Staffing Shortages: Why Back of the House Staff Deserve More
I think that it’s time that this industry takes a very sincere, deep look inward to reevaluate how it is that we attract, retain, and reward our staff, starting from the lobby and working up. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, leisure and hospitality remain the lowest-paid industry with hourly earnings of $19.20 as of November 2021, a major red flag.
I remember my first DOS job. In my first year in that job, I booked about $1.2M in room revenue and another $700K in catering revenue. That earned me a nice bonus and a little glass plaque.
By contrast, across the hall from my desk sat Stephanie, a reservations agent. Stephanie booked nearly $4M in room revenue that year and earned about $12/hour. She brought in over twice the revenue but was rewarded far less than I was.
My point here is that there is a discrepancy in how we reward staff. Unfortunately, that discrepancy is frequently based upon title instead of accomplishment. That needs to change, in order to fix the staffing crisis.
Current Situation: Staffing Shortages in Hospitality
In November of 2021, 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs. Of those 4.5 million, over 1 million were from the hospitality industry. That’s a record number of people quitting in a month overall, and a new record for the hospitality industry; one out of every 16. Compounding the issue, hotels that are fortunate enough to attract new talent are faced with the daunting task of training inexperienced employees on how to uphold guest service standards during a surge of “revenge travel.”
If unchecked, this will inevitably lead to burnout, lost revenue, and guest dissatisfaction.
We’ve visited with hundreds of hoteliers and executives across the industry this last year. Here are the solutions that we’ve come up with for accelerating hiring and minimizing burnout.
3 Strategies to Accelerate Hiring
- Pay competitive wages, and then some. We executed an analysis on the cost of missed phone calls in the Charleston, SC market, and found that the cost of a single missed call is $337.38! This alone should help justify a $2 or $3 per hour wage increase for your Front Desk and Reservations teams. Provide good benefits. The average cost of childcare in America is $156/week, which in many cases, is the largest barrier standing between exceptionally gifted employees and your property. Another wonderful solution my friend Tony in North Carolina shared is that his company is offering every employee a $150 bonus for every week of perfect attendance.
- Invest in technology that empowers your reservations agents to work from home. Here’s an outstanding guide on how to rebuild your team with a remote-first model. Recent research shows that 96% of workers sent home during the pandemic want to work at home permanently.
3 Ways to Avoid Burnout
- Automate data capture. Existing staff are currently wearing 1,000 different hats. Manual data capture on turndowns, denials, conversion, etc. has gone out the window as team members triage all of the tasks they are required to do. Setting aside the long-term ramifications of that data loss, the immediate risk is lost revenue and burnout. Automating data capture reduces the amount of time your agents spend on non-revenue-generating tasks and helps them prioritize their workflow and be more effective throughout the day. Augment this by investing in Revinate Marketing which will provide “air coverage” for agents to focus their energy on the phones while the email robots nurture leads digitally.
- Invest in a lead management system. Give them the right technology tools to work more effectively. The ability to streamline agent workflow and prioritize follow-up based upon lead value provides structure to your team’s day and helps them to focus on the important tasks, not just the urgent ones.
- Deploy a comprehensive sales incentive plan. The reality is people respond to being recognized and rewarded for their hard work. Every incentive plan is different, but our recommendation is to reward based on conversion improvement, data capture compliance, booking accuracy, and call flow adherence. This will increase job satisfaction among your existing team while simultaneously giving you a competitive advantage in hiring new agents because word travels fast.
We must recognize our back-of-house and front-line teams for what they are – the true backbone of this industry. Give them the tools, support, and compensation that they deserve, which will serve them as employees, generate greater revenue for your property, and combat the staffing shortage.