The hospitality industry is currently facing its worst crisis in its millennia-long history – the first public housing dates back to circa 3600 BCE in the city of Sumer, Mesopotamia: Globally, up to 58% of the hospitality workforce (all sectors included) did not show up to take back their jobs after the COVID-19 lockdowns. Despite being an industry used to be constantly under pressure for lack of staffing, the hospitality industry is suffering like never before. In the post-COVID era, too many hotels have no choice than operating with no more than 60% to 70%, in the best of cases, of the number of employees needed to run a quality operation.
None of us were expecting such a dramatic situation: Back in late 2021, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) expected that customers would take a long time to get back to their traveling habits – this 2022 summer shows that it is exactly the opposite that is happening, driving the hospitality and tourism industries in a chaos never seen before for lack of (trained and even untrained) staff! Even more so, the WTTC was expecting a cut of 50 million jobs worldwide in our industries… while we are – in fact -desperately trying to hiring new employees at all positions!
There is more:
According to a 2021 study from the University of Central Florida, 30% of those currently employed think of quitting their job!
Robertico Croes, co-author of the UCF study, explains: “When there is a shortage of employees in a hospitality business you may have unsatisfied and frustrated customers due to lower-than-expected service delivery due to workers being overworked and spread too thin. A consequence of a hospitality labor shortage is customers not returning and higher employee turnover, both of which have a negative financial impact for hospitality businesses.”
The COVID-19 crisis did nothing more than shouting “the King is naked!” to paraphrase the Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes” folktale: It forced us to acknowledge something we all knew but didn’t want to see – salaries too low, long working hours, poor work / life balance (leading to the highest divorce rate of 4.34% compare to the 1.6% for the rest of the population), little to none recognition for Rank & File colleagues… those are too many reasons for the best talents to look away and build their careers in other industries.
TV shows like Top Chef or Nailed it!, to name only two among many more, are not helping, making believe that anyone can become a celebrity Chef, and that’s it; hiding the truth that most will never be a Michelin start Chef and that there is much more to know and do to be a Chef than ‘simply’ cooking and creating a signature dish!
In real life, hospitality employees often suffer from emotional exhaustion: Guests are increasingly demanding and aggressive, while hotels workers are continuously under pressure to perform better, faster, longer for minimum wages by their management who themselves are under pressure from their own management constantly demanding more revenue, more reports, more…, more…, more…. At the end of the day, the hospitality workforce at all levels of the hierarchy are unsatisfied.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its lockdowns gave time to workers to reflect on their jobs and quality of life, enabling them to review and assess their career options.
We, hospitality leaders, have no other alternatives than rethinking our workforce organization – from rank & file to hotel’ general management.
According to Forbes, there are no secret:
We need to change our management style from pressuring people to satisfying people.
According to researches…
Happy employees are 37% more productive and three times more creative
Happy employees lead to a 12% increase in a hotel’s profitability
Hotels with a positive company culture experience 24% less turnover
As you know, at Amsa Hospitality, we built our company on employees’ satisfaction for the very same reasons these statistics are highlighting.
I discussed this on many occasions already.
Allow me to list what needs to be done to revert the current dramatic trend.
Make the hotel a fun place to work at. According to a Social Market Foundation study, “happier employees are more productive by an average of 12% and, in some cases, up to 20% more than a control group.”
You don’t need to organize regular staff parties (the first 2 or 3 will work, after that no one will care!), or have ‘happy meals’ served – in the long term, none of it will work. What you need to do is create a work environment where employees enjoy working with one another: They must develop strong bonds that you can build through happy hours, team building games,…
Work must become a fun place where everyone enjoys coming to, not a place to go only to pay the bills.
Ensure that each employee is recognized. According to statistics, hotel’s management and administration represents only 17.6% of the total workforce and receive up to 30% of the total compensation.
What’s more, as mentioned before, the 82.4% rank & file and supervisors remaining are often overlooked and suffer from very low consideration: Who ever asked a dishwasher what they think of their hotel and working conditions? What would happen if this dishwasher walks out and there is no one left to clean the dishes? Will we eventually close the restaurant unless management walks in and starts cleaning dishes until replacement is found?
This is the reason why hospitality executives must develop a recognition system where everyone – regardless of their position – feels recognized and understands their importance within the great scheme that is their hotel. As another study noted, “we find that human happiness has large and positive causal effects on productivity. Positive emotions appear to invigorate human beings.”
Cherry on the cake, when employees feel recognized – meaning their usefulness acknowledged -, the turnover rate greatly reduces. It is more important than it looks like: Did you know that replacing an employee induces a cost that can range up to double that employee’s salary?
Nurturing your employees, ensuring that your management gives credit to their staff when they deserve it, guaranteeing that those who need help and demonstrated their willingness to work hard to improve have the attention they deserve, by providing training, implementing a buddy system to assist them and develop, are the only solutions to the current post-COVID crisis.
According to Fortune, “74% of workers who receive no recognition from their manager, or only a few times a year, report they aren’t planning to be at that job in a year. They’re also far more likely to be disengaged, which affects productivity and performance.” Forbes adds:
“By implementing and nurturing a strong and strategic recognition program, many problems organizations face could be overcome.
Recognition is no longer a nice-to-have program, but rather a business imperative.”
This latest sentence proves much to be true for the hospitality industry during this post-COVID era.
Amsa Hospitality makes a point to be a great place to work at. Nevertheless, our day in / day out experience proves that it is not an easy target to achieve: Between those who have a hard time to adapt and try to work the old pyramidal / silo way while pretending they aren’t, and those who really want to implement a healthier and more productive work environment but have difficulties to find their own way… even for us, at Amsa Hospitality, it is a challenging task.
Yet, this is the only way to build long-term success by bringing the best talents to our industry, and ensuring that the finest of our colleagues stay with us.