs. Unless something is done (I suggest a few actions which will help considerably below), it is inevitable that the remaining staff will become disinterested as time goes by.
A few points we suggest that employers should take on board:
- Offering mental health and wellbeing checks would be highly beneficial. Hospitality jobs are by their nature physically and emotionally draining. Mental health checks or in-confidence conversations in the workplace, open door policies, online support sessions or even just a feedback survey will help identify and mitigate things before it’s too late.
- Improving communication with your staff is key. A lot of employers miss this as it can be beneficial to staff having some sort of platform where everyone can speak. It can improve workplace relationships and offer employees the chance to voice their opinion about issues on their own terms. It will also allow the staff to appreciate the challenges at a higher level too and help explain the drain on senior management’s attention.
- Over the lockdown period, due to the absence of workforce, a lot of technological improvements were made that potentially beforehand would not have been taken up, mainly being seen at the time as a threat to jobs. Things such as self-service check-out at supermarkets have helped ease strain on staff and assisted management cope with peak time shopping. Implementation of self-service technology in its many forms can definitely help to decrease staff stress levels significantly whilst allowing hoteliers to reduce operational costs. In hotels that means introducing a self-service guest journey, improving the guest experience and making the arrival and departure times slick and enjoyable for all concerned.
In conclusion, there are a lot more employers can do to mitigate the recruitment challenge and prevent current staff from becoming burned out. And as always, the emergence of self-service solutions through human ingenuity provides a win-win solution that can help contribute to the new future we can all look forward to.
I personally am confident that a combination of one or all of the above can help hoteliers, staff and guests to look forward to a much better business, working and most of all, improved hotel experience. Let’s make it happen!