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Employee retention in the palm of your hand

Photograph: Shutterstock

Finding and keeping great employees is a key to success for any business, and the hospitality industry is no exception.

Failure to retain talent is a cost that adds up quickly for hospitality operators. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest data, the hospitality sector has a turnover rate of 73%—five times the national all-sector average. Plus, it’s always more expensive to find, hire and train new employees than it is to keep tenured staff.

To retain employees, particularly millennials and Gen Z, operators must keep staff engaged and happy. And one solid, modern way to do that is to use Big Data and technology to give staff the communication, information, tools and scheduling they value through the same mobile devices and style of apps they enjoy using in their daily lives. Operators who don’t, opting instead to stick with archaic, inefficient legacy systems will fall behind and potentially alienate the best and brightest young talent, be it servers, bartenders or managers.

Communication and information

Operators can use platforms such as WhatsApp or Facebook for electronic and instant communication with staff. However, administering groups securely can become an issue, as can manually keeping track of current and former staff. And with employees often moving between competitive businesses in the sector, access to details about menu launches, promotions or internal challenges needs to be reliably controlled. 

A hospitality-specific app that’s fully integrated into a back-office workforce management solution makes access automated and revokes access when employees leave the company. It can also include a news feed and a channel for urgent notifications and announcements, so staff can easily stay up to date. Operators can track and report on who has seen what. With a group function, operators can communicate with specific groups of people or send direct messages. And employees can set up their own groups to communicate with colleagues on non-work-related subjects too, like team socials. This helps them build stronger relationships, which in turn makes them feel more part of the business.

Employees appreciate regular communication and updates, but operators must also ensure staff has easy access to the information they need and when they need it. This includes everything from company policies to information about paid time off entitlement to pay stubs.

A hospitality-specific app can give employees easy access to key documents such as company policies or a company handbook, whether they’re at work or not. Employees can also access pay stubs online, check and book PTO or update their own personal information, which also helps reduce administrative burden on HR teams.

Tools of the trade

Every hospitality business uses a variety of systems and tools that workers need to access to complete their tasks, such as managing inventory and completing counts, ordering products or receiving goods. But different systems for all these tasks usually means employees have numerous sites or applications to access and different user names and passwords to remember. That frustrates staff, especially if they forget log-in details or don’t have access to the functionality they need to do their job.

Having those tasks operate on a single, connected platform alleviates that frustration.  A hospitality-specific platform acts as a mobile gateway to the platform, ensuring staff get access to the tools they need and not the ones they don’t. Employees can access the tools they are authorized to from the app, so they don’t have to remember multiple user names and passwords. Whether they need to place orders, check schedules or inventory levels, they can do it from the single app.

Scheduling done right

Managers are—and feel—pressured to get scheduling right. If they overstaff, employees stand around idle and bored, while clocking up unnecessary cost to the business. If they understaff, teams are stressed and struggle to provide customers the best experience, which in turn puts return visits at risk.

In addition, the way many operators approach scheduling—from a revenue forecast rather than a demand forecast—is another challenge. Traditional scheduling based on budgets or spend per labor hour doesn’t take into account the time required to meet demand.

A good back-office system will enable demand forecasting and labor productivity. It should employ an advanced forecasting algorithm that takes loads of data—“same day last year” data, historical data, recent trends, weather forecast and notable public and national and local events—to create an accurate demand forecast down to 15-minute segments.

This type of forecast creates a highly accurate shape of the day, showing how many employees are needed at different times – including to complete non-revenue generating activities like prep or cleaning. By accurately predicting needed staff, where and when, operators can avoid shifts where the business is understaffed or overstaffed. Getting the balance right also means employees are less likely to have a bad shift, helping build engagement.

Scheduling can also be a one-way communication from manager to employee, rather than a collaborative process. Employees may advise their manager of times they can’t work, but these are often stored on lost or forgotten post-it-notes. Employees are then frustrated as requests seem to have been ignored. All of this can then mean multiple versions of schedules, mix-ups and more frustration, not to mention the impact of confusing shifts on payroll accuracy.

A hospitality-specific app can let staff set times they are unavailable, while managers can offer open shifts that employees can volunteer for. Managers can also offer split shifts to cover busy periods, which might make it easier to accommodate employees’ work life/balance and how they want to structure their day.

Hospitality employees want to work with operators who have updated technology that makes their work lives less stressful. They want to communicate through their phones and they want to access to the latest information they need, when they want it and how they want it. Giving employees these tools goes a long way to retention and saves operators the high costs of re-recruiting and re-training staff.

This post is sponsored by Fourth

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