Expert’s Voice: Three ways connected hotel technology can support staff as occupancy recovers
Robert Kempton and Neha Jaiptal from Schneider Electric explain how turning hotels into digitised, connected workplaces can attract new talent and keep employees happy and safe.
Travel and tourism is a massive industry. Before Covid19 struck, the World Travel and Tourism Council reported that it supports one in ten jobs worldwide with 2018 ‘experiencing 3.9% growth’.
Now the bad news. Not only has the pandemic nearly shut down the hotel industry in the shorter term, in the longer term it’s estimated that the world will experience a global talent shortage of 85.2 million people by 2030. This will be a huge shortage of labour in general, and skilled labour in particular.
The pandemic may accelerate trends in how we work and kickstart digital transformations in many workplaces. Furthermore, it will change what employees expect from their workplace – with digital tools as a key component.
As pandemic-related restrictions loosen and travel reopens, hotels will continue to feel the labour shortage as the industry already faces challenges with employee retention. In fact, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, under normal conditions, hotels have been experiencing an annualised employee turnover rate of 73.8%, one of the highest of any industry.
Hotels face an aging workforce and need to attract and retain the next generation of talent. Experts estimate labour costs at up to 50% of a hotel’s operating budget, so it’s crucial that hotels invest in high-value people. But big turnover rates and low unemployment do not make this easy.
If you are managing a hotel chain, what can you do? Fortunately, new technologies make hospitality work environments more attractive, while supporting employee success and job satisfaction.
Millennials expect a safe, digital workplace
Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. By that time, Gen Zs will also be joining. The expectations of these groups are driving change, which includes a digitally connected working environment and a healthy and safe workplace.
The newest connected hotel solutions are helping transform the workplace. From guest room management systems (GRMS), building management systems (BMS), and power management systems (PMS), digital tools make training and workflows easier and more rewarding, from the front desk to engineering and maintenance. Let’s see how.
How to support staff as occupancy levels recover
1) Today’s hotel technology helps staff feel safe to return to work
All employees must feel safe and comfortable in their work environment and enjoy their surroundings. These factors keep staff motivated and happy, leading to better results.
As hotels begin to reopen and welcome back on-property teams, owners and operators must consider how technology can facilitate a healthy and safe working environment. With additional burdens placed on employees to provide a higher level of cleanliness and safety for guests, let’s consider how technology can minimise the required extra work.
New digital solutions can offer improved hygiene and safety for staff and guests without detrimental impacts on the hotel experience. For example, voice technology and mobile apps are now being integrated into hotel systems to reduce touching high-use devices such as door locks, thermostats and switches.
Other solutions being trialled by some leading hotel operators include A/C optimisation (eg increased fresh air, reduced recirculation, and UV sterilisation) to limit possible pathogen spread through airborne droplets. The HVAC organisation ASHRAE and some leading universities have recently published exciting research that shows how some simple changes to A/C systems can dramatically reduce pathogen spread among people.
Another interesting technology adapted for hotels is people counting / tracking systems. This technology can indicate when public areas like lobbies, restaurants and gyms are reaching capacity to help maintain social distancing.
Using smart sensors, these systems can also provide alarms or traffic-light signage to guests and staff showing real-time occupancy levels in high-use areas. This technology not only makes the environment safer for staff and guests, but also automates an expensive and mundane task that would need full-time staffing.
2) Digital connections improve communications
Once on the job, the connectivity and interoperability of new hotel technology gives personnel needed support. Communication becomes easier within, and among, teams. A digital request or question entered into the GRMS can be automatically relayed to the appropriate manager or team.
Therefore, when an employee has an urgent problem, they can get an answer faster. If the employee sees a potential problem, they can collaborate with another team. If an issue falls outside their responsibility, the employee can connect immediately with the right team. For example, front-desk staff can connect quickly with maintenance engineers.
When personnel can leverage digital connections, they feel less isolated. Getting support and sharing ideas makes a team happier and more engaged.
3) Connected hotel systems lead to less stress, more success
Beyond enabling communication, new connected hotel systems directly deliver the answers and control that hotel staff need to be more efficient and effective. Time-consuming manual tasks can be optimised.
Guest room management systems automate check-in, room settings (eg temperature and language preferences), digital room key and check-out requirements for front-desk staff. Reducing these steps means staff can engage with guests in a relaxed way. The system keeps guests informed of services and offers, and staff informed of guest requests or problems so they can respond immediately.
When guests have the experience they expect, the staff has fewer guest complaints. The result: staff has a positive work environment and a greater feeling of accomplishment.
Similarly, hotel BMS and PMS give engineering and maintenance teams the tools needed to save time and stay ahead of problems. A fully digitised electrical and HVAC infrastructure keeps personnel alerted to risks and helps isolate sources, so teams can respond before an issue causes service downtime or a guest complaint.
A lightbulb can be replaced before guests are aware of a problem. Saving time makes the job easier, reducing stress. At the Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, Canada, integrated building management and power management systems have reduced maintenance staff hours by 25%.
The bottom line: connected hotel systems and digital tools help your staff master jobs quickly, work more efficiently, eliminate mundane tasks, keep guests and management happier, and offer a safer place to work. In turn, hotel managers will be better prepared for the global talent shortage by attracting and retaining the best talent, and ensuring their staff feels valued and protected.
This is an edited version of an article that appeared on Schneider Electric.
Global account director at Schneider Electrics
Robert is a passionate promoter of green technology and its applications in the built environment. Robert is responsible for leading the Schneider Electric hotel business in Europe, enabling hoteliers to improve business returns while ensuring the comfort and security of their guests. He holds a master of science (hons) degree from the University of Nottingham and is based in the UK.
Global account director at Schneider Electrics
Neha Jaitpal, global account director, hotel segment, brings 12+ years in business development and account, sales, and product management. Jaitpal’s enthusiasm for customer support is the backbone of her strong track record of bringing the latest solutions and services to her customers in the US, Asia Pacific and the Middle East. The result: new business development, profitable growth and high customer retention.
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Schneider Electric provides energy and automation digital solutions for efficiency and sustainability. It combines world-leading energy technologies, real-time automation, software and services into integrated solutions for homes, buildings, data centres, infrastructure and industries.