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By Katherine Grass, CEO at Optii Solutions

As we approach one of the largest events in the hospitality calendar, HITEC 2023, I wanted to kick off the first of a series of blogs spotlighting some of the sessions we at Optii are looking forward to. The very first session on Monday morning, “The Workforce Focus Has Shifted: Recruitment, Retention and Work Life Balance”, piqued my interest as the connection between human and technology is a central theme here at Optii.

This session also stood out on the agenda as our industry continues to face challenges in the labor market. I have always seen culture and work life balance as a critical part of any successful operation, whether that be in hospitality or anywhere else. I’ve also seen first hand the transformative potential of technology, as well as its ability to help employees minimize redundant admin tasks and do their job more effectively. If we’re going to be able to make a change to solve the challenges around labor, we need to address how to get the culture right for team members at both the front and back of house, and define technology’s role in promoting this. 

Why Culture is so Important in Hotel Operations

Establishing a positive workplace culture is essential in today’s environment. To me, a positive culture does a number of things, namely: offer flexibility, support the work environment with clear expectations on roles and responsibilities, provide the right tools to allow staff to do their best work, promote ease-of-communication, and foster a unified team spirit. 

Technology offers a valuable opportunity to address these issues. The labor market challenges highlight the importance of creating an appealing workplace for hotel staff. High turnover, significant labor costs, staff competition, and disjointed communications necessitate a focus on successful training, onboarding, and retention to build an effective hotel operation.

Creating a Culture of Cohesion

In today's environment of low unemployment and rising wages, the topic of improving hospitality jobs, particularly in housekeeping, is crucial. Despite technological advancements in guest interaction and revenue generation, areas such as housekeeping are continually neglected. Given the physicality of a housekeeper's role, no existing tech can replace them and hotels rely on a well-trained and efficient housekeeping team to get the job done. 

Recruitment, retention and work-life balance are therefore essential. So how can you achieve them? The answer - focus on the fundamentals. This includes fostering a sense of belonging within a larger team, eliminating repetitive tasks, and unnecessary administrative work, optimizing workflows, addressing disruptive elements in the work environment, and providing flexibility along with fair and specific recognition for their work.

Promoting Synergy Through Technology

Making staff feel included, valued and part of a wider contribution to a successful hotel is the starting point. This is where technology can be of assistance, especially by fostering collaboration between staff members who often work in isolation. It helps to accelerate the flow of information throughout the team, making room status information readily available and promoting synergy across all departments. Our inline translation feature can also facilitate communication between multilingual teams, creating deeper and more meaningful connections and removing frustration and friction across teams. 

Speaking of communications: pen and paper is no longer an option for hotel operations teams. In today’s digital world, it is time to upgrade. Much like pen and paper, radios are also not an effective method of communication for the modern hotel. One of the most common questions of this kind is, “Is room X clean and ready?”. Waiting for an answer on a walkie talkie or piece of paper that has been left lying around isn’t going to help your front of house standing in front of a guest waiting to get in their room. With housekeeping technology connected to your PMS, teams get an update on room status immediately. It can also eliminate the need for housekeepers to knock on a hotel room to see if it is empty and ready to be cleaned. Real-time status updates and being able to move to the next room if occupied both saves time and removes an uncomfortable task for staff.

Miscommunication is a challenging part of working within a complex organization, with the potential to undermine efforts to build a team culture. Points of frustration and fragmentation can often result from simple miscommunications, which can create a negative impact not only on the guest, but also on team morale and collaboration. However, leveraging technology to resolve pain points can lift the burden of time-consuming administrative tasks through automation, leaving more time for staff members to excel in their designated role. 

Hearing that a guest complained that you didn’t clean their room, when the guest had their ‘Do Not Disturb’ (DND) on the door, is likely not a great feeling. Because too often “the guest is always right”, and in that scenario, the housekeeper is wrong. However, having the tools to log DND, as well as tying positive guest reviews to staff who cleaned the room, grants the opportunity to fairly provide praise and feedback with specificity. These insights are also critical for CFOs and finance managers to identify overspending of money or time and address any operational areas in need of support. This prevents staff from becoming overworked and isolated, helping to increase staff satisfaction across the board. 

Back to Basics

It’s clear that technology represents an effective way to promote accountability, productivity, and personal development, and in turn to create a better culture. This isn’t rocket science. It’s the basics. And from my years of leading Optii I have seen that our customers that get the basics right are having much greater success with staffing challenges. So what would I like to hear from this session? Start with the basics!

We look forward to connecting with other passionate hoteliers at HITEC, and we can’t wait to exchange our ideas, insights, and predictions about hotel work culture as well as other important topics.

See you there!